Investigator's report: DISD chief violated board policy, employment contract

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by BRETT SHIPP and JASON TRAHAN

WFAA

Posted on September 6, 2013 at 8:28 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 11:30 AM

DALLAS -- DISD Superintendent Mike Miles improperly contacted witnesses during an ongoing investigation of his activities, and disparaged his bosses, according to an outside investigator’s report obtained by WFAA late Friday.

Former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins concluded that Miles violated board policy and his employment contract, but did not break any laws, according to the 49-page report issued to DISD trustees Friday.

Under the terms of his employment contract, violations of board policy constitute “good cause” for dismissal, Coggins wrote.


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With the release of the report Friday, DISD trustees now must decide whether Miles, who earns $300,000 per year, stays or goes as superintendent.

“What jumps out at me is that the cover up is worse than the crime,” said former Board member Bruce Parrott, who voted to hire Miles last year.

“I’d be advocating that we part ways with the superintendent,” Parrott said. “What choice would you have, it’s clear he doesn’t want to work with [the school board] anymore.”

Trustees did not comment on the report Friday.

The DISD school board hired Coggins last month for $100,000 to examine allegations that Miles attempted to steer a contract to The Concilio for parent education services. The board took that step after Miles attempted to shut down an investigation into the matter by his own Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR.

“This outside investigation would never have taken place if Superintendent Miles had followed the advice given him by at least three district officials to allow the underlying OPR investigation to go forward,” the report states.

The internal investigation began after Miles pulled an item dealing with The Concilio contract off a school board briefing agenda on June 13. His communications chief at the time, Rebecca Rodriguez, filed a complaint with OPR, alleging that Miles was attempting to improperly steer the contract.

Coggins concluded that Miles violated no rules by removing the item from the agenda, and also found “insufficient evidence to conclude that there was any fraud or financial impropriety” in the bid process.

“All of the individuals we interviewed unanimously and unequivocally denied that a contract had been promised to The Concilio at any time,” Coggins wrote. “We did not find any evidence that any District employee had a financial interest in The Concilio and/or a financial interest in the outcome of the” bid and contracting process.

Coggins also found Miles was within his authority, as head of the district, to ignore district lawyers’ advice and shut down OPR’s investigation into his own conduct.

“Even though no rule or regulation expressly permits or prohibits Superintendent Miles from taking such action, for a target of an investigation to suspend the investigation raises troubling issues, and any damages to Superintendent Miles’ standing with the Board, the District or the community at large were self-inflicted,” Coggins wrote.

Coggins noted that The Concilio violated board policy by meeting with an individual trustee, Mike Morath, about how to “navigate political issues with the board.”

“Although district officials arranged the meeting, board policy CHE (Local) states that it is a violation for a vendor to discuss business matters with an individual board member,” the report states.

During the internal investigation, Miles improperly contacted two witnesses in violation of board policy, Coggins found. One was Byron Sanders, head of the fundraising group Dallas Education Foundation and a witness to events surrounding The Concilio contract, the report states.

Miles “alerted [Sanders] to the pending OPR investigation and discussed facts relevant to the pending investigation,” the report states. “Superintendent Miles was aware of the pending OPR investigation at the time of the contact, made the contact shortly before the witness was contacted by OPR for an interview, and purported to refresh his recollection regarding” the contract debacle with The Concilio.

Another witness was Justin Coppedge, special assistant to the superintendent, whom Miles e-mailed a rebuttal to Rodriguez’ allegations against him. Coppedge also was a witness in the internal investigation, Coggins wrote.

“This is a violation of board policy, which prohibits conversations between witnesses about the facts of a pending OPR investigation,” the report says.

Coggins also found that Miles encouraged and assisted his former operations chief, Kevin Smelker, in drafting a resignation letter highly critical of the school board. Coggins also found that, with guidance from public relations consultant Lisa LeMaster, Miles also strategized on how to leak the letter to media to generate bad publicity for the board and positive press for himself.

That could violate Miles’ employment contract, which states he is supposed to maintain an effective working relationship with the board.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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