Charges Against DISD's Mike Miles: More Bullying Bullshit?

Categories: Schutze

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Which event are we talking about here? Individual Dallas school board members -- job-defenders who are sworn enemies of the ongoing school reform program -- violate normal process to release an internal school district report highly critical of Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles. Before folks have time to read the thing, the bean-spillers call for Miles' ouster. Other detractors even talk criminal charges.

Are we talking about the contracting controversy that blew up last week when Miles was accused of breaking rules to steer a contract to a favored vendor? Well, no, not quite yet. We'll get there. I was talking about the so-called "internal audit" last December (quotation marks to be explained in a moment) that was called for by trustee Bernadette Nutall, who had no authority to call for such an audit, then released in incomplete form by Nutall, who had no authority to release such an audit, on the basis of which Nutall's allies began calling for Miles' ouster and also made references to possible criminal violations.

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The Smithsonian
Top school district staff collapse in tears as Mile Miles arrives for another day at the office. 
I put quotation marks around the term "internal audit" because it was not an internal audit. Eventually it was revealed to be a completely bullshit, hacked together, hit-job tissue of lies and innuendo that went up in smoke when a real audit was done. So why bring it up now?

Because if you read the internal report that trustee Carla Ranger released last week on her blog, you will find exactly the same footprints through the flowerbeds at school headquarters. It's buried a bit and certainly was not flagged by Ranger in her provocative summary of the report, but the report itself makes it plain that school board members were very active at the very beginning in making this current allegation happen.

The allegation is that a contracting procedure had been completed; Miles didn't like the way it wound up; he wanted at least a chunk of the contract to go to a group he favored; he broke the rules, bullied people and went some kind of scary damn meshugge over it; the contract award was pulled from a board agenda at the last minute; now he needs to be fired.

So let me say something, please. I have no idea if these charges are legit. They could be. If he's a bad, meshugge, corrupt, contract-item-puller and known bully, then he should be canned.

What else could it be? Well, for one thing, Miles could be a CEO who didn't like the way a contract had been handled, so reached in to change the process in ways that were entirely legal and within his authority. The bullying? Is it bullying now for a boss to chew out a team member? Wow. I think I personally have a list of grievances down one arm and up the next. My tombstone should give the years of my life and then say, "Bullied the whole damn time."

But seriously, folks. I am only asking that we hold a few more facts in mind when thinking about this: The guy is scoured every single hour of every single day by an extremely motivated phalanx of people who regard him as a threat to jobs and a longstanding system of political patronage. They search every word he utters, every move he makes for an opening to get his ass.

These same people have shown by past actions that they can reach into the internal permanent bureaucracy of the district -- what the Egyptians call in their own regime "the deep state" -- and find some jackass who will gin up whatever kind of shabby accusatory report they're looking for.

This could be that. Again.

At 6 p.m. tooday, the school board will hold a special called meeting to consider turning this whole thing over to an outside investigator/monitor. The person they have in mind is former Northern District of Texas U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins. I'm not sure why Coggins would do this -- is life just too good for him now, does he need to reign it back down? -- but I cannot think of a better choice.

Coggins is now head of the Locke Lord law firm's national white-collar criminal defense and internal investigations unit. From 1993 to 2001, the Clinton White House years, Coggins was U.S. attorney here. In that position Coggins showed a remarkable capacity to sacrifice his own personal political ambition, which was considerable, in deference to the rule of law. He was often mentioned back then as at least a congressional prospect, maybe a statewide or U.S. Senate prospect. But when he sat down at the U.S. attorney's desk, he found waiting for him an ongoing FBI bribery investigation of the late Al Lipscomb, a Dallas City Council member and profoundly revered civil rights icon in Dallas.

Going after Lipscomb was lose-lose for Coggins. In the perverse plantation-style politics of Dallas (not a thing of the past, yet), a prosecution of Lipscomb was hugely unpopular in both the traditional southern Dallas black community he came from, of course, but also with the rich Dallas Citizens Council muckety-mucks who counted on Lipscomb as a vote they could buy when they needed it.

By prosecuting Lipscomb (he was convicted, then un-convicted later on appeal) Coggins managed to piss off both the popular Democratic vote and the blue-chip check-writers who fund campaigns. It also happened to be the right thing to do. I have never heard Coggins complain about it, but then I don't talk to him anymore and have not for years. I'm just saying this: Coggins will stick to the facts and the law. He's an excellent choice for this.

