UPDATE: Ex-Lee schools business manager due for plea this morning

By Patsy R. Brumfield / Daily Journal

TUPELO – Lee County schools’ former business manager, Randy Thweatt, did not change his not-guilty plea today as was scheduled by attorneys for both sides.
Circuit Judge Paul Funderburk told several dozen people in court about 9:50 a.m. that attorneys for Thweatt and the state continued to discuss a plea deal, but that it was not to be heard today.
“Perhaps it will be rescheduled for as early as Tuesday of next week,” the judge said.
A crowd of family and friends then exited the Lee County Justice Courtroom.
Thweatt was arrested April 17 at the Lee County School District office by officials of the State Auditor’s Office after he was indicted on two counts of embezzlement – involving a 2006 Ford Ranger pickup truck and a district air conditioning unit he was accused of installing in a Starkville mobile home he owns.
Today, he wore a dark suit and tie as he entered the Lee County Justice center about 8:20 a.m. with his family.
Among the observers were former Lee Schools Supt. Johnny Green and district personnel director Johnny Dye.
Thweatt was arrested after an investigation by the State Auditor’s Office. Whether anyone else will be accused of misdeeds has been just speculation ever since.
Records obtained by the Daily Journal showed the truck was signed over to Thweatt on Feb. 16 by Ralph Capps, the district’s transportation director, who was placed on administrive leave with Thweatt on April 17. Capps told the Daily Journal he signed the document as the seller because he was told to do so.
“I was acting under the authority of my boss to do what he advised me to do,” Capps said that day.
Asked what boss he was referring to, Capps said Thweatt, who was above him on the organizational chart.
No charges have been filed against Capps.
According to documentation obtained by the Daily Journal last April, the school district purchased the truck Feb. 17, 2010, from Southern Imports for $3,900. It was damaged when the district bought it, and Capps signed the bill of sale.
Capps said it was a routine purchase and that he didn’t sign off on the purchase with an intent to transfer the truck to Thweatt. It came across his desk, and he signed it, he said.
“I was thinking it was for the school,” Capps said. “I didn’t know all of this.”
A purchase order filed on that day describes the item as “parts” rather than as a truck. When asked about the description, Lee County Schools Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said it is why the district couldn’t originally find a record of the truck in its inventory.
“Because it was listed as parts, no one had any idea a truck had been purchased,” Weeks said.
The purchase order was signed by both Thweatt and Capps. Capps said he didn’t write the “parts” description and he didn’t know why it said that.

• Education reporter Chris Kieffer contributed to this report.

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