UPDATED: PWCS Chairman Requests Superintendent’s Resignation Over Car Accident

| February 16, 2018 | 0 Comments | Education

Dr. Steven Walts, Superintendant of Prince William County Public Schools.

UPDATED: Feb. 17 at 12:35 p.m.

Prince William County Schools has released to the public an official response from Superintendent, Dr. Steven Walts to Chairman Ryan Sawyers allegations of improper response to a car accident Walts was involved in on Aug. 25 while driving a PWCS issued car.

Read Superintendent’s response. 

Original Article: published Feb. 16

Prince William School Board Chairman At-large Ryan Sawyers called for PWCS Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts’s resignation, Friday, over allegations of improper response to a vehicle accident that Walts was involved in over the summer.

Sawyers is running in the primary to become the Democratic candidate for Representative of Virginia’s First Congressional District.

“I believe that your actions, and inaction, over the past seven months have made clear that you are unfit to continue as Superintendent of Prince William County Schools,” said Sawyers, in a letter to Walts and the school board dated Feb. 16. “As such, I am asking for your immediate resignation. Barring that, I will seek to have you terminated, for cause, for the reasons explained below.”

Walts was involved in a automobile crash in Manassas City, Aug. 25, 2017, while driving a school division vehicle in which he struck a moped. Its driver, an adult male of Woodbridge, was airlifted to a hospital. Walts was found to be at fault in the accident.

According to PWCS, the charge was reduced from reckless driving to failure to maintain control of the vehicle, and the driver of the moped did not sustain any serious injuries. 

According to Manassas City Police, Steven L. Walts was in a Ford Crown Victoria owned by the Prince William County School Board, Aug. 25, traveling north on Centreville Road (Route 28) in Manassas. He was making a left turn onto Carriage Lane, at 10:24 a.m., when he struct a ZHEJ Moped headed south on Route 28. The driver of the moped was flown via helicopter to Fairfax Hospital.

Both drivers were estimated to have been traveling at 25 miles per hour, which is the maximum speed limit on that road. There was $1,500 in damages to the Crown Victoria and $1,000 in damage to the moped, which was considered totaled.

According to the police report, Walts did not have the right-of-way. His vision was not obscured at the time of the accident.

It was not ruled to be a case of driver distraction, and according to police, Walts had not been drinking or using drugs at the time. There was nothing wrong with the vehicle.

In his letter to Walts, Feb. 16, Sawyers alleges that Walts acted improperly because he moved the vehicle from the scene and did not call his supervisor from the scene.

“As you know, PWCS Regulation 441.01-3 details employee requirements in the event of a crash involving a PWCS vehicle. Under that regulation, you were required to report the crash from the scene to your supervisor. Obviously your supervisor is the PWCS Board.  You did not do so, nor did you even attempt to do so.”

Sawyers also alleges that Walts did not contact police nor emergency services.

“Obviously, all of these are incredibly troubling on their own. Even more troubling, however, was your calculated scheme to keep the school board completely in the dark for months, even as you faced possibly a year in jail for your actions.”

Lastly, he notes that seriousness of being charged with reckless driving, the original charge against Walts.

“You were issued a summons for criminally reckless driving as a result, which is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, with a possible penalty of up to one year in prison in addition to a fine of up to $2500.  I have subsequently learned that other examples of Class 1 Misdemeanors in Virginia include DUI, Domestic Assault and Possession of a Schedule III Controlled Substance.”

School Division Communications Director Diana Gulotta said that Walts is away on previously scheduled professional development, but she provided a statement to the media.

The statement said Walts did immediately call 911 and was instructed by police to move his vehicle out of the roadway. Walts called the Deputy Superintendent and School Board Attorney from the scene of the accident for the purposes of notifying the Chairman and Vice Chair of the School board. The accident was immediately reported to Chairman Sawyers and Vice Chair Lilly Jessie.

According to the statement, Walts did not have knowledge of the condition of the other driver who was being treated by emergency responders.

Dr. Walts was deeply concerned about the condition of the other driver and inquired repeatedly about his condition to the investigating officer. After the other driver left the scene in an ambulance, the police officer advised Dr. Walts that the medics had decided to airlift the other driver to a hospital as a precaution. It was not until Aug. 30, 2017, that Dr. Walts was advised by the Manassas City Police, through the Office of Risk Management, that the driver of the moped “was okay, had a sore knee and no broken bones.” PWCS was able today to confirm that the other driver was, in fact, discharged from Fairfax Hospital at 4:22 p.m. on the day of the accident.

Pursuant to the Division’s obligations under its automobile liability policy, the accident was also reported to the Division’s insurer. The moped driver retained an attorney within five days of the accident, who, on Sept. 14, 2017, filed a notice of claim, which was also forwarded to the Division’s insurer. As a result, since the accident, the Division’s insurer has handled all communications related to the accident and the other driver’s injuries, as is customary and required by the Division’s liability policy.

Dr. Walts was represented on the traffic charge by his personal attorney and not by the Division Counsel. Dr. Walts was not found guilty of reckless driving. The traffic court found him guilty of failure to maintain control of this vehicle, all of which is reflected in public record. Dr. Walts’ DMV driving record, as presented in traffic court, showed no infractions over the past 10 years and a +5 safety point balance.

Coles School Board member Willie Deutsch disagrees with Sawyer’s interpretation of the matter.

“I think there is a lot of aggressive sensationalizing from Ryan,” said Deutsch, saying he is especially referring to Sawyers’ call for the superintendent’s resignation. 

“We were all informed that day,” he said of the accident, and added that the school division awarded the moped driver $2,500 in damages. Additionally, Walts was driving at 25 miles per hour.

“I think [Sawyers] is sensationalizing stuff for his own purposes,” said Deutsch. “He is continuing to act unilaterally.”

Deutsch said he would like the board to sit down together and review the personnel matter in the proper venue. He also said that Sawyers is alleging “wild accusations” including saying that Walts could have been facing up to a year in jail.

After his phone call with Bristow Beat, Deutsch sent the following statement:

Chairman Sawyers continues to go rogue, creating firestorms in the school division to keep us from protecting and educating students. He is continuing a pattern of twisting the truth to bully, intimidate, and harass staff members who don’t follow his orders. Shortly after this board took office, Chairman Sawyers forced our division attorney to leave. We’ve spent extensive time and money involved in litigation resulting from Chairman Sawyers targeting a principal’s job. Now the rogue Chairman continues his unilateral reign of terror on school staff.
There are real issues as well with administrative bullying, but it is nearly impossible to address when the biggest bully in the division sits in the center of the dais. It is time for this board to focus on kids, not Chairman Sawyers’ ego and political ambitions.
Last year, Sawyers had requested that Walts provide him access to his predecessor’s emails. A request Walts said he could not provide without a board vote. Legal action followed, but Sawyers’s request was denied. Sawyers then said he would bring the issue before the board.

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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