CLAYTON -- Barbour County Commissioner Rachel Smith and county Board of Education member Jimmie Fryer have bonded out of jail following their arrests on warrants for harassment that were filed by Barbour County School Superintendent Matthew Alexander and BOE member Ruby Jackson following incidents that occurred after a special called board meeting held June 27 in Clayton.
Following a June 27 special called meeting of the county Board of Education, three separate harassment reports were filed with the Clayton Police Department after what one of the complainants described as hostile/aggressive, threatening/intimidation and irate behavior was displayed towards him by a member of the community and a board member.
Two complaints of harassment were filed against county Commissioner Rachel Smith, one after a conversation with Alexander about a job posting for the county schools and changes that were made to the posting, and the other following a statement made to a board member.
In a June 27 letter addressed to the Clayton Police Department, BCS Superintendent Matthew Alexander stated, “After the meeting was adjourned and while still inside the boardroom, Mrs. Rachel Smith angrily walked over to me and stated, in a hostile/aggressive and threatening/intimidating manner, that my house will come tumbling down soon. Mrs. Rachel Smith’s actions toward me were hostile/aggressive and threatening/intimidating. I am fearful that her menacing attempts to become hostile/aggressive and threatening/intimidating and confrontational with me place my life, safety, and well-being in danger.” He ended the statement requesting that any and all appropriate legal actions be taken in order to protect his life, safety and well-being.
A certified letter, dated July 1, was also sent to Smith by Alexander that stated he has witnessed and it has been brought to his attention by several school board members and employees that Smith’s interactions have been hostile/aggressive and threatening/intimidating. He included that it was reported that Smith has used profanity, while interacting and addressing district staff.
“Your behavior on Board of Education property’s witnessed by me and described to me, is unacceptable and disruptive to the school board and district operations. Your actions and demeanor left school board members, district staff and me uncomfortable and with feelings of having our life, safety, and wellbeing compromised,” Alexander wrote in the letter addressed to Smith. “Neither I nor the Barbour County Board of Education will tolerate such conduct of this nature on school district premises and will take whatever action necessary to defend its staff and students.” Alexander continued, warning Smith that if further incidents of this nature arise again, she will be prohibited and banned from entering any of the schools and/or county school district’s property.
A second complaint against Smith was filed the same day by BC BoE member Ruby Jackson. Jackson’s written details of what led to the filing of the complaint are, “After the meeting was over, I was walking toward the door to leave, as I walked pass Rachel Smith, she said to me, you are dumb, I am ashamed of you, you are supposed to be educated, you ain’t nothing.” Jackson stated that there were other people sitting and standing around, listening and laughing as Smith continued to say bad things about her to her face.
A second statement attached to the report Jackson filed stated, “Mrs. Smith has returned to the Transportation building starting up with the school board members again. She has to be stopped.”
A response to the charges filed against Smith was submitted to the Eufaula Tribune and stated, “Mr. Alexander is angry and upset because the community stakeholders and The Concerned Citizens for Change of Barbour County Schools are holding him and the board members accountable for poor decisions. On June 27, Mr. Alexander filed a report with the Clayton Police Department stating, the board members, employees and himself feel harassed, threatened and intimidated by me, which is a false statement and report. I have in my possession a video of the entire special meeting of June 27 and all other meetings dating back to 2018. The videos are proof of the false accusations made by Mr. Alexander and others. There are witnesses who will testify that the report made by Alexander and others are false.
“I stated to a board member how disappointed I was with her vote because she’s in the ministry and the educated one, she then replied what are you talking about? I said let’s talk outside, that was the end of the conversation,” Smith stated. “I spoke to M. Alexander about substituting for the upcoming school term and I also asked him was it legal to have the board approve items and after the approval for him to make changes to the items before he places them on the Alabama State Department Hire website, such as description and qualifications. He stated to me, ‘I can do that.’” Smith stated that she replied to him, “Your little play house will soon crumble down.”
Smith continued her response to the charges, stating, “If this is harassment, threatening and intimidating, so be it. Public schools in Barbour County are funded with tax payer dollars and as a tax payer, I have a right to ask questions and make statements in how funds and resources are utilized and distributed.”
A harassment report filed against BC BOE member Jimmie Fryer by Superintendent Alexander stated that after the meeting had adjourned and while they were still inside the boardroom, Fryer walked over to him and shook his hand. “After I attempted to pull my hand away from our handshake, he squeezed my hand tightly and would not release my hand as he began to get closer to my face and speak in a hostile and aggressive manner toward me. He eventually let go of my hand and I walked away,” Alexander stated in a letter to the Clayton Police Department. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Jimmie Fryer exited the boardroom and transportation building. Several minutes passed by and Fryer opened the door to the boardroom and gestured toward me with his finger and stated that he needed to speak with me outside of the boardroom.”
Alexander goes on to state that he found Fryer in the hallway where, “In the most hostile and aggressive, threatening/intimidating and irate manner to date, Mr. Jimmie Fryer walked up to me, within mere inches of my face and began yelling at me.” It was at this time that Alexander said he asked Fryer to leave the building.
A witness to the exchange, Clarence Magee Jr., Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Human Resources, stated that he had to stand inside the front door of the building (which also leads to the boardroom) with his arms outstretched in order to hold Fryer from charging at Alexander.
“Mr. Jimmie Fryer’s actions toward me were hostile/aggressive, threatening/intimidating and irate,” Alexander said. “I am fearful that his menacing attempts to become physically aggressive and confrontational with me place my life, safety, and wellbeing at risk.” He ended the statement requesting that any and all appropriate legal actions be taken in order to protect his life, safety and well-being.
In a response from Fryer on the charge filed against him, he stated, ”The only thing that I will say is that, if that is harassment in which Dr. Matthew Alexander states and describes as what happened (which is not true), what a sad day in America! I will not waste my energy to respond to any specifics regarding the alleged childish incident. Just know Dr. Matthew Alexander was very upset with me over what had taken place during the meeting in which his contract (that he had been boasting about) had been revised. Being transparent to the public during the meeting, I made known the revisions, where Sections 7 and 10 had been modified from unanimous vote of the board to majority vote of the board and Section 1 had been modified from a 5 year contract to a 4 year contract because of nonconformity to The Code of Alabama. Dr. Alexander’s facial expressions showed his anger and dislike. Therefore, I am greatly saddened and concerned because my greatest fear is being confirmed. Our students’ achievement and safety are not the top priorities of our school system’s superintendent.”
Smith and Fryer each were released on bonds of $2,500 following their arrests.