A Grundy County, Tenn., school board member's vehicle was vandalized Monday night after he blew the whistle on possible money mishandling among Grundy County Schools officials.
After a workshop meeting to discuss what was going on with the money and funding to hire a new football coach, Chris Grooms found his truck's headlights had been spray painted black, the word "rapist" had been spray painted on the passenger-side door and cooking oil had been poured into his gas tank.
Grooms is a member of the oversight committee appointed to ensure investigative transparency as the system looks into an incident involving five Grundy County High School students recently charged with attempted aggravated rape.
Those students are accused of attempting to rape a 15-year-old teammate with the metal handle of a dust mop in the school's football fieldhouse sometime before 6 a.m. CDT on Oct. 11.
According to a police report, Grooms got into his truck to go home after the workshop meeting but made it only a few yards down the road before his engine died. He had to have the vehicle towed to an auto shop.
No suspect is listed in the vandalism report, but the school resource officer is looking through the high school's surveillance video to see if authorities can identify a suspect.
Grooms said he believes the vandalism may be retaliation for him bringing to light issues over the control of school funds.
Last week, Grooms said during a regularly scheduled board meeting that the committee found evidence suggesting the school's football money from game tickets, concessions and a T-shirt stand may not have been handled properly.
After that meeting, Grooms said board member Gary Melton had been seen running the concessions stand and that Melton is the brother of Director of Schools Jessie Kinsey. Kinsey, however, declined to confirm either of those claims.
Though Monday night's meeting was scheduled to talk about the handling of the money, the only item on the agenda was funding for a new football coach.
At the beginning of the meeting, school board chairman Robert Foster said the board's attorney, Chuck Cagle, advised them not to discuss the issue of money or to conduct any investigation.
"He said it could be viewed by the state of Tennessee as interfering with a state audit," Foster said.
Board member Chris Snyder quickly responded, saying he had also talked to Cagle and he told him the board could in fact discuss the matter as long as no accusations were made.
"Every time we discuss something, we get told to keep our mouth shut," Snyder said. "It's time to open up the door and get this out. I'm tired of bickering and arguing and fussing. We got to move forward."
As they discussed the issue, an audience member spoke out and told Grooms he requested his personnel file and found a letter that allegedly states why he was fired from the school system.
"You want to tell us about that?" the audience member said. "... It involves, pretty much, what happened at the fieldhouse."
Grooms responded that he had nothing to say, and he did not respond to a request for comment before press time.
It's not clear what that letter contained.
This story was updated Nov. 15 at 11:59 p.m. with more information.