ONLY ON 3 INVESTIGATION: New Hanover Co. School superintendent exposes lack of in-house dating rules

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Tonight in an ONLY ON 3 investigation, we uncover a relationship between the superintendent of New Hanover County Schools and an employee he directly supervised; a relationship that may be impacting district policy.

Sources close to the situation confirm a relationship between Dr. Tim Markley and his former administrative assistant Stephanie Baltezegar.

School district leaders will not confirm the relationship, but the policy committee has been working to create a brand new policy for fraternization between employees for months.

For the past ten years, Baltezegar has been the administrative assistant to the superintendent; most recently for Markley, who started three years ago. Two months ago though, she was transferred to the finance department and then more recently to human resource just weeks ago. The district will not say why, saying it’s a personnel issue.

“I can’t speak to anything about personnel,” school board members Jeannette Nichols told us at a recent meeting. “That is something you can speak with the superintendent about if you choose.”

So we asked Markley at a recent school board meeting if he was having a relationship with Baltezegar.

“We are really not going to have a personnel discussion, but thank you,” Markley said.

In August the school board asked Wayne Bullard, the district’s attorney, to create a new policy outlining a new fraternization policy.

“We are just looking at all areas to make sure we have something in place so that everyone understands and follows,” Nichols said.

The first draft of the policy, which has yet to be approved by the board, would define fraternization as a situation when two employees are in a supervisory/subordinate relationship and also in a personal relationship at the same time. The policy defines that relationship as getting engaged or married, living together, or entering into a romantic or sexual relationship or an affair. It would allow the relationship to continue if it’s reported and if one of the employees accepts a voluntary transfer to another position that is not being supervised by the other in the relationship.

Baltezegar started working for the district in 1992 as a finance clerk. Personnel records show she worked her way up over the years, going from $15,000 a year to $35,000 her first year as administrative assistant in 2002, to almost $70,000 last year working for Markley. In July she was also given what the district calls “outside experience credit,” which is a pay increase for something the employee did before working for the school system. According to a school spokeswoman, 185 employees also received the same credit. The district refuses to say what Baltezegar’s outside experience credit was, but it knocked her salary from about $69,000 to about $75,000; some extra 500 dollars a month.

In September, the district also promoted Dr. Rick Holliday to deputy superintendent. It’s the first time the district has had someone in that position in a decade. In a news release announcing the promotion, absolutely no reason was given as to why the the move was made.

In the meantime, the School Board’s Policy Committee is still hammering out details on its new relationship rules. School board chair Don Hayes says the change has nothing to do with a relationship between Markley and Baltezegar. Other school board members tell us the change is designed to help the district’s policy mirror state policy, especially because it deals with relationships between principals and teachers, for example, in which case potential raises and contracts could be affected.

The Policy Committee meets next week. No word yet if it will discuss the new dating rules.

WWAY tried multiple times to talk to Markley and Baltezegar about this story. They have so far not returned our calls.

Categories: New Hanover