Coach Kelton Thompson hearing gets underway
A public hearing to address the dismissal of Picayune’s Head Coach for boys basketball, Kelton Thompson, began on Wednesday at the Picayune School Board of Trustees meeting room at the central office. Thompson was dismissed on February 7, 2018, just before the completion of his second year at the helm of the team.
According to documents and statements during the hearing, Thompson was relieved of his duties and placed on administrative leave with pay after the school system told him that he was being fired for failing a random drug test by failing to follow accurate procedures and protocol. Thompson was being tested as part of a random drug test for school system bus drivers, a task he performed when his team traveled to play away games.
Rodney Dyess (center) listens to a question from Elizabeth Maron
Nathaniel Armistad, of Brookhaven, MS, is serving as the hearing officer (judge) to run and oversee the proceedings. Mr. Armistad serves as attorney for the Amite, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Coahoma, and the Aberdeen school districts.
In her opening arguments, Elizabeth Maron, of Adams and Reese LLP, representing the Picayune School District, stated that this case was about Mr. Thompson, who has a Commercial Drivers Licence (CDL), being randomly chosen to give a sample for drug testing and he did not follow the procedures and protocols required as part of that testing. Picayune claims Thompson flushed the toilet and washed his hands after providing his urine sample. Maron said that the sample was what is referred to as a cold sample, meaning it did not register a temperature on the built-in gauge on the specimen cup to measure the temperature of the specimen sample. The gauge is labeled 90 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rodney Dyess, owner of DCS & Associates, and Lia Walther, a certified tester with DCS, administered the test on February 7th. Dyess and Walther stated in their testimony that Thompson was unable to provide a specimen due to fatal flaws. Fatal flaws was defined during the testimony as actions by the person being tested, in this case, Thompson, that raise suspicion of the test not being valid.
Elizabeth Maron (standing) shares an exhibit with Pat Zachary (back to camera) as Nathaniel Armistad looks on.
According to their testimonies, Thompson provided a specimen on his second attempt after not being able to urinate during the first time he went into the stall in the bathroom. Thompson told Dyess he felt that he might be able to produce a specimen if he could have a “dip” referring to smokeless tobacco. Thompson contacted one of his assistants, Terrence Robinson, by phone, and asked him to bring his bag, which was described as a gym bag, from his office at the high school gym. Robinson brought the bag over and placed the bag in adjacent room. Dyess said Thompson went out of the testing area sitting room and disappeared for a few seconds and when he went to look for Thompson, he reappeared from around the corner.
A short time later, Thompson went into a stall and while he was in the stall supposedly producing a urine specimen, Dyess and Walther said they heard a loud popping sound. Moments later, Thompson flushed the toilet, came out of the stall with a specimen in the cup he was provided, and washed his hands. Dyess and Walther said that Thompson had been told when he arrived for the testing not to flush the toilet and not to wash his hands during the testing process.
Dyess and Walther stated during testimony that the specimen did not register a temperature and the specimen was of a brown and orange color, and because of that and the flushing of the toilet, the specimen was discarded. A short time later, Dyess told Thompson he would have to provide a specimen while he viewed the sample being produced, meaning that Thompson would have to produce a specimen while his penis was exposed.
After a short period of time, Dyess and Walther both testified that Thompson stated that he had decided not to “waste everybody’s time” and he left the testing area.
Thompson’s attorney, Pat Zachary, questioned some of the actions during the testing and prior to the testing through cross examination of Dyess and Walther. Zachary said that Dyess was part of the testing process, but was not a certified DOT collector. Dyess concurred he was not certified.
Zachary also stated that the sample should have been kept regardless of the discretion of Dyess and Walther. Zachary called Todd Rowland of ARCpoint Labs of Covington, LA., as an expert witness on DOT testing procedures and protocols. Rowland pointed out that Thompson should not have been in the CDL random testing pool (group) because he was never tested with a pre-employment drug test when he joined the school system and allowed to drive a bus. Rowland also stated that the cold specimen from Thompson (not registering a temperature) should have been “put in the vials, sealed, and kept” regardless of Thompson’s actions during the testing.
Todd Rowland looks over a form
Zachary also called Dr. William George, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology, of Tulane University. Dr. George testified that he examined the results of the two drug tests that Thompson took within 24 hours (on February 8th ) after the testing at the Picayune school system. According to Dr. George, Thompson took tests that came back negative for drugs at Qwest Diagnostics (9 panel test) and Pelican Urgent Care (10 panel). Dr. George stated that while it is possible for a person to do things in their body system to mask drugs, it is his belief that Thompson did not do that in this case based on the granularity of the tests performed by Qwest and Pelican.
Dr. William George gives testimony during the hearing
The hearing, which began at 9:00 a.m., was recessed at approximately 4:30 p.m.
Mr. Armistad, Ms. Maron, and Mr. Zachary will communicate with each other on Wednesday (March 8, 2018) to find a date that will work for their schedules to reconvene and continue the hearing.
Note: After the hearing is complete, Armistad will provide a recommendation based on the evidence and testimony given during the hearing to the Picayune school board, but his recommendation is not binding to the district. The school district and Board of Trustees will decide Thompson’s future with Picayune.