Getting It Right 

After denying he’s leaving MCS, Lavon Alston resigns.

The media gets blamed for a lot: ruining careers, promoting negative images, and even false reporting. Just last month, many dancers involved in the Tennessee Waltz blamed the media for blowing the situation out of proportion.
But sometimes reporters get the wrong story. For example, two weeks ago, the Flyer wrote about the Memphis City Schools’ maintenance contract (“Yours, Mine, and Ours,” June 9th issue). That article detailed the latest wrangling between the district, school board members, and contractors.
What the article failed to mention was that district chief operations officer Lavon Alston had supposedly tendered his resignation at the end of May, a move that reportedly stemmed from the maintenance situation. The Flyer talked to MCS communications personnel, who denied the rumor. Then we discussed the matter with Alston. His response: “I heard that too. I’m still here, and those rumors are not true.”
Now, it looks like the rumors were true. Alston’s resignation was announced at an MCS committee meeting last week. A copy of his resignation letter, dated June 16th, stated that the letter was “a follow-up to my previous resignation letter dated May 20.”
Alston, hired by MCS last July, headed the contract transition between the two maintenance companies. Ultimately, negotiations broke down between the district and Trammell Crow, and this week, the decision was made to bring maintenance services in-house.
When a letter of agreement between the district and Trammell Crow was publicized last week, angry board members challenged that it had been done without their approval. In this instance -- and most during the contract process -- Alston received the brunt of the anger.
“With that letter of agreement, people are doing selective listening,” said Alston. “[Attorney] Percy Harvey presented it to board members previously. If I were trying to hide something, why would it have been presented to them?”
Reached by phone late Friday evening, Alston explained his misinformation. “I was still on the payroll when I talked to you [May 23rd],” he said. “When you’re in a leadership position, you don’t let people who work under you know that you are departing. You just depart.”
Although he acknowledged that his previous answers were misleading, Alston said his resignation didn’t indicate anything out of the ordinary.
“I decided to resign due to personal reasons. It does not have anything to do with the [facilities maintenance situation],” he said.
The Flyer is still investigating Alston’s resignation. 

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