'I'm still waiting on that tongue kiss.' Wilson Co. School Board member censured over comments

Posted at 9:08 PM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 23:47:38-04

LEBANON, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Wilson County School Board has issued a formal rebuke of one of its own members following an investigation into sexual harassment.

The board issued a formal public censure of board member Wayne McNeese this week after both a former and a current Wilson County Schools employee filed ethics complaints against McNeese. The board hired the private law firm Jackson, Shields, Yeiser & Holt to investigate two complaints filed over the last three months.

While the censure itself does not include any punitive action, it is a public statement of disapproval against McNeese.

The first complaint was filed in May by a current school board employee, who said before a school board meeting on May 4, McNeese stopped to talk to her.

“Mr. McNeese asked me for ‘a tongue kiss’," the complaint says.

Then after that meeting, the employee says McNeese told her, “I’m still waiting on that tongue kiss.”

The second complaint against McNeese came in June, from a former school board employee. It referenced an incident in April 2016, when the employee says she was arranging overnight hotel stays for an upcoming retreat. She says when she asked McNeese about his room preference, he replied: “I don’t care what bed I have as long as I’m sharing a bed with you.”

After interviewing all involved, this week the law firm hired by the school board gave its report to the board on Monday.

"We believe it is more likely than not -- a preponderance of the evidence standard -- that the facts described in the complaint occurred substantially as they were described," said Debra Owen with the outside law firm.

But investigators said McNeese’s behavior fell short of sexual harassment under the law because it was not extremely serious and not repeated.

"Even though, the facts demonstrate there were offensive and very inappropriate comments," Owen told the school board.

The school board decided to censure McNeese with a formal statement of disapproval for violating the Wilson County School Board's ethics policy.

For the most part, McNeese remained silent throughout the proceedings, except to underscore his action wasn’t illegal.

"Even though sexual harassment, as legally defined, was not determined to have occurred," McNeese said at the board meeting. "Past that, I’ll hush and you all can censure me all you want."

NewsChannel 5 has reached out to both McNeese and the staff members who filed complaints about him.

Kelie Ford was the former staff member who filed a complaint about McNeese's alleged behavior involving the school board retreat.

"I’m thankful Wilson County Schools did bring in an independent attorney," Ford told NewsChannel 5 Tuesday evening.

"It was unfortunate to see that they didn’t find it to be sexual harassment," Ford said. "I was a little disappointed in that."

"What he did was wrong," Ford said.

As of Tuesday evening, neither McNeese nor the other person who filed a complaint against him immediately responded to NewsChannel 5's request for comment.