It does need to go outside. And maybe the finding will be that Miles did screw up and does need to go. If that's the case, then it is what it is, and we pick up the pieces afterward. But, look, if this is another put-up hit-job like the fake audit last December, then we absolutely must hold accountable the people behind it. They can't be allowed to keep doing this.

Remember also that on all of his major embattled goals, Miles has won. A majority of the board has supported him on school reform. So far, it has been the will of the people in Dallas that Miles stay where he is and keep doing what he's doing.

We know he has strong opposition, and those people have every right to oppose, but not by reaching into the entrails of the district to create disease where none exists otherwise. That's simple sabotage, and the cynical sabotage of an institution already so severely challenged should make us all very, very angry.

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48 comments
nichietx
nichietx

Mike Miles is not the solution for what ails DISD. He is only exacerbating the problems in the district. He has nothing new to offer the district. Therefore, he needs to resign as soon as possible.

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

What the F&^% is your hard on for this guy? Is he PAYING you, because there can be no other explanation.


READ, dammit, read.

You KNOW the intimidation and b.s. that goes on in DISD was not invented by him, but he latched on fast and is first class idiot, like Gonzalez, who thought they could bluff their way past the ones who knew better--and more.

Those of us IN DISD knew about this way before hand. We have friends on Ross Avenue, and they are going home in tears, retiring early or just getting the f&%# out of there.

He is an ass of a man who dares to use the term, "Take a bullet for me?"

The ONLY person with THAT privilege is the President and Vice-President, not some penny-anty education lackey.

BULLYING IS AGAINST DISD POLICY. Doing an end run on your own exec's is bad form. Trying to stop an investigation is CRIMINAL.

GO ahead, make fun of Rebecca. Want to throw Don Smith under the bus, too? He ain't no Spring Flower. HE is the one who blew the whistle, you idiot.

1,700 teachers leaving did not phase you. Like the Dallas Morning Snooze, you dismissed the leadership failings of a man who goes through THREE CFO's in 11 months. Or that he hired someone about to be indicted by the FBI and Feds. Or that he hired people who could not find their ass in a hat.

You also did not listen as teachers came up to you, emailed you or called you--and told you to look around.

I am so disappointed in you.

You used to be something in this town.

Now, you are just a hack at a second rate rag, trying to justify a "calling it in" piece that shows no true journalistic instincts.

Pathetic.

teachinginoc
teachinginoc

If MIke Miles is such a great guy to work for, why is there so little in the news or blogosphere from people who support him?   I can only think of two, and even they are kinda quiet today...

  If all he has done is so above board, why did he want to stop an investigation into his behavior toward a cabinet member he recruited?  I don't think he's representing the school "reform" community with much skill.  Too bad, there are a lot of reform ideas that could enliven DISD.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

If Coggins finds that Miles received a kickback, then we've got some meat to chew on.  LIne him up against the wall.

But if his only transgression is that he directed a contract, then tried to "cover it up" ala Nixon, then it's procedural and this alone only deserves a flag, 10-yard penalty and loss of down.

It's just not a firing offense.  Not even close.  But that's not what this is about.  It's gotcha time.

I for one have zero confidence the current posse that rides herd over the DISD is capable of finding and hiring another Elmer Gantry to lead them out of Detroit to the educational Promised Land.  Even if they offer Rock-Star compensation.  

The underlying problem is the Board does not want reform.  The Big Machine is thoroughly mired at status quo.  A massive D9 Caterpillar stuck a mile out in the mud flats.  DISD ain't going nowhere.


PaulTrevizo
PaulTrevizo

Jim if Miles survives this investigation and remains superintendent, I suggest he name you as his new Communications Director. There are two reasons why I think this should happen.  First, you have clearly indicated through your pro-Miles articles that you will follow every order "commander" gives you.  Second, since your pro-Miles stance has made you a pariah--based on the comments to your articles--you have shown that you will "take a bullet" for Miles.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 Basically, what I take away from your story and EN's is that we don't know enough to know if Miles deserves to fry for this.  Does Rangel deserve to fry for releasing it, since there is room in State code to allow public dissemination of any completed report or audit?  We know this: Miles has pulled some decidedly shifty stunts in his short tenure at DISD; Rangel has been part of the board through many shifty stunts at DISD; DISD has shiftiness built in to all standard operating procedures; Jim is shifty, but at his age, he has to be careful or he'll throw his back out.

