The scarlet G

DISD's ex-security chief learns that being a friend of Yvonne is a bad career move

A connection with former Superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez doesn't seem to carry many advantages these days at Dallas Independent School District.

Take, for example, Marshall Smith. Gonzalez appointed him acting head of safety and security at DISD before she was sent to prison for stealing from the district. In return, Smith remained a staunch supporter of Gonzalez until the bitter end, when she pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges late last year. Now, Smith has been removed from the post where he had overseen 132 employees and shipped off to handle security at Lincoln High School.

DonovonCollins, an outspoken critic of Gonzalez's administration, replaced Smith. Under Gonzalez, it was Collins who was shipped off to DISD's version of Siberia. He was removed as second-in-command of security, overseeing all uniformed officers, to lead security at Roosevelt High--well away from the seat of power at the central office.

But there may be more to Smith's demotion than his poor choice of friends. Wesley Owens, DISD's chief auditor, confirmed last week that he has continued the investigation he began in October into a number of issues raised about the security department during Smith's brief tenure. Owens confirmed that his investigation has so far uncovered "unreported overtime," but he declined to elaborate further.

For his part, Smith says the overtime issues stemmed from a clerical error. "There were some questions that they wanted answered about overlapping days and hours with two people. It appeared that there were three or four days overlapping," Smith says. When he checked, however, Smith says, he found that two people had not been assigned to watch the same building at the same time as it appeared, but rather that a clerical mistake had been made on the corresponding time cards.

Smith has filed a grievance about his transfer. He believes he was being penalized when he was removed from his supervisory position. He says acting DISD Superintendent James Hughey told him he had lost confidence in him. Smith speculates that his ties with Gonzalez might have something to do with his predicament. "I think it might play some part in it," he says. "I don't know for sure."

These days Smith, who injured his leg off the job, says he is working "very light duty." He has left his post at Lincoln temporarily and has been helping with the investigations unit. But he does not have the proper paperwork filled out to serve as an investigator, so he is spending his time checking addresses of DISD employees. (They are required to live in the district.)

Overtime has been a troublesome issue at DISD this past year. The U.S. attorney has indicted more than a dozen employees on charges related to falsified time cards and overtime.

DISD auditor Owens says he passed the information about the overtime issues at the security department to Robby Collins (no relation to Donovon Collins), the special assistant to the superintendent, who now oversees the security department.

"Let's just say it was the frosting on the cake," Collins says about the alleged overtime discrepancies in the security department under Smith's management. Collins confirmed that Smith's demotion reflects the problems discovered with the audit but would not return follow-up telephone calls from the Dallas Observer.

Hughey also declined to comment or elaborate on the changes he had made in the management of the security department.

"It's a personnel matter, and we don't want to discuss it, particularly because it is about security," his spokesman, Jon Dahlander, says.

For his part, Donovon Collins told the Observer in October that Smith had been neglecting pressing security concerns. Specifically, he said there were a number of broken metal detectors at schools throughout the district.

At the time, Smith said that his predecessor C.W. Burruss had launched a malicious and unfair campaign against his administration. "I really wish my predecessor would get a life," Smith said in October. "He has been trying to get me since June. He lies. He has no problem spreading lies.

 
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