By Daniel Silliman
In her first days as Interim Superintendent of the Clayton County School System, Gloria Duncan had the services of a driver and bodyguard paid for by her bosses. The bodyguard, 45-year-old Kenneth Jerome Alexander, of Hampton, was at the time -- and is still -- under investigation on charges of child molestation.
During the first seven days of Duncan's tenure, after former superintendent, Barbara Pulliam, resigned abruptly, Alexander worked 48.5 hours as Duncan's driver and bodyguard and was paid $35 per hour, according to school system documents.
Duncan spent the time visiting schools and community events "in an effort to reassure the public that the leadership of the school district was stable," spokesman Charles White said. Shadowing Duncan brought Alexander into situations where he could have been in contact with children, which raises legitimate concerns, given the serious charges against him.
School officials brought Alexander in to provide security during the transition of leadership, according to White, who also said the decision to hire a bodyguard was influenced, at least in part, by earlier reports that Pulliam's life had been threatened during her tenure.
Duncan directed all questions about this matter to White, who responded to some of this newspaper's inquiries on behalf of the interim superintendent and the school system.
Money for "sexy pictures"
School district officials and school board members said they didn't know Alexander is facing felony indictments on charges of child molestation, and they didn't do a background check.
Alexander is a former Jonesboro Police officer, who provided security at Jonesboro Middle School and at school board meetings until 2004, when he was arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on charges of child molestation, enticing a minor to have sex and violating his oath as an officer.
After Christmas in 2003, Alexander, then 41, allegedly took two 14-year-old girls to a Jonesboro cement plant, and took their photographs while they were only partially clothed, according to the GBI.
He had stopped the girls as they were walking down the road. He said he wanted to take their picture, according to the girls' statements to police, obtained by the Clayton News Daily through an Open Records Request.
The girls smiled for the camera and put their arms around each other. They allege that Alexander then said, "No, I want sexy pictures."
Alexander said he would pay them $20 each for "sexy pictures," according to information in the Jonesboro Police Department's internal investigation. After taking pictures of the girls partially clothed, he offered to pay them more to perform sex acts. He then touched one of the 14-year-old girls in lewd and inappropriate ways, according to an arrest warrant filed by GBI Agent Kelli Bowles.
The high school students refused to have sex with Alexander and the on-duty officer called them "chicken," according to statements made by the girls, who are not being named because of the nature of the allegations. He paid one girl $20, the other girl $25, and left them at a nearby Hardee's, according to the girls.
In January 2004, one of the girls told her older sister about the incident. The 26-year-old woman brought the two teens to the Jonesboro Police Department to file a complaint. She also filed a complaint of her own.
The woman, who is not being named, said Alexander had gone to her place of work, a local Dollar General, and had asked to take partially clothed pictures of her. After she repeatedly refused, the woman said, Alexander -- on duty at the time -- allegedly exposed himself.
Jonesboro Police turned the complaints over to the GBI in the middle of January. The police chief in 2004, Thomas Roberts, told reporters that "immediately after looking into it, I found out there was enough merit to request that the GBI perform an investigation. We're just shocked at the allegations made against one of our officers."
A cop's arrest
Alexander, who had recently married and said he wanted to buy a house in the area, was arrested on March 2, 2004. On March 18, he waived a probable cause hearing, and the case was bound over to the Clayton County Superior Court, to go before a grand jury for indictment.
Alexander received a $30,000 bond, with the condition that he stay away from the two 14-year-olds.
There is no record of previous, similar incidents, though during the internal investigation, Alexander said he had been accused of a similar crime in Riverdale. The Riverdale Police Department doesn't have a record of any incidents involving Alexander, however.
Alexander's personnel file, from his time at the Jonesboro Department, does show a previous incident involving a woman.
In 2000, Alexander was talking to a woman sitting in the driver's seat of a car parked at a Jonesboro Hardee's. The woman's boyfriend came out of the store, and exchanged words with the officer, according to statements made by Alexander, the woman and the woman's boyfriend.
According to the internal investigation, Alexander, then 33, and working in uniform, asked the 21-year-old boyfriend if he was jealous. The 21-year-old said, "Yes," and then Alexander attacked him, throwing him against a car, according to one witness, and throwing him to the ground, according to another.
Alexander explained to the investigator that the young man had tripped. He failed a lie detector test, was found to be in violation of the departments' code of conduct, and was suspended for six months.
During Alexander's second lie detector test, in 2004, there were mixed results in response to the allegations of molestation and enticing a child to have sex. According to the voice stress test, administered by a Spaulding County sheriff's deputy, the stress in his voice showed deception when he said he had not taken provocative pictures of the two girls.
The test did not reveal deception in the officer's denials of touching the one girl inappropriately and exposing himself to the older sister, but the deputy considered the results damning and listed the conclusion of the test as "deception indicated."
