Will the Dallas School Board Give Its Own Favored Employee a Bon Voyage Present?

Don Smith
Don Smith

OK, here comes a great chance to see what the Dallas school board is really made of. Spotted this on the agenda for tonight's meeting: The board will vote on a legal settlement for a fired employee who was the board's own employee, not an employee of the superintendent of schools.

So after weeks of shellacking the superintendent for paying settlements to his own fired staffers, what will the school board do when it's their own employee?

OK, I am looking into my crystal ball here. Hang on. Working from home today. This usually never takes long, but home office is untidy. Here it is. I see a deep thumb-sized depression plunging into a purple abyss. Wait. This is my bowling ball. OK, try again. Right ball this time. My right ball tells me:

The board will grant a big fat settlement to its own employee, possibly because he's got the goods on them and they want him to go quietly, thereby making huge total hypocrites of themselves.

Forget it. I could have gotten that prediction from my bowling ball. Obviously, the school board is going to make a huge hypocrite of itself. The big news would be if it didn't.

Don Smith, who at one time was the district's top internal investigator, was fired last October in spite of the board's best efforts to protect him. Smith, a former IRS investigator, had a good record early on in his career with the district. In 2008 he directed the investigation that sent a top DISD administrator, Ruben Buhochot, and his confederate, Frankie Wong, a computer re-seller, to the pen in a plot that included the gift of an $800,000 fishing boat to Buhochot and featured one of my own favorite moments in DISD history, federal photos of fat guys toasting each other on a yacht.

But when Mike Miles came to town as a clean-up and reform superintendent, Smith seemed to find himself in the middle of some bad deals. It often looked like he was carrying water for Miles' detractors on the school board.

When it was obvious Miles didn't trust Smith, the board moved to protect him by taking him out from under Miles' supervision and placing him under a newly constituted Office of the Internal Auditor that reported to the board, not Miles.

See also: Mike Miles and the Bad Annual Review Issue: More Bullshit from The Dallas Morning News

Sadly for Smith, he got fired anyway last October by Chief Internal Auditor Mike Singleton, even though Singleton is a board employee, not a Miles employee.

I have written some pretty negative things about some of Smith's more recent investigations of Miles, and I definitely have suspected him of carrying water for Miles' enemies on the board. But I have no idea why he got canned, and I do recognize that he's a professional with a solid resume back in the day.

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

Here's the thing: Miles' antagonists on the school board have been all over him for the last month about paying out too much money to school district employees who get canned. One of them gave me a long and reasoned off-the-record explanation of their objections, arguing very plausibly that the district should only pay somebody a settlement to avoid even greater costs if the person sues. And even at that, the board member told me, no settlements should be paid as hush money, just because the district wants to shut the fired person up, because that would contravene the public interest.

I was very persuaded. Had I been English, I might have said, "Hear, hear!" But being from Michigan, I just said, "Yup."

All right, now comes before us the case of one Don Smith, not a Miles employee at all but a school board employee, a person who has been fired, a person has availed himself of the available administrative remedies, hearings and so on, and who remains fired. Here he is tonight, his case before the board for consideration of a settlement in an as yet undisclosed amount.

As for hush money, not that we know of any consideration of such in this case, but speaking strictly theoretically, if there were anyone in whose interest it might be to hush said Mr. Smith, it would be, pretty obviously, Miles' detractors on the school board, to wit, the very ones who have been all over Miles' case about paying out rich settlements to his own departing employees.

I asked how much Smith was making when he was fired. The district informed me he was making $190,808. So if the school board were to go way out on a limb for him, for example, and offer him something like half a year's salary, that would give him a pay-out of almost $100,000 -- way above what most of Miles' employees have received.

But of course, if the members of the board who voted for such a settlement were the same ones who have lambasted Miles over smaller settlements, then they would look like great, big, honking, mammoth, unbelievable, absurd, transparent, laughable, galloping, winged, horned and snouted hypocrites.

I told you what the right ball said, right?

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