I agree that the outside investigator is probably a good idea.  Not sure if I agree it's good to the tune of $250k.  If Miles was pulling some sort of dodge to give his preferred vendor a chance to rebid the project, he needs to go, at the least.  If it is the board members gunning for him, well, doesn't that mean that the will of some of the people is that he go?  It gets trickier in that light.  In the end, like all things DISD, it is the kids and the their educations that will pay the price of all this bickering back and forth.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Dallas should just face the fact that DISD is just another pawn in the local political game of vote farming and education, the kids or anything else is just incidental.


everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

tl:dr

As near as I can tell, "people who hate Miles really hate him and are still doing things to express that hatred in the most crude manner possible."

Was I right?

Rooster0620
Rooster0620

Here's food for thought...

Regardless of what you think of Miles, what qualified candidate on earth would take this fucking job?

Attempting to lead the DISD clusterfuck is career suicide.

This school district has been a joke for decades now.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Yeah, I'll bet Miles was surprised at the level of public scrutiny he received upon his arrival. How was he to know that he was going to be boiled not only for his sins, but the sins of all that came before him? That pot was bubbling when Miles got here and he inadvertently turned up the heat on his own stove with the Sprague salary SNAFU. As Rick Perry might say: OOPS.

I'll have to admit that right then I was thinking what almost everyone else was thinking: Another "spot holder" and his cronies looking to cash in at DISD for as long as DISD would have them, but, Miles has also surprised them, and they were much in need of a good, shocking surprise.

This guy has bigger stones and more metal than I thought, and if he doesn't happen to succeed here, and I suspect he won't, at least his tenure will have brought some much needed sunlight to some of the less illuminated corners of the DISD.


JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

An occasional correspondent who does not wish to be named offers this observation:

"Completely agree that he’s above suspicion, but in my mind, the most amazing fact about the proposed investigation is that it’s going to cost $250K to look into a contract worth barely more than $200K, and the alleged wrongdoing is that it was improperly NOT awarded.  So we’re chasing down Miles with a whole sack of tax dollars to find out why he DIDN’T want to spend $200K (with that vendor anyway)."


Z.V.
Z.V.

Just another desperate witch hunt by his opponents. 

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

So much Smoke, Fire and Ashes that I'm afraid DISD is just one scorched fireball of a mess.

mcdallas
mcdallas topcommenter

Jim:  I'm not sure which is more dangerous for you:

A) Reporting on "50"

B) Reporting on JWP, or,

C) Reporting on DISD.


Be careful!

CitzenKim
CitzenKim

I hate to repeat, so refer to my comment in Nicholson's earlier story regarding malfeasance in government contracting.  But I question if what Miles is accused of is "entirely legal and within his authority."  And no matter what, IF guilty (and understand guilty until proven innocent), just because Miles is opposed by a lot of unethical people doesn't make his own lack of ethics acceptable.

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

This school district leaks more than that geek Snowden stuck in the Moscow airport.

You wonder if Miles did his research before accepting this gig? Who in their right mind would accept such a position?

Either the man is a glutton for punishment, too way out of his depth to realize that he is way out of his depth OR he really cares about the kids.

I think the jury is still out.

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

@teachinginoc Oh no. JIm S is bucking to smoke cigars and drink beer with Bill McKenzie and the Frontburner guy.

The last of the Good Old Boys Club.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@RTGolden1 

It's actually worth it to click on the link to Ranger's blog above and read the report. The report makes no allegations of wrongdoing by MIles. Reading it is a very long slog, but the only overall  take-aways are these: 1) Everybody except canned top flak Rebecca Rodriguez agrees that Miles broke no law, violated no procedure. 2) Two semi-reluctant witnesses stated on multiple occasions they heard Rodriguez say she deliberately embarrassed Miles in a board meeting "to teach him a lesson."  3) The guy who runs the office of professional responsibility, charged with investigating this stuff, doesn't know who the fuck he works for, and 4) Rodriguez was all bent out of shape and haywire anyway because her department was about to undergo major change, and she was being asked to get rid of people, which she, as a former reporter, was not up to doing,  5) She went around telling people she left a better job to take this one and should be paid more, and 6) While she was slinging these accusations and after she filed an EEOC complaint, she was negotiating a severance package. How all of this then winds up on TV and in the News as a big indictment of Miles is an absolute mystery, if you read the actual report. 

