Henrico school board awaits member’s resignation

Posted at 6:56 PM, Aug 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-10 07:49:04-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) -- Henrico County School Board Chair Beverly Cocke says the school board is still awaiting a resignation letter from school board member Diana Winston.

Winston abruptly left Thursday's closed session of the school board that was called to discuss a series of allegations regarding Henrico School Superintendent Patrick Russo, including complaints of a personal relationship between Russo and Winston. Diane Winston and her husband, Joe, are friends of the Russo's.

Diane Winston would not answer Catie Beck’s questions before she headed into Thursdsay’s closed meeting.

CBS 6 INVESTIGATES: Diana Winston would not answer Catie Beck’s questions before a Thursday school board meeting.

The school board also met to discuss alleged inappropriate emails involving the superintendent. [RELATED: Henrico superintendent on paid leave after questionable emails]

Russo is on paid leave pending the outcome of the school board's review.

According to emails obtained by CBS 6 through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Russo and Winston had friendly exchanges regarding a 2014 official trip to China that they were both planning to take.

On another occasion, Winston defended Russo's ability as a superintendent to a school employee who had written a critical email about Russo's actions. Winston then shared the employee's email with Russo.

However, several emails requested by CBS 6 were denied because school officials say they were of a "personal" nature and were not tied to Russo's official capacity.

The FOIA council of Virginia tells CBS 6 that personal emails can be withheld when documents are not related to county business.

Russo has been placed on annual paid leave while school board members say they diligently look into the matter.

"Several concerns have been brought forward to us regarding the superintendent, and we as the school board are committed to looking into the matter," Cocke says.

Russo has been school superintendent since 2009.

Deputy Superintendent Patrick Kinlaw will serve as acting superintendent for an unspecified amount of time.

Cocke says if Winston officially resigns, the school board will appoint a new school member until a special election can be held to fill the vacant post.

Stay with CBS 6 News and for the latest updates on this important local story.