Kelton Thompson hearing resumes after long wait

April 28, 2018

The hearing for Kelton Thompson resumed on Thursday.  Thompson was terminated by the Picayune School District due to events surrounding a February 7, 2018, random drug test for school employees with a CDL license.  This hearing was a continuation of a full day of testimony on March 7, 2018. (previous coverage).

 

Kelton Thompson (center) testifies during Thursday's hearing

 

 Thompson’s testimony of his decision to leave the testing area on that day was that he didn’t refuse a test.  He said he provided a sample that he was told was not acceptable due to it being out of the proper temperature range and his flushing a toilet and washing his hands after providing a urine sample.  Thompson contends that when he was told his next sample would have to be given under direct supervision of a male, he said he refused to expose himself in front of a strange man in a one on one situation to provide a sample.

 

Betty Jo Peterson, who was the Director of Bus Routing at the time of Thompson’s test on February 7, 2018, said during the time that Coach Thompson was sitting and trying to get his body able to produce a second urine sample on February 7, Thompson asked her what would be his best move, would it be not to provide a sample or wait out the time?   

 

Peterson said she informed Thompson that neither one was good and that he really needed to do this (give another sample) and that a refusal was basically a failed test.   She said that once Thompson decided not to stay the entire time, he was asked to sign the papers (testing forms) and he told Lia Walther, an employee of DCS & Associates (DCS,) to write on the form that he refused direct observation for the  purpose of providing a sample.

 

During cross examination by Pat Zachary, Thompson’s attorney, Peterson stated numerous times that she and the district relied on their testing company DCS as to whether or not proper Department of Transportation (DOT) standards and procedures were being followed.  Peterson stated that she was not familiar with the DOT procedures at the time of Thompson’s testing on Feburary 7, 2018, but she has since begun research on the matter and also recently attended a seminar to gain more knowledge in this area.

 

Later in the hearing, both Superintendent Dean Shaw and Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell made the same assertion that they (the district) relied on the advice and knowledge of DCS to follow the DOT protocol and testing procedures.

 

Zachary contends that DCS did not follow proper DOT protocol and procedures for a number of reasons.  He stated, and prior testimony supports his claim, that Rodney Dyess was performing the test on Thompson even though Dyess was not DOT certified.  He also stated that DCS did not follow protocol by disposing of Thompson’s sample when it was not in the proper temperature range.  He claims that CFR Part 40 states that the sample should have been labeled, kept while another sample was taken, and then sent off to the lab regardless of what the collector’s opinion was as to the quality of the urine sample.   Zachary stated that Thompson’s flushing of the toilet does not constitute a failed sample based on the current DOT regulations in CFR Part 40.

 

Thompson said he did not agree with one part of Peterson’s statement because the form already had a note about his refusal to provide a sample.  Thompson said he asked Walther to add a reference note that he had provided a sample. 

 

Thompson said that he did not agree with part of Walt Esslinger’s testimony.  Esslinger testified that Thompson asked him if he could get his shades (sunglasses) out of his truck as they were walking across the street from the high school toward the district office to the testing area.  Thompson said he did not make that request of Esslinger because his shades were on his desk at the gym.

 

On the statement provided by Rodney Dyess, the statement said Thompson was told that if he flushed the toilet, it would be a failed test.   Thompson said he agrees that he was told not to flush the toilet, which he did out of habit, but he stated that Dyess never told him beforehand that his flushing of the toilet would result in a failed test. 

 

According to Thompson, Dyess’ statement said that after the sample was collected, he felt the cup and the urine was ‘cool’ (referring to temperature).  Thompson said that the cup felt warm when he placed it on the table after he provided the urine sample.

 

Thompson also said he signed the chain of custody form (CCF) before he ever received the cup for his test. 

 

Three times during the hearing, the presiding Hearing Officer, Nathaniel Armistad, asked the audience to leave the room and put the hearing in a closed session. 

 

The first time occurred when Walt Esslinger said he was informed by Thompson in January of this year that there was an issue with himself (Thompson) and Coach Lee (head football coach).  School district counsel, Elizabeth Maron, objected and after a brief discussion, Armistad moved the hearing into a closed session.

 Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell reviews a document during his testimony

 

The second occurrence was when Mr. Harrell was giving testimony during cross examination by Thompson’s attorney, Pat Zachary.  Zachary asked Harrell if he had ever been tested for alcohol during his 46 years with the district and Maron objected.  At this time, Zachary presented a document to Mr. Armistad that appeared to be a copy of a webpage or document.   Armistad immediately asked the school district counsel, Elizabeth Maron, to come to the bench and after a short discussion with Zachary and Maron,  Armistad asked everyone to leave the room for a closed session to be held.

 

The third time occurred during Thompson’s testimony when he was asked by Zachary if he had filed any oral grievance or complaint with Athletic Director Walt Esslinger.  Thompson responded that he had thoroughly enjoyed his time at Picayune and considered it a special place.  The only issue that he had was with the football coach, at which time Maron objected to Thompson’s testimony being heard in open session and asked Armistad to move the hearing into a closed session.

 

Superintendent Mr. Dean Shaw testified that it was his decision to terminate Thompson based on what he had been told by Rodney Dyess in regards to the events of February 7, 2018. 

 

Shaw said, “In my eleven years as Superintendent, it was the toughest decision I have ever made.  It wasn’t easy and I’ve been sick about it ever since.”

 

Hearing Officer Nathaniel Armistad reacting to an objection

 

As for the next steps, Armistad said the hearing will stand in recess until the time he receives the transcript from the court reporter.  Armistad will have 30 days to prepare the Hearing Officer’s report.  Once he completes his report, he will send a copy of the report to both counsels (school and Thompson) and close the hearing that day. 

 

From that day, the Picayune School District will have 30 days to make a final decision.  Prior to the school district making a final decision, Thompson and Zachary must be given an opportunity to make a final statement to the board.

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