Investigation compromised, say Peebles supporters

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Minneapolis School Board members responsible for the mistreatment of Superintendent Dr. Thandiwe Peebles should resign, former board member W. Harry Davis, said in a statement issued last Tuesday by The Coalition of Black Churches/African American Leadership Summit.

Davis, often referred to as “The Dean” of Minnesota’s Black community, said he was ashamed of the treatment Dr. Peebles had to endure over the last two years. He said board members responsible for the mistreatment should be replaced with board members “that hold up the highest standard of professionalism and care about our children.”

“After spending 21 years on the Minneapolis School Board and devoting my entire life to the betterment of our children in the Minneapolis Public Schools, I am shocked, disappointed and discouraged by the manner in which the board treated Dr. Peebles,” Davis’ statement said.

Kelly Green-Hardwick, daughter of former Minneapolis Superintendent, Dr. Richard Green, spoke to the press conference at the Minneapolis Urban League on behalf of the Green family. She said the Richard Green family and the Richard Green legacy, and Minneapolis’ children all are damaged by the school board’s efforts to dump Dr. Peebles. She said the issues cited, such as asking District employees to do some personal errands, do not rise to a level of concern that would justify aborting Dr. Peebles’ contract.

Former school board member Louis King, and the Rev. Jerry McAfee, president of the Minnesota State Baptist Convention called the board’s conduct unconscionable and said parents and residents must hold the board accountable for attempting to derail the positive trends and results that are occurring under Peebles’ leadership.

Following are excerpts of the statement from the Coalition:

“After several months of lengthy ‘investigation,’ it is evident that the Minneapolis Public School Board is more focused on removing Superintendent Peebles by any means necessary, rather than pursuing truth and fairness. We are disappointed and outraged at the conduct of the Minneapolis Public School Board and the investigative process of Attorney Dennis O’Brien.

“Furthermore, we’d like to call to the attention the mishandling of the allegations and complaints against Superintendent Peebles.

“Following the Board’s decision to conduct an “investigation” of complaints and anonymous allegations against the Superintendent Peebles, the public was misled in the following ways:

“The Board promised an “independent” investigator to examine the “anonymous” letter and complaints launched against Superintendent Peebles. Instead, they hired Dennis O’Brien, who helped the Board negotiate the buy-out of former Superintendent Robert Ferrara and who was the attorney used to negotiate the current contract of Superintendent Peebles. This does not constitute an “independent” investigator and further examination of this process must be scrutinized.

“The Board claims to investigate all allegations. However, individuals have contacted us indicating that they have sent complaints that were clearly not “anonymous” providing contact information for follow-up, but had never received a response from the current Board.

‘The Board led the public to believe that Superintendent Peebles was being investigated for allegations and specific staff complaints, yet Dennis O’Brien was allowed to widen the scope of the “investigation”.

“There is a serious concern that this ‘investigation’ has been compromised and the truth of its findings to date. We have become aware of corrupt behavior from a “high level district employee”. We are demanding that the Board investigate the inappropriate behavior just as aggressively as the claims against Superintendent Peebles.

“A credible source has recently come forward with information that indicates that this ‘investigative process’ has been seriously compromised in a manner that may have legal implications. Our source has pertinent information that clearly demonstrates the level of corruption in this “investigation”. Our source is prepared to release this information to both legal parties upon the Board’s appointment of an independent attorney.

“Here is partial information that was confidentially revealed by our source as told exclusively from a ‘high level district employee’ with regard to Superintendent Peebles’ “investigation”:

“One of the witnesses to Superintendent Peebles’ investigation had been caught on district surveillance video attempting to enter into Peebles’ office unauthorized and/or illegally after business hours.

‘The ‘high level district employee’ went to the home of the investigator, Dennis O’Brien to actively participate in the construction of findings against Superintendent Peebles.

“Our source was told the week of January 14, 2006 that the Board would meet with Superintendent Peebles on January 17, 2006 to discuss the terms of her termination (supposedly confidential), hence the headline and story of the January 21st edition of the Star Tribune, “Peebles could be on her way out.”

“The ‘high level district employee’ revealed in great detail the succession plan, following Superintendent Peebles’ anticipated termination, as discussed amongst Board members.

“The ‘high level district employee’ acknowledged having met with some of the Board members privately, exchanging information regarding Superintendent Peebles, which was considered to be private and protected.

“The ‘high level district employee’ claimed to have inside knowledge of the terms and conditions of Superintendent Peebles’ performance improvement plan; a document that has not been publicized.

“The ‘high level district employee’ bragged to our source about making ‘false claims’ to influence the evaluation negatively.

“When questioned by our source why this is being done, the ‘high level district employee’ responded, ‘She crossed me!’

“Community members have frequently questioned the Board’s policy for dealing with employees who bypass the Superintendent and bring complaints directly to the Board. As recently as the last school board meeting, the question was posed again. Two board members vehemently denied that this practice takes place. There are other instances of this practice that will be revealed as the investigation commences. We have been advised that if any of these allegations are true, there is a serious breach of the investigative process.”

“Summary of Formal Complaint – Unlawful Investigation:

“The Coalition of Black Churches/African American Leadership Summit along with individual community members are filing this formal complaint that the process and substance of the investigation conducted by Mr. O’Brien has been compromised and corrupted.

“We also demand that there be a new investigation of our charges contained herein and that it be conducted by an independent attorney and a report of any findings made public. We’re requesting this report regardless of the board’s decision on Superintendent Peebles’ contract. We are also requesting that a new investigation into our concerns outlined above, begin and end months prior to the November 2006, Minneapolis Public School Board elections. We want to ensure that the public can make informed and intelligent choices as we seek the right candidates to serve on the Minneapolis School Board this fall.

“The Minneapolis Public School Board Must Commit to our Children:

“We urge that this Board re-dedicate itself to the primary objective of putting the needs of all the children of the Minneapolis Public Schools above vindictive and rogue behavior of disgruntled current and former employees of the district.

“If there are serious violations of rules, district resources and improprieties – indeed the Board should act. However, your actions must be in the same context and fairness that have been afforded to all employees.”

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