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

@JimSX So, it is  only $100K, not $250K. And you are saying that a guy can harass employees, play with contracts AND try to STOP an investigation, but if it costs money to clean it up, that is TOO MUCH?

THIS, from the SAME GUY who went after the City, the DISD and the County for abusing power?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@JimSX  

Sounds about right.  After all, another fine example of your tax dollars at work.

I would like to know why the investigation will cost $250k.  If we assume 40% overhead burden, this means a direct cost of  about $178k, but lets just round it up to $180k.  If we assume an average hourly rate for the investigators of $150 per hour, we end up with 1,200 hours of work.  Please explain why it takes upwards of 1,200 hours of work to find out why the contract was not awarded.  Even if 100 people are involved, that is an average of 12 hours of interrogation and report writing per person interviewed.


"Yes sir, General.  That is correct.  We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@CitzenKim 

Well, I think that just because someone is opposed by unethical people who may themselves be opposed by unethical people, and even if the unethically opposed people in the latter instance are opposed by people who are in fact ethical, if you simply seek the ethical cosine of the sum of all unethical people  as a ratio of ethical people and then apply it to the mean, you'll wind up with the population of the Bangor, Maine, not counting summer help.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@OakParkStudio

I do think Dallas caught him by surprise, which is his fault. These battles are playing out nationwide. See Times story today about Connecticut district, which sounds  a whole lot like our story but in a much smaller district. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/education/change-agent-in-education-collects-critics-in-connecticut-town.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

If you go to that link, note that Obama's education secretary is calling the campaign against the superintendent in Connecticut-- kind of a clone of the campaign against Miles --  "absurd." 

One problem is that people invested int he status quo have learned how to play the major mediatoids like a violin. Hand them any kind of weak-ass  gotcha story, and they will pick it up and go do all the damage, because it's easy. In the dying, under-funded universe of dinosaur media, all gotcha stories are equal. Throw it against the wall and move on. But in the meantime, the real damage is that the gotcha story has empowered people who are exploiting it for cynical reasons. The big media exploit those stories to keep plywood out of their windows. As long as there's no plywood, they could give a shit.

For me it always comes back to the first thing I heard Miles saying, when he was talking about a school system that sends children through a closed pipeline from kindergarten to the penitentiary. Is this acceptable to you? For the group fighting to save jobs within the district, the answer is plain  to see. Yes.

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

@JimSX  Wow, so you think trying to stop a complaint to the OPR guys is legal? Ethical? Good?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Mike MacNaughton: did I really see you on TV saying this report might mean Miles should face criminal charges? Would you be willing to name the charges?

CitzenKim
CitzenKim

@JimSX Cute.  But what I am taking out of your article is that the bad guys are out to get Miles, so Miles does some stuff that doesn't sound so right, but hey he's just trying to get things done and stop the bad guys, so no problem.

nichietx
nichietx

No, he does not. Sorry to disappoint you.

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

@WylieH @OakParkStudio I would like to agree, but I fear the drumbeat is growing louder for his ouster.

Normally I would echo the typical corporate mantra: "If it ain't broke, break it." But there's no accounting for why this district continues to bang it's head against the brick wall.

MichaelMacNaughton
MichaelMacNaughton

@holmantx

LOL!  Your comment is perfectly accurate IMHO!

I'm already aged and would love nothing more than to go away but this nagging little libtard white guilt trip keeps me here for now.

Market-driven education reform has never been, successful in a major urban district in the last 10 years.  Not even close.  I believe It is folly to continue down that path while the other education experts in the area, the mayor, the DCC and the regional chamber, believe it is the silver bullet.  Perhaps, to be cynical, the city fathers just want to show the world that Dallas is solving it's public education woes come this November when all eyes are on Dallas for the anniversary of the assassination of Kennedy.  It's a marketing effort ...not education reform.

http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20130508-michael-macnaughton-why-miles-market-driven-reforms-wont-work.ece

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@MichaelMacNaughton @holmantx

or just move away.

