School chief's ex-employer freezes funds


Baltimore County schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston can't shake his former bosses on the Clayton County, Ga., Board of Education, who have frozen $151,000 in payments Hairston is owed on a consulting contract he signed when he stepped down as schools chief there in January.

The Clayton County board voted last month to withhold the money, which was to be paid during the 2000-2001 fiscal year. Hairston's first check is due at the end of this month, said Gary Sams, the board's attorney.

"Basically, the money [to pay Hairston] is in the budget, but they decided not to allow staff to pay it unless the board says, 'Pay it,'" said Paul Kraack, a spokesman for the Clayton County schools.

The board met again earlier this month, but took no action on the payments. Still, Hairston could receive his first check on time if the board convened a special meeting to reconsider. Kraack said "that won't happen."

As part of the consulting contract, Hairston agreed to work with Clayton County's interim superintendent. The pact was to pay him $280,000 in salary and benefits through June 2002.

But Clayton County board members argue that Hairston's contract with Baltimore County, which states that he will work "exclusively" for the Maryland school system, is too restrictive and doesn't leave him enough time for his consulting work.

Donald L. Arnold, president of the Baltimore County school board, has said repeatedly that Hairston's evenings and weekends are his own, and that he is free to consult with Clayton County at those times.

Hairston said recently that he is "always available" to his former colleagues in Clayton County and that he doesn't understand the contract dispute.

"I'm still trying to sort it out myself," he said. "It has nothing to do with Baltimore County."

Hairston, who began work in Baltimore County this month, stands to earn as much as $331,000 during his first year on the job if the Clayton County contract is honored. He negotiated a $180,000 annual salary when he was hired by Baltimore County in March.

Hairston has hired a Georgia attorney, James "Mac" Hunter, to fight his legal battle.

"I honestly can't talk about it," said Hairston, whose consulting contract with Clayton County allowed him to seek employment with another school system.

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