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

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.

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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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze