Last night on WFAA Channel 8, reporter Brett Shipp aired a one-on-one interview with a retired Dallas business executive living in Santa Fe saying that Dallas schools chief Mike Miles needs to be whacked. I'm not accusing Shipp or the former businessman, J. McDonald Williams, of expressing anything other than a sincere point of view. But.
Williams' complaints about Miles are old news. Williams' sentiments are based on his feeling that he has been personally slighted by Miles, who failed to re-up a program Williams championed before Miles arrived in Dallas in the spring of 2012. And.
Shipp, whose stories have portrayed Miles as involved in improprieties, has a stake in the outcome of an upcoming external report by former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins, who is looking into those allegations. What I'm hearing indicates that report will not support Shipp's reporting or Williams' complaints. In fact.
The external report probably is going to sink everything Williams has been saying and Shipp has been reporting about Miles since last spring. But Shipp and Williams have chosen this moment to revive a 3-month-old story just ahead of an external report due in a couple weeks that will almost certainly pull the rug out from under them.
The underlying accusation against Miles is that he's a carpetbagger and an unpleasant dictator who came to town, put everybody up against the wall and maybe even engaged in corrupt practices by ordering the temporary suspension of an internal investigation of his own performance. The specific allegation is that Miles intervened improperly in a school district contracting matter.
See also: Mike Miles versus The World
The general rebuttal is that Miles came to town and found a miserably under-performing school system that was prisoner to an encrusted dug-in system of plantation-style political patronage. He put in place the first tough consistent plan of reform the district had ever seen. Now he's under attack from unions and some business interests who were perfectly happy with the old ways. The specific rebuttal on the contracting issue is that Miles did everything by the book, legally and within policy where relevant policy even existed.
I have calls and messages in to Shipp and Williams since early this morning. I will let you know if I hear from them. I have not talked to Coggins -- in fact I haven't even tried to call Coggins -- because I know from long experience what the answer is. He's not even going to take a call about this matter until his report is out.
Coggins' external investigation is the outgrowth of the stymied internal investigation, which I have characterized here as a bullshit hack job. I have been talking to people who have been talking to Coggins. It's plain that Coggins is bringing people in and doing exactly what the internal hack job investigation failed to do -- putting together the rules, laws, policies and practices, methodically and meticulously, that govern contracting at DISD.
The internal report by the district's Office of Professional Responsibility never bothered to do that. It presented unsubstantiated charges against Miles by a very disgruntled employee who has since left the district, who is also a former colleague of Shipp. Shipp reported her charges on air as if they were official findings of the district itself.
Coggins is putting together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that the OPR report just dumped out loose on the table. I can tell you in advance what that picture is going to be when it's all assembled. It will show two things:
1. Miles didn't lift a finger in the contracting matter until after checking with district lawyers to make sure he was handling it the right way.
2. Not only was the internal report a mess, but the division that carried it out is, too. People familiar with district operations say they've told Coggins that the OPR has become a rogue, secret police within the district -- judge, jury and hangman, carrying out politically inspired vendettas for certain members of the school board while seeking to operate without any supervision or ultimate control from anyone.
Look, you never know until the pie gets baked, and Coggins is not an easy guy to predict. He will go where the evidence takes him. I have the same problem Shipp does: I tend to hear more from people on one side of the issue than the other. Maybe other people are giving Coggins damaging information about Miles that I don't know about. I do have to allow for the fact that Shipp is the city's best reporter. But.
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Something about last night's report on Channel 8 smells to me like an attempt to repackage old news as new news, and use it to get some anti-Miles momentum going ahead of a report that both Shipp and Don Williams know is going to be egg on their faces.
Again, there was not one new word in what Shipp reported last night. He traveled to Santa Fe to hear Williams say again that he's pissed off because Miles installed his own new system of reform instead of sticking with one Williams favored.
Williams is a man of great integrity who, since his retirement, has committed himself over decades to resolution of the city's bitter racial divide, but there is also a bit of arrogance here. Miles was hired and told to clean up the district, fast. Why would he come in and say, "Just keep doing what you're doing?"
Don Williams, former CEO of Trammell Crow Company, ain't the superintendent of schools in Dallas. Mike Miles has that job, at least for now. So far he has hit every single one of his goals in his first year. The only substantial charges against him are now being investigated by Coggins. Why not wait a couple weeks until we hear how that comes out? Why the pile-on right now?