When The Robesonian began fielding allegations that Raymond Cummings, director of Transportation for the Public Schools of Robeson County and a county commissioner, was using a school-issued vehicle for purposes unrelated to his work with the system, we tried to speak with Cummings.
We called him, but he didn’t answer.
Then we emailed him, also without a response.
We rinsed and repeated, again and again, but to no avail.
Cummings, it became clear, didn’t want to answer our questions, which left us with no choice but to believe the worst. When it comes to Cummings and the public treasury, that is the prudent path.
It’s not coincidence that when Cummings became a county commissioner in 1996 the board’s pay and benefits began a steady climb that left its members the best paid and benefited in North Carolina, right alongside Durham County. That remains the case even after the commissioners ditched their deferred-compensation plan and free health care for their families, a perk that Cummings pushed hardest for in the back room.
Cummings, if he wants to deny these assertions, can call us and we will publish his denial or send us a letter, which we will publish as is.
After hearing the allegations against Cummings, our concern was that he was double-dipping. The school system, with the use of taxpayer money, was providing a vehicle and gasoline for Cummings to use for business unrelated to the school system and for his job as county commissioner, and Cummings was also collecting $700 of taxpayer dollars each month for supposed expenses related to county business.
It does not appear any laws are being broken. But Cummings should know better and his willingness to milk taxpayers twice for his travel is unethical.
It also doesn’t appear Cummings has violated any school policy regarding use of a school-issued vehicle because — drum roll please — one could not be found. This is not a failing of the central office, but of the Board of Education, which establishes policy, and we are confident a correction is on the way.
In fact, we will offer the first draft: “The Public Schools of Robeson County will provide a school-issued vehicle and gasoline to employees whose jobs, as determined by the superintendent and approved by the Board of Education, require extensive travel for school-related business. The employee, however, must restrict his or her use of the school-issued vehicle to matters relating to the Public Schools of Robeson County.”
That didn’t take long.
School board members, when contacted for a story today by staff writer Bob Shiles, were surprised and a bit angered to learn that no policy existed, but seemed unanimous that in its absence common sense should dictate how a system employee would use such a vehicle.
We would hope — but in the case of Cummings, we would be disappointed.