Audio conflicts former superintendent’s story

  • Former District 29 Superintendent Dr. Missoura Ashe

An audio recording does not back up the story provided by a former Williston superintendent about why her tape recorder was found hidden in her secretary’s office.

On August 31, Debbie McNeil, the long-time superintendent’s secretary for Williston District 29, discovered a tape recorder propped up against the back of her typewriter. It was on and recording,

Then-Superintendent Dr. Missoura Ashe admitted the recorder was hers during a meeting human resources coordinator Stephanie Alford called to discuss the discovery. Ashe stated multiple times that she wanted it back, according to written statements provided by McNeil, Alford and other employees who were present at the meeting.

In her written statement, Ashe claimed she was recording a personal cell phone conversation with her daughter after arriving to work just before 8 a.m. While still on the phone, she said she dropped the recorder as she went to pick up a Blue Devil figurine that she knocked over while moving calendars around on McNeil’s desk.

However, the three-hour tape retrieved from the recorder holds no such conversation.

Following a Freedom of Information Act request, the district allowed The People-Sentinel to listen to the tape in the presence of attorney Shirley Fawley at the Halligan Mahoney & Williams law firm in Columbia on Friday, Oct. 6. The firm represents all three school districts in Barnwell County.

The first minute of the tape includes rumbling noises, footsteps and other faint sounds. The next few minutes are fairly quiet other than more footsteps and faint voices.

Ashe is heard on the tape several times talking with other employees about various matters, such as curriculum and technology, but never a phone conversation. Fawley fast-forwarded during several instances that are exempt from disclosure because they pertained to students and personnel, although she explained why each time.

Around the two-and-a-half hour mark, McNeil is heard on the tape. She didn’t arrive to work until about 10:30 a.m. due to a dentist appointment, which Ashe was aware of. Ashe is heard on the tape asking McNeil how her appointment went.

The next twenty minutes include various noises, including a copy machine and chatter on a walkie talkie used by some employees.

Around two hours and fifty-two minutes into the audio recording, McNeil is heard asking “Where is my devil? Who took the devil?” She was referring to a Blue Devil figurine that sits in the windowsill above the typewriter. This is the same story she provided in her written statement on the day of the incident.

As she is looking for her devil figurine, McNeil is later heard saying, “Whose recorder? Really?”

A minute later she is heard talking to co-worker Amy Nix. McNeil tells Nix how she found the recorder while she looked for her missing Blue Devil figurine.

“Amy, it’s a recorder. It was up like this so I couldn’t see it,” said McNeil to Nix.

“It’s recording our conversation,” said Nix.

The tape then stops.

Ashe was placed on leave by the board’s chairwoman and vice-chairman on the afternoon the recorder was discovered. She resigned three weeks later on Sept. 20.

Terms of Ashe’s settlement agreement with the district have not been finalized, according to interim superintendent Dr. Everette Dean Jr. in response to a Sept. 21 FOIA request filed by The People-Sentinel.