Former coach seeks to have charges filed against his successor

Randy Barnhill

Former Huntsville High School Football Coach and Dean of Students Randy Barnhill wants to press charges against the current coach for “illegally intercepted text messages,” according to a Huntsville Police Department report.

Barnhill went to the Fayetteville Police Department and spoke with Detective Stacy Dicus, who contacted Huntsville on Oct. 30, the report said. Barnhill said he wanted to press charges against Matt Williams, who succeeded him as head coach.

Barnhill, who lives in Fayetteville, in September was escorted from Huntsville High School after text messages were discovered between himself and Elkins Head Football Coach Bryan Hutson in which Barnhill provided Hutson information about HHS football teams’ playbook, including plays and signals.

The messages offered insights into Huntsville’s football team, play calls, alignments and other inside information. The exchanges happened leading up to when Elkins played at Huntsville on Sept. 20.

Elkins won the game 35-0. The text messages between Barnhill and Hutson were discovered on the Huntsville football  team’s iPad, which had been linked to Barnhill’s itunes account.

When asked if he wanted to comment, Williams said he had not heard anything about possible charges or what Barnhill had told Fayetteville Police.

Barnhill later resigned his position with the school district while Hutson was given a one-week suspension without pay. Barnhill on his Facebook page said he now works as an account executive with Smart Data Dashboard.

Fourth Judicial District Prosecutor Matt Durrett in Fayetteville said the case has been turned over to deputy prosecutor Brent Bryant in Huntsville.

Durrett said he spoke with Bryant on Monday and was told Bryant has not had time to review the case. Durrett said it would be “a couple of weeks” before it is known whether charges will be filed.

Dicus provided Huntsville Detective Olen Thompson with a timeline sent by Barnhill.

“While I was head coach, we used my iTunes account that was loaded on a school iPad to run Sky Coach, a technology based program to record football games,” Barnhill’s timeline reads.

“On January 14, 2019, I was reassigned to full time Dean of Students and the iPad was no longer in use to my knowledge. At that time, I no longer had access to the school iPad. It was in the football coach’s possession.”

Barnhill said in his timeline that Williams attempted several times to get a code verification to remove Barnhill from the iPad. Barnhill said Williams told Barnhill on Sept. 3 that Barnhill had been removed from the iPad.

“Since he told me it was taken care of, I believed him,” Barnhill’s timeline said. “I know now that it was not taken care of and all of my personal texts and emails were still going through this iPad and being read by the coaching staff. According to Arkansas Statute 5-6-120 this is a direct violation of my privacy and they broke the law.”

Arkansas Code Annotated states that “It is unlawful for a person to intercept a wire, landline, oral, telephonic communication, or wireless communication, and to record or possess a recording of the communication unless the person is  party to the communication or one (1) of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to the interception or recording.” The law states that any violation of that is a Class A misdemeanor.

The Huntsville School District also has a policy that states the district “provides computers and/or computer Internet Access for many employees to assist employees in performing work related tasks. Employees are advised that they enjoy no expectation of privacy in any aspect of their computer use, including email, and that under Arkansas law both email and computer use records maintained by the district are subject to disclosure under the Freedom on Information Act.”

Barnhill stated that “They had been reading all of my messages in order to get this one. According to my records there were 785 texts on my phone from 8/22 till 9/23/10 not counting IMessage’s.”

The Madison County Record filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the additional text messages referred to in Barnhill’s timeline, but Huntsville School District Superintendent Dennis Fisher said, “When Mr Barnhill resigned we had the i-pad cleaned so we could put it back in use.” He later said, “I have not seen any such texts. I asked my tech guy and he said that we did not have any more messages from the ipad.”

Fisher later said that Barnhill had asked him to clean off the iPad.

The Huntsville School District has a Record Retention and Destruction policy, which states that “It is necessary to maintain district records in a manner that provides for efficient document storage and retrieval and is conducive to eliminating unnecessary record retention. Due to the variety of records that may need to be retained and accessed, the superintendent shall ensure that all staff receives appropriate training to understand this policy. Staff shall also understand the possible ramifications to the district and/or themselves for failure to properly maintain records and follow the requirements contained in this policy.”

Documents referred to in the district’s policy contain “any kind of correspondence,” which the superintendent shall be responsible for establishing a schedule for the routine destruction of district records that accommodates the needs of the district. The policy also states that personnel files shall be kept forever.

Huntsville Detective Olen Thompson’s report says that “Mr. Barnhill stated that employees of the Huntsville School District illegally intercepted text messages between him and Bryan Hutson.”

Barnhill gave Dicus “the letter of reprimand or suspension from the Huntsville School District that occurred due to intercepting the messages between himself and Ryan (sic) Hutson,” the report reads.

Fisher wrote the letter to Barnhill.

It read, “You are hereby notified that, as superintendent of the Huntsville School District I am hereby suspending you from all your contractual duties with the Huntsville School District because there is just and reasonable cause why your employment contract with Huntsville School District should be terminated. I am recommending to the Huntsville Board of Education that your employment contract be terminated. ...”

Fisher wrote Barnhill about the text messages, which the superintendent said, “not only betrayed the trust of the student athletes who are on the Huntsville Football Team but aided and abetted cheating by the other team. Such unethical behavior is contrary to the values of the Huntsville School District.”

Fisher wrote, “Your actions go against all ethical standards. Instead of teaching fairness, promoting good citizenship and ethical values in our students, you set a terrible example.”

Thompson in his report said Barnhill “provided to her [Dicus] a letter he received from State of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. He also included a newspaper clip titled “School official disputes reason why she was sent home,” which was published in The Madison County Record. That story concerned former assistant Huntsville superintendent Cheryl Gall, who the Huntsville School Board sent home with pay, effectively buying out her contract for the rest of this school year.

Rutledge’s letter concerned what information could be released under a Freedom of Information request.

Barnhill was advised that the Huntsville Police Department would have jurisdiction in the case.

Thompson wrote that he spoke with Barnhill on Nov 1.

“He advised that he wanted to press charges on Matt Williams for Interception and Recordings 5-60-120. He explained that all the information was on the Timeline statement he had provided” the Fayetteville detective.

Huntsville Police Chief Todd Thomas said the case file has been turned over to prosecutors.

Barnhill was removed as head football coach in January 2019, but was retained as dean of students. Williams, who worked as defensive coordinator under Barnhill, was promoted to head coach in March 2019.

Barnhill told Hutson what pass routes Huntsville runs and what specific signals to look for when the HHS coaching staff calls plays.

As previously reported in The Record, after Elkins defeated Huntsville, a text message sent from the Elkins person, read: “We won. The coaches said something about you talking to me. Said they had something. I didn’t know what they were talking about. They were pissed.” Barnhill responded with an expletive: “F*** them” and “call me.”

As of Monday night’s school board meeting, Fisher said he had not seen the police report.

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