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Brown: Suspended teacher opts to retire

Sgt. Melvin Cooper was identified as the teacher recently suspended from his position as an ROTC instructor at Unicoi County High School by Director of Schools Denise Brown during the March 13 meeting of the Unicoi County Board of Education.
Brown told the board that on Feb. 21 a complaint was filed with a school system administrator “alleging possible inappropriate conduct by a school system employee.” The complaint was immediately sent to Brown by the administrator.
After receiving the complaint, Brown said she and Tommy Clouse, a school system supervisor, began the initial investigation into the complaint.
“The school board attorney was contacted and he advised us to report the allegations to the sheriff’s department,” Brown told the board. “The information was reported to Sheriff Mike Hensley and Investigator Ronnie Adkins.”
Brown said she met with Cooper on Feb. 21 to make him aware of the investigation and to suspend him with pay. As the investigations by the school system and sheriff’s department progressed, Brown suspended Cooper without pay on Feb. 24.
“In the concluding stages of wrapping up the investigation and decisions being finalized for dismissal, Sgt. Melvin Cooper presented papers for retirement effective Feb. 24,” Brown also told the board.
Following the meeting, Brown said had Cooper not retired she would have presented dismissal charges to the board during Thursday’s meeting. She did not elaborate on the details of the investigation.
Regarding his department’s involvement into the matter, Sheriff Hensley said the investigation into the allegations against Cooper was “thorough.”
“We could not find criminal activity on Sgt. Cooper’s part,” Hensley said. “I do not foresee any criminal charges at this time.”
Hensley said he believed Brown did have cause to terminate Cooper’s employment with the school system if Cooper had not retired.
“There’s no question about that in my mind,” Hensley added. “There is no evidence of criminal activity at this time.”

For the remainder of this article please see the March 19, 2014 edition of The Erwin Record.