The state Department of Education is paying a private investigator nearly $16,000 for 38 days of work to supplement the work of a full time state employee, Mississippi Today has learned.

The revelation comes amid complaints from Gov. Phil Bryant and other state officials about excessive spending by the department during the tenure of Education Superintendent Carey Wright. Recent media reports have described inflated contracts awarded by the department to friends of Wright and other administrators and employees.

The contract with J. Chad Callender calls for him to investigate allegations of educator misconduct, appear as an expert witness at hearings before the state licensure commission and prepare and serve subpoenas, among other duties.

Holley Haywood is listed on the education department’s website as the investigator for the Office of Educator Misconduct, a position performing the tasks Callender has been hired to perform.

“J. Chad Callender was hired to supplement, not supplant, work around new misconduct cases, pending misconduct cases, and the Clarksdale investigation,” Education Department spokeswoman Jean Cook said in an email. “The MDE did not lose employees who did this work.” The Clarksdale case involved principals and teachers at Heidelberg Elementary School who were accused of cheating on state achievement tests.

Cook provided no other details about why it was necessary to hire a contractor to do the work.

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