(02/10/2005)
By Dianne Weaver

The "Mezz" story just keeps on giving.

Metro News reports "The trouble over former House Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta is coming home to roost for his employer, the Hampshire County School System."

Drastic action was taken Tuesday by the State Board of Education, declaring a state of emergency in the Hampshire county's school system.

The board has stripped the system of its accreditation.

State officials took the action following an audit of the Hampshire system. They say the audit revealed numerous violations of state law and policies of the state board of education.

The audit problems were in the areas of personnel hiring, payment practices, transfers, and job advertisements. State Board President Barbara Fish says what the team discovered was "disturbing."

The state School Board has also authorized an investigation into the misappropriation of federal and state grants, an area administered by Mezzatesta.

Findings of the investigation will be turned over to the federal government.

Office of Performance Audits disputed the hiring of Tammy Moreland, Mezzatesta's sister, as principal at Hampshire High School.

A $100,000 education grant awarded in 2003 was used inappropriately for substitute teachers, according to the audit.

Ethics complaints were filed against Mezzatesta regarding his alleged double-dipping as a legislator and as an employee of the Hampshire school system.

The Ethics Commission declined to find Mezzatesta guilty of ethical violations.

State School Superintendent David Stewart saw no wrongdoing by Mezzatesta at the time, although legal charges were filed against him for creating fake letters to defend himself.

Numerous charges were lodged against the former chairman of the House Education Committee, including how he obtained grant money using his position, commonly referred to as "Mezz Money" in Hampshire County.


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