Texas School District’s Scandals End with Apology

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Mike Miles, the Superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District (ISD), had to apologize to the Board of Trustees over a Human Resources (HR) scandal that led to the investigation of two top administrators and another fracas where an independent report cleared the name of a board trustee who was falsely accused of harassment.

WFAA, the Dallas ABC-TV news affiliate, reported that the trustees met until well past midnight on Monday, February 16 “expressing anger and frustration” over these matters which were lingering over the district for months. A lot of their ire was directed at Miles. They questioned him as to why he waited weeks to fire an HR chief who he had learned sent hundreds of inflammatory instant messages. Miles apologized for not handling this sooner but he claimed he “needed to carefully deliberate before taking action.”

The board was also already highly critical of Miles for allegedly instigating an external investigation on District 9 trustee, Bernadette Nutall. The news media spotlight shone unflatteringly on Nutall back in October 2014 when she was filmed via campus security cameras while being forcibly removed by district police for alleged “criminal trespassing” at one of the district’s middle schools. That removal was ordered by Miles.

At the time, Nutall had been accused of “verbally abusing district employees,” according to WFAA. Nutall filed a criminal complaint against Superintendent Miles with the District Attorney’s office for official oppression, according to KDFW, the local FOX affiliate.

The district then commissioned an investigative report by former US Attorney Paul Coggins to look into the allegations that trustee Bernadette Nutall harassed a district administrator. Nutall was cleared of wrongdoing, the Dallas Morning News reported.  This independent investigation that was estimated to cost taxpayers approximately $30,000.

Emotions already were high over what happened with Nutall. The board was meeting on February 16, in part, over Carmen Darville, 30, the administrator who headed up Dallas ISD’s Human Capital Management (aka “Human Resources”) department. Darville had come under fire for allegations of bullying, threatening employees, retaliatory terminations, and running a department that “encouraged nepotism,” according to the Dallas Morning News.

WFAA reported that Darville also was “accused of making racial slurs via her internal messaging system. The preliminary audit also accused her of workplace aggression, threats of violence, and conflicts of interest.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Darville may have hired people without first running criminal background checks and “may have encouraged staffers to lie to instigators” looking into the matter that also included instant messages that poked fun at race, age and weight, and ways to get rid of employees.”

In December, Darville was formally accused of misconduct, including violating state law and district policy in a three-page letter to the school board from the district’s Office of Internal Audit; however, the letter was never sent to the board, which upset the trustees.

Further conflict arose over the chief internal auditor, Mike Singleton, who originally said in late January that he didn’t recall ever seeing the letter but, at the time, he emailed the board of trustees indicating that the allegations were under review by another investigator, noted the Dallas Morning News. The punting continued with a district spokesman diminishing the importance of the letter by calling it “a draft.”

However, former Dallas ISD investigator Vickie Blair told the Dallas Morning News that “Singleton asked her to write the letter to trustees on his behalf.” She also stated, “It contains very damning allegations.” Blair was the investigator who led this review. “It was not a draft document. Those words never came out of his mouth to me.”

Darville apologized for what she called her error in judgment but, on January 29, she and Jose “Tony” Munoz, the other disgraced HR executive working with her, resigned.

KDFW reported that Dallas ISD paid Darville $190,000 a year and agreed to an $80,000 severance package. The majority of board trustees were displeased that Miles awarded the “disgraced HR chief” this kind package, according to WFAA.

The Dallas Morning News added that the board was equally critical of an approximate $22,000 settlement paid to Munoz.

Miles segued from his board apologies to announcing Darville’s interim replacement as Karry L. Chapman, a human resource veteran.  She began Tuesday, February 17. In addition to 16 years of HR for North Texas districts, the school district’s press release states she was also a classroom teacher in Grand Prairie ISD for 17 years.

Miles expressed his pleasure with Chapman coming on board in the transition in the press release, especially in light of the scandal the district is working hard to crawl out from under. He stated, “she has a plethora of experience in addressing employee staffing, discipline and compliance issues.”

This latest of the Dallas ISD scandals marks the newest in a series of high profile faux pas for Miles. In 2013, the nine-member Board of Trustees flirted with firing him because of an athletic department recruiting scandal that ended with the firing of 15 employees. An investigation found that coaches and their assistants falsified the student residency documentation that allowed athletes to play on teams in the district. Miles, however, was cleared of wrongdoing in an independent investigation. Add to this the contentious district home rule battle.

Last year, the relationship between Miles and the board was so fractured that district brought in “a consultant specializing in nonprofit governance, specifically on building an effective working relationship between CEOs and their boards, for a team-building exercise.”

Breitbart Texas reported on the district renewing their flawed superintendent’s contract. During the negotiations, Miles wanted a $25,000 pay raise because “the Fort Worth superintendent before he left made $330,000.” He also wanted it before his performance review.

Bernadette Nutall was one of the two trustees who voted against Miles’ deal, voicing their concerns “as did some other board members, that Miles was getting the new contract before he had gotten his annual evaluation.”

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.