He was suspended from the police department and school security duties, when the Jonesboro City Council unanimously voted to suspend him without pay, according to the meeting's minutes.
According to a police department internal memo, obtained by the Clayton News Daily, Alexander admitted to taking personal pictures with a police camera while on duty, which is a violation of the city's code of conduct, even if it isn't illegal.
He was terminated in June 2004. Alexander's lawyer, Lee Sexton, fought the termination for two years, according to documents, but it was upheld in February 2006.
Repeated attempts to reach Alexander on his home phone and cell phone were unsuccessful. A reporter also left a message at Alexander's home with a woman who identified herself as his wife. She said she would give him the message, but the reporter did not receive a return call.
Case still waiting to go to grand jury
Alexander has not, yet, been indicted on the felony charges. In Clayton County Superior Court, the case against Alexander is currently listed as "pending grand jury." The criminal allegations are still under investigation, according to the GBI's investigator and the Police Officer Standards and Training Council.
POST standards do not allow Alexander to work as a police officer, while he is under investigation. He can, however, work as a security guard or bodyguard.
The school system's financial records show Alexander was paid $100 in March 2004, apparently for his security work. According to Clayton News Daily reports from 2004, Alexander began providing security at school board meetings after board chairwoman, Nedra Ware, complained about a white officer, alleging racism. Alexander, who is black, replaced the officer and was paid out of the superintendents' office budget until his firing.
The same financial file was re-opened in July 2007 - by all accounts without any questions about the events surrounding his unexpected and swift departure, earlier.
Board members Norreese Haynes and Sandra Scott deny any knowledge of Alexander's hiring, saying he just sort of showed up.
White declined to say who made the decision to hire Alexander as a bodyguard, but said the protection "was not something that Dr. Duncan asked for."
School Board Chairwoman Ericka Davis said she "had nothing to do with that. I assumed Dr. Duncan had picked him, because the first time I saw him was at a Rotary Club function with Dr. Duncan. He walked in and sat down next to her."
Alexander got early start
School district records show that Alexander began working before Duncan was officially hired. On July 23, at 6 p.m., the school board held a called meeting to discuss "personnel gains and losses." At the meeting, Pulliam resigned and Duncan was given the interim superintendent position. Alexander started working when the meeting began, and worked until 11:30, about 20 minutes after the meeting ended.
The next morning, he started working at 7:45 a.m., and apparently accompanied Duncan to the office. He was paid $1,697.50 for seven days of work. The time sheet, signed by Alexander and Duncan, shows he worked for more than 10 hours a day, the week Duncan took the interim spot. He worked three hours on Saturday, and then worked almost 15 hours on Monday, July 30, one week after Duncan was named superintendent.
Alexander clocked 65 hours, but he was paid for 48.5 hours.
The hours are signed off on as "OK to pay," at a rate of $35 per hour, by Chief Financial Officer Theresa McDugald, who declined, through schools spokesman Charles White, to comment for this article.
There is no record of the board voting to provide the superintendent with a bodyguard or approving the rehiring of Alexander. White said that "neither Dr. Duncan, nor the school district actively sought to secure Mr. Alexander's services."
Though Alexander was not formally approved, in any documented way, he was there.
Board members Haynes and Scott believe it was one board member, acting beyond the scope of his authority, who gave Alexander the bodyguard position.
"That body guard who's been following Dr. Duncan around everywhere?" Haynes said. "[Board of Education Vice Chairman] Rod Johnson brought that guy in."
"Rod thinks he's the board," Scott said. "Rod picked [Alexander] and it didn't go to the board for a vote. No one on the board knew they were hiring a bodyguard."
Johnson did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment on any role he may have had in hiring Alexander. He was reached on his cell phone by a reporter, who identified himself and told him why he was calling. Johnson said he couldn't talk at the moment and would call the reporter back. The reporter never got the promised call.
Alexander was dismissed from the bodyguard position some time later -- it's not clear when -- after board members complained about the amount he was being paid.
Haynes publicly attacked the hiring of Alexander in a board meeting, focusing on the amount paid for his services. "Where did this guy come from?" he asked. "Why did we pay $1697.50 for something that the board didn't approve. The board did not approve this, but yet, I have in my hand, here, where we paid this officer, somebody, $1,697.50 to walk around with the Interim Superintendent, and the board did not vote on this action."
There is no record of school board members questioning Alexander's past -- his arrest on child molestation charges and violating his law-enforcement oath -- before he was hired.
Alexander, who was apparently brought in without a background check, was ushered out quietly.
White was vague about Alexander's dismissal, saying "it was determined he wasn't needed." He said Alexander provided "temporary services," and downplayed the hiring of someone who was under investigation on charges of child molestation, by saying, "It was, like, a week."
-- Staff writer Curt Yeomans contributed to this report