Entrenched with bloated salaries at the top, thousands of vested employees, and couched in massaged metrics all to validate its existence . . . this arthritic bureaucracy is not capable of systemic change nor will it allow such a threat to its existence.

It is a perpetual motion machine bound for Detroit. Indeed, our metrics actively compare to the big city systems, as if by beating them we win some kind of prize.

Meanwhile, the DISD puts out a product that (largely) cannot be used by the private sector.  A system that spurs demand for both legal and illegal immigrants - MILLIONS! -  from high end tech to low-skilled labor, including foreign teachers to fill the slots we can no longer fill.

The DISD is a place where even an administrator of moderate talent can postpone doomsday year after year, for the system of Luddite appeals that pervade its rules amounts to a byzantine wheel of fortune, a game of no chance for no gain, somewhat fixed in the favor of the entrenched, that the participants play interminably. 

Soon, you will age and go away.  The system remains.  

Like Detroit, the only thing that is going to cause change now is for the District to lose its tax base. 

And I’m not hanging around for that.

MichaelMacNaughton
MichaelMacNaughton

@holmantx

As a taxpayer and a parent whose child spent 8 years in DISD and a 3 year member of the DISD budget commission I agree with you that the district needs to be broken up.  

I disagree with you about Miles being a part of a systemic inability to have a superintendent responsive to the teachers and taxpayers and students.  We had that for almost two years in Interim Superintendent Alan King, who did not want the position full-time because he wants to retire.

The problem IS with Miles and the folks who think market-driven education reform is the path we should follow (and those folks include the Mayor and his PAC and the Chamber and the DCC).  I am no education expert...just a Dad who is involved and informed.  You know as well as I do that urban education is a gargantuan problem in which poverty and lack of resources are not addressed on one end and on the other end there is a budget of $1.25 billion dollars cash every year that just begs to be spent and where folks stand in line to get a piece of the pie.

Break it up...that way the corruption is more manageable.

The responsibility to make this public education thing work is on all of us.   Get informed, get involved, make a difference.  We won't always agree but you may be surprised how much we do agree...the key is to be informed.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@MichaelMacNaughton 

Given the DISD's track record and how the taxpayers who pay the freight on this 30-year fan dance to illiteracy view it, you need to hang onto him.  He doesn't need to hang onto you.  Policy violation is a fireable offense?  Now I want you to step back and examine that inclusion in his contract.  Why is it there?  That is emblematic of a sickness that pervades the machine itself.

This educational system has been going South for many, many years now.  It has run through a bevy of supers, each one heralded more than the last.  

I don't care about Miles.  But if you can't make him work out, then the problem is obviously systemic.  We need to break this thing up into several smaller districts that are responsive to the citizen, which has clearly demonstrated they are heading towards the exits to the burbs.  

Might I remind you that the City of Dallas did not enjoy the bounty of in-migration the rest of the Metroplex did and there is only one reason for that - lousy schools.

DISD is now materially destroying the quality of life in Dallas and, in fact, has been for many years now.

It's not MIles, it's you.

MichaelMacNaughton
MichaelMacNaughton

@JimSX

What I said was, "At the least, Miles should be released from his contract from the district. It's up to officials in the legal community to decide if any laws were broken."

I believe that Miles has the ability to pull an item from the agenda under existing district policy.  However no government employee should be able to conspire or collude or act individually to interfere in the procurement process of a public governmental entity to influence either the selection or exclusion of a specific vendor.  That stinks.  Do the events on June 12th and 13th rise to the level of illegality?  That is one of the questions that Paul Coggins will hopefully answer in his investigation. 

Miles contract specifically states that he can be released from his contract due to policy violations.  The January 2013 audit clearly showed Miles violated district policies and the board could release him today if they wanted to...they haven't.  If policy violations are the straws, how many must the Trustees experience before the camel's back is broken?  That is the real question being bandied about today.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@JimSX @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  

I didn't say that there aren't people who charge that much, I was saying that it is unlikely that they are worth it. 

Besides, for people like Mr. Radke, they charge that hourly rate rather than a percentage of the deal in order to avoid coming under the jurisdiction of the SEC and other financial reporting rules.

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

@JimSX @OakParkStudio @WylieH Seems DISD has adapted the same.

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