Dallas ISD probe cites superintendent for interference

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on July 21, 2013 at 5:47 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 21 at 10:55 PM

DALLAS — Interfering with an official inquiry.

Manipulating the bid process.

Those are just two accusations a News 8 investigation uncovered against Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles last week.

Now, new evidence has surfaced supporting the WFAA report. It's an internal investigative report from DISD's own investigative body.

The internal investigation report was published on the Internet by Dallas ISD School Board Trustee Carla Ranger. It's labeled "Highly Confidential," but its contents could prove highly damaging to Superintendent Miles, who is accused of trying to have the internal investigation into his own actions quashed.

The report was conducted by the Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates wrongdoing at DISD and refers all findings to the superintendent.

The allegations — coming in part from former Communications Chief Rebecca Rodriguez — accuse Miles of "violating bid practices" and of "bullying and unprofessional conduct."

The most serious allegation, however, comes from DISD top investigator Don Smith, who accuses his boss, Mike Miles, of "obstructing an OPR investigation..." and ordering Smith to turn over all of his investigative files.

"This was the first time OPR had ever given any documents to Legal Services while an OPR investigation was in progress," said Smith as part of his own report.

Mike MacNaughton, a DISD watchdog and vocal critic of Miles, said this kind of behavior from Dallas' top educator is unacceptable.

"It goes back to the Nixon White House," he said. "What's worse, the crime or trying to cover up the crime. It looks very much like a coverup to me, and that's unfortunate."

The allegations of bullying and bid violations come from Miles' former Communications Chief Rebecca Rodriguez. They stem from the June 13 Board meeting in which Miles ordered a vendor contract pulled off the agenda.

Rodriguez told internal investigators: "Miles used undue influence by pulling an agenda item," saying the firm that won the bid "was not Miles' favored vendor."

None of the witnesses interviewed by OPR investigators suggested that what Miles had done was improper.

Rodriguez told investigators Miles verbally abused her at a private meeting later that day.

"The superintendent told me that sometimes 'things get messy' in the interest of moving forward,'" Rodriguez said.

While Miles declined to be interviewed by OPR investigators, he did give them this statement:

"Rodriguez's narrative is deceiving and filled with inaccuracies and mischaracterizations .... she either knows it's a lie or simply is confused."

The OPR investigation lays out a timeline of critical events.

JUNE 13: It establishes the board meeting on this day in which the contract was officially pulled by Miles.

JUNE 14: Rodriguez files a complaint with OPR and the investigation gets under way.

JUNE 25: Miles instructs OPR to cease the investigation "for the good of the district." That same day, Rodriguez becomes Miles' seventh cabinet member to resign in less than a year.

JUNE 26: Miles directs his General Counsel at DISD to "obtain all of OPR's investigative files."

JUNE 28: After several attorneys and DISD Board President Eric Cowan get involved, Miles "un-suspends" the OPR investigation. But at that point, the OPR probe had officially ended.

MacNaughton says Miles has gone too far. "At the least, Miles should be released from his contract from the district," he said. "It's up to officials in the legal community to decide if any laws were broken."

Miles declined an opportunity from WFAA for an on-camera interview. He did issue a statement Sunday saying he objects to the release of confidential information, and only stopped the investigation to negotiate Rodriguez's resignation.

Miles said it was his idea to restart the investigation.

Trustees will vote Monday night on whether to turn over the entire matter to an outside lawyer, former U.S. Attorney for North Texas Paul Coggins.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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