Former School Board member convicted

Former Orange County School Board Member Dennis Whitling is now on probation and owes $106,138.24 in penalties after being convicted of embezzling funds from a former employer. His jail sentence was suspended but he'll also have to do at least 100 hours of community service.

Former Durham attorney and Orange County Schools Board of Education member Dennis A. Whitling was found guilty earlier this month of felony embezzlement and obtaining property under false pretense from his former employer.  [...]

Whitling resigned from the Board of Education in February after having been arrested on charges of embezzling more than $100,000, obtaining property under false pretense, corporate malfeasance and obstruction of justice.

Whitling reportedly surrendered his law license and accepted disbarment prior to his conviction.

- Whitling given suspended sentence, will be on probation, 8/22/08

Good thing he was only on the School Board for 3 years.



Unfortuately, the three (almost four) years Dennis Whitling served on the Orange County Board of Education (two of that as the Chair) was more than enough time for him to significantly contribute to damaging the Board's relationship with its community.

Between his "Big Plan" for the forced merger of Central and Hillsborough Elementary Schools, his subsequently adopted plan to "redirect" $300,000 in Federal Title I money away from the district's two poorest (and lowest performing) schools and ignoring the recommendations of the district's own "Closing the [minority achievement] Gap" committee, Whitling's tenure on the Board will be most remembered for destroying what trust there was between the Board and the parents of Orange County.

But, of course, after violating the trust of his employer of 23 years, and stealing from an estate for which he was the trustee, losing the trust and respect of people he was elected to represent is probably of little consequence. 

are not necessarily over.  He will eventually answer to the IRS and the DOL.

It would be nice to put all the blame on this guy, but the things Allan mentions certainly couldn't have been done without the backing of others, including voters.

There are others on the Board with dirty hands in this matter.

Dennis did not act alone in his actions against the will of his constitutents. He had willing support and encouragement from a number of other Board Members, but as the Chair for over half of his tenure, he did control the Board's direction. Luckily, in the wake of Dennis's resignation, one of his closest accomplices on the Board chose not to run for re-election and his former Vice-Chair was uncerimoniously removed from the Board's leadership.

However, I have a hard time blaming Dennis's behavior on those who voted for him. Since he served less than one term, resigned in disgrace before standing for re-election and had no previous record for them to judge, voters had no way of knowing how much damage he would do. If they had, I believe that more than the 30 votes needed to keep Dennis off the Board in 2004 would have gone to a different candidate.

Well we voters have to take some responsibility though, right? I get pretty nervous myself when I vote - sometimes there's not much to go on when you're new to a community - you just wind up closing your eyes in the booth and hoping for the best. Was he elected in an odd time when turnout is always low?

Also, how does someone with a 30 vote lead become Chair in their first term? 

Orange County Board of Election members are elected during the spring primary elections, not during any general, November election.  Unlike this year, primary elections rarely generate a large voter turnout in northern Orange County. 

Dennis was elected in 2004 during the primary that ultimately selected John Kerry for the Democratic presidential nomination and Mike Easley for the Governor, and since the contest was over before it was our turn to vote, there was a normally low turnout.

Dennis finished third in a "pick three" election with 3,408 votes.  Had 30 people changed their vote from Dennis to the fourth place finisher, James Henninger, he would have failed to make his way onto the Board.

As for how a first-term Board member becomes Chair, it is not that uncommon.  The current Chair and Vice-Chair, Steve Halkiotis and Tony McKnight, were both elected this past May, and both the previous Chair and Vice-Chair, Ted Triebel and Debbie Piscatelli, were elected in 2006.

Experience is not a prerequisite to lead this group. 

Obviously, Allan meant to say the Orange County Board of Education.
Thanks for catching my typo.  Sorry about that.  Yes, I meant Orange County Board of Education.

As the chair of the OCS Committee on Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps, I must disagree with Allan's assessment of Dennis's board term. He most certainly did not ignore the recommendations of our committee.  Our recommendations were never adopted by the board until after Dennis had resigned. But during our committee's work process, he was very supportive of our work.

While there's no defense for Dennis' embezzlement, I will defend his service to the board. I didn't agree with everything he did, but I did find to be a great board member to work with. I think he had the right interests at heart. And many times he tried to be the person who held together a fractured board.

I just posted a comment without logging in. When it makes it through moderation, I want it to be clear that it was mine.  It's a comment starting out by saying that I was the co-chair of the district's committee on Raising  Achievement and Closing Gaps. Sorry for the snafu. 

Today's Durham Herald-Sun has an article detailing drunk driving charges currently pending against Ted Triebel, a current member of the Orange County Board of Education. According to the article, Triebel wasn't wearing his seat belt "when his car ran off the right side of the road, hit a mailbox, went into a ditch, rolled over and crashed into a tree."The responding State Trooper says that both Triebel and his wife admitted that he had been drinking before getting behind the wheel.  A blood sample was taken at the hospital and sent to the SBI for testing.Ironically, Triebel highlighted his experience as an on-road Driver Education Instructor in Orange County Schools when running for his seat on the Board in 2006. Triebel is scheduled to appear in Orange County District Court in Chapel Hill on Feb. 24 to answer the charges.

I am sorry for not updating this information sooner.Orange County Board of Education Member Ted Triebel's DWI case was continued in February because the District Attorney's office had not yet received the blood alcohol results from the SBI lab - after over three months.It has now been another three months and hopefully the results have come back by now. Ted Triebel is now scheduled to appear in court in Chapel Hill next Tuesday, May 19th at 9:00am.You can read more about the case, and view a copy of the original DWI citation at:

After spending over a year working its way through the Orange County courts, the drunk driving case against current Orange County Board of Education member Ted Triebel has finally reached an end.On Tuesday afternoon, Triebel was convicted of DWI by Judge Joe Buckner. He was sentenced to 10 days in prison, 24 hours of community service and must pay a community service fee. The prison sentence was suspended to one year of unsupervised probation in return for payment of a fine and court costs.According to the Durham Herald-Sun, Buckner "almost apologized" for convicting Triebel and then imposed a sentence at, what Assistant District Attorney Jeff Neiman termed, "the lowest possible level."Details of the conviction can be found in a number of online sources linked at: 

His blood alcohol level was 0.08. If it was 0.07 he would not have been charged with DWI. That's all I want to point out.

Actually, Ted was convicted of having a blood alcohol level "above 0.08."According to testimony in the case, his true BAC after getting into an accident and being transported to the hospital could have been as high as 0.0899.  The SBI apparently has a policy of "rounding down" to give the accused the benefit of the doubt.But, of course, you are right. If Ted's BAC had been as low as 0.0799, he would not have been charged.  But, it wasn't and he was. Now, what I want to point out is that Orange County has a convicted drunk driver (who ironically highlighted his experience as a driver's education instructor while running for office) actively serving on its Board of Education.


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