School Supt. Tim Jenney hired teacher to build his home and man had to sue to collect
School Superintendent Timothy R. Jenney, nicknamed 'The Terrible Little Dwarf or TLD' by staffers behind his back, is known for his abrasive, blustery style which included hiring one of his teachers, in an apparent violation of school board regulations, to build his luxury home at Croatan Beach and then refused to pay him until the man put a lien on his house. Jenney didn't want to discuss the case publicly. It isn't the public's business, he said, and he refused to comment. He refused multiple requests for an interview.
Another contractor also had to sue Jenney, still lost money and didn't get paid a cent for his labor, he said. In addition, "One resident said, he's been a pain in the ass to his new neighbors, using his access to city resources to harass them." See Neighbors
That issue and his hiring of former congressional aide Jeanne Evans, who had only a high school education, as an executive assistant at almost $80,000 a year, were expected to be topics of discussion at the School Board's annual retreat. School Board members contacted by Virginia News Source (VNS) indicated they either didn't know about the house building incident or had vaguely heard about it, but didn't investigate the circumstances. If true, some board members said the housing problem could represent a conflict of interest and was of concern to them.
An investigation by VNS revealed that popular First Colonial High School shop teacher Maynard West obtained a building permit for Jenney's house at 617 Secotan Road as the licensed general contractor on July 16, 1996. West is known as a reputable luxury home builder. His wife, a Realtor, sold Jenney the vacant lot, located just one lot off Croatan Road.
West filed a lien against Jenney's house for $15,000. He said he eventually got paid, but records were unclear about whether the lien has been removed to this date.
School Board Regulation 4-31.1 para (c) dealing with outside employment states:
West said he never sought anyone's approval for doing the job. Jenney refused to answer whether he gave approval or whether he felt West needed approval under that section of the board regulations. Asked if he ever called West during school hours to discuss construction, Jenny, through a spokeswoman, said that wasn't any of the public's business - it was a private matter between him and West. See questions Jenney refused to answer
Asked if he could prove West did not spend any school time or resources on the construction project, Jenney said that was a personal question and refused to answer. West said he had the subcontractors so well organized, he never had to deal with the project during school hours. Other contractors, noting the early darkness during the months the construction was underway, said they could not think of anyway you could be responsible for such an expensive house, much less one for such a picky boss, and not be on the job more than just after hours from your regular job.
West had lapses in memory about the case. "That was a long time ago and everything is settled now," he explained. He said he didn't know a lien had been filed, but remembered he'd discussed the need for one with his lawyer. He said he didn't know how much money was involved (court records showed $15,000) and he said he simply served a project manager, a position of 'coordinating' the work of others on the job.
Board member Sandra Smith-Jones said: "I don't think we should be hiring teachers to do our personal work. For him (Jenney) to be his boss in two different places at the same time is very questionable and I am disappointed to hear this. If the policy wasn't followed, it is his (Jenney's) responsibility to respond to the public quickly."
Fellow board member Al Ablowich said, "This is all new to me. But the potential conflict in hiring a school employee to do something as major as build a house would be of some concern. I would hope the job didn't impact Mr. West during his academic duties."
Harry Simmons, trading as Harry Simmons Cabinet shop, filed a lien for $5,164.53 for cabinets and vanities. He said he was told by his lawyer to settle for $4,800. A certificate of satisfaction of the lien was filed May 5, 1997. In addition to the loss on the materials and legal fees, Simmons said, "The only money I can make is with my hands. And he beat me out of every penny of my labor. I worked for Tim Jenney for nothing. I went down and did the work just six days after orthopedic surgery on my knee. I never met anybody as sneaky as him."
Simmons said Jenney ignored the budget of his construction loan. "We all told him he was over budget. I told him I could get him cheaper cabinets that were as good, if not better, but he wanted a certain brand name, regardless of the price. I think the reason he tried to beat everyone out of their money was because he ran out of money," Simmons said. Two other contractors interviewed said they collected what Jenney owned, but it was a struggle.
Abolwich said, "The bad thing is that Mr. Simmons, the cabinet maker got stiffed. That is the wrong way to deal with people."
Bill Joyner of Mechanical Technology said, "He (Jenney) seemed to be real cautious about paying people for some reason. He told contractors he wasn't going to pay them until they did the job right and they said they wouldn't warrant the work until they got paid. Jenney tried to do the kitchen floor himself and that created another problem as I understood it."
Simmons said Jenney had to pay the mechanical and plumbing contractors because he "couldn't get an occupancy permit until he did."
Ralph Hutchins of East Coast Plumbing and Heating said, "I had to wait to get paid. I had to find out what was needed to make him happy and then I had no trouble."
Jenney moved into the house on a temporary occupancy permit, but never applied for a permanent permit. Zoning officials who work cold cases issued him one automatically after he'd been in the house a year and a half or so, said Cherie Haner of the zoning office.
One school superintendent in the area said, "It (the contract to do Jenney's house by a teacher) was definitely a conflict. And the appearance of such a relationship is even worse. Such an arrangement is awful." Board member Neil Rose said he was concerned that if strictly interpreted, the regulation might prevent teachers from taking jobs as lifeguards, or something. He was at a loss as to whether it should apply to West.
Board member Nancy Guy said she had no comment about the situation, but added because West and his wife live in a million dollar home she didn't think "its a matter of someone taking advantage of an underling." If there was a violation, she said it was by West. Asked if it was a violation by West, wasn't his boss also guilty by asking him to take the job? Guy said, "I'm not going to comment." She would not deny that she condoned the arrangement. She said she saw no problems in an employer hiring his employee to built the employer's private home while both were on the public payroll.
Board member Smith-Jones, however, said, "The appearance of a conflict is of concern to me. Accountability in the classroom is of a prime concern....If you are working in the classroom (and for the boss on a side job), I wouldn't want you to get any privileges other teachers wouldn't."
One of the top regional officials in Tidewater said, "This is typical of your city right now. I can't recall a time in history when I've observed such a long period of such poor management from the council to the school board. It seems everything is staff driven and the elected officials blindly follow the bureaucrats. You have no leadership in Virginia Beach."