Newly obtained documents show Johnston County school board member Michelle Antoine was accused by investigators of violating board policy by making “unsupported” accusations that a teacher was called “Ms. Drunky.”
Last month, the school board released a heavily redacted report from its attorneys on the investigation of a grievance that a teacher had filed again another teacher and Antoine. The teacher who filed the grievance, Angela Barbour, provided The News & Observer a copy of the report, which provides additional details of why investigators accused Antoine of not upholding the integrity of her office.
“I have been holding onto these to protect my family and my livelihood as an educator, but at some point, these individuals need to be held accountable for their actions,” Barbour said in a text message.
Antoine had initially filed a lawsuit to try to block the district from releasing its report last month. Before voluntariliy dismissing the lawsuit, Antoine’s attorneys said releasing the report would “irreparably harm” her.
Antoine referred questions Thursday to her attorney, Steven Walker.
“We have no comment on what appears to be confidential records, based upon your description,” Walker said Thursday in an email response to the N&O.
Antoine has denied that she violated board policy and accused the school board of holding a “kangaroo court” proceeding against her.
The school board said it would let Antoine file a written affidavit, under oath, to respond to the report.
Connections with board member Ronald Johnson
According to the indictment, Johnson is accused of asking Barbour to record a political candidate or have sex with the candidate. The indictment says Johnson threatened to release a recording of the candidate unless the person pressured Barbour to recant that she had an affair with Johnson.
Barbour is among the parties Johnson is suing in a federal lawsuit over his indictment and firing from the Smithfield Police Department. In the lawsuit, Johnson, who is married, accused Barbour of coercing him into having a sexual relationship with her.
Johnson nearly came to blows with school board vice chair Terry Tippett when the report on Antoine was released last month. Antoine and Johnson are political allies.
Teachers file grievances against each other
According to the investigative report, Barbour filed a grievance on May 9 accusing Antoine and a teacher of “inappropriate and unprofessional collaboration” in the filing of several allegedly false grievances against Barbour during the 2022-23 school year.
The previously released report didn’t include the names of the two teachers because the district said it contained confidential personnel information. Barbour redacted the name of the other teacher in the copy of the investigative report she provided to The N&O.
Barbour had accused the other teacher of filing the grievances in retaliation against Barbour’s decision to speak out publicly against Johnson. The investigation found no direct evidence to support that the grievances were in retaliation for Barbour speaking out against Johnson.
Investigators also said there’s insufficient evidence to support the allegation that Antoine and the other teacher worked together on the grievances against Barbour.
Board member called teacher ‘Ms. Drunky’
But investigators did find evidence that led them to accuse Antoine and the other teacher of violating board policy and the code of ethics for North Carolina teachers.
Both the teacher and Antoine accused Barbour of being known around McGee’s Crossroads Middle School as “Ms. Drunky.” The teacher sent school board member Kevin Donovan a text last November accusing Barbour of having “no ethics” and saying that kids called her “Miss Drunky.”
After the teacher filed one of her grievances against Barbour, Antoine sent that teacher en email on March 9. Antoine copied Superintendent Eric Bracy on the email in which she asked Bracy to “take action to mitigate any further disruption by Ms. Barbour.”
“I personally witnessed her drinking in excess, driving while intoxicated, and going to teach school hungover — likely still intoxicated,” Antoine wrote in her email. “Staff in her building relayed the students call her ‘Ms. Drunky.’”
Barbour called Antoine’s statements in the email completely false and political retaliation.
“She’s never even been in my vehicle while I was driving,” Barbour said in a text message. “She’s definitely never witnessed me going to work while intoxicated or hungover because that’s never happened in my career.
“She’s telling all lies to attempt to harm my reputation because I spoke out about her not being the best candidate for our board of education.”
Report finds “Ms. Drunky’ accusation false
The report said the other teacher told investigators that many of the students at the middle school called Barbour “Ms. Drunky” and that it’s an “ongoing lunch conversation. The teacher said she’d attempt to provide investigators with the names of individuals who could support her claim, but the report says she never gave them.
Investigators said Antoine told them that she knew of more than one middle school employee who refers to Barbour as “Ms. Drunky.” But the report says Antoine refused to provide the investigators with names.
Investigators said administrators at the school told them they never heard anyone — staff, students, or families — refer to Barbour as “Ms. Drunky.”
“There is sufficient evidence to support Ms. Barbour’s claim that the allegation that students at McGee’s Middle School refer to her as “Ms. Drunky” is false,” the report says. “There is sufficient evidence to support Ms. Barbour’s claim that she was disparaged when Ms. Antoine told investigators , other JCPS employees, and Board members that she was referred to as ‘Ms. Drunky.’”
Board member made ‘unsupported’ accusations
In the end, investigators said Barbour’s interactions with the other teacher did not amount to a violation of district policy by Barbour
The report goes on to say the teacher violated the North Carolina Code of Ethics for Professional Educators by telling a board member and district investigators that Barbour was known as “Ms. Drunky” without offering any evidence to support the allegation.
The teacher’s statements were “disparaging, disrespectful, and unfair to Ms. Barbour and potentially harmful to her career with Johnston County Public Schools,” the report says.
Investigators said the teacher also violated the Code of Ethics by going directly to board members and the superintendent instead of filing a grievance with the head of Human Resources.
The district report accused Antoine of violating board policy “because she was not completely honest with investigators when asked if she had ever accessed or viewed” the teacher’s grievances.
Investigators said Antoine violated policy by taking individual action as a board member when she made “unsupported and disparaging comments” about Barbour in her March 9 email.
“Ms. Antoine failed to uphold the integrity and the independence of her office and failed to avoid impropriety in the exercise of her duties as a member of the Board when she shared inflammatory, confidential personnel information about Ms. Barbour with three JCPS employees on March 9, 2023,” the report says.