Wow, I am having major cognitive dissonance problems with a story in The Dallas Morning News today under the headline, "Breaking news: Report on fired Dallas ISD investigator Jeremy Liebbe does not find he violated laws or policies."
The first paragraph says, "A report on fired Dallas ISD investigator Jeremy Liebbe is critical of various decisions he made, including looking into his boss' criminal history, but it does not state that he violated any laws or policies."
But a copy of the report is attached to the story. I read the report. Unless the report was written in some kind of new hyper-ironic not-really language, it says plainly that Liebbe, a civil investigator for the district who was sacked and frog-walked out the door last July, violated both laws and policies.
Wait. It's not a gray area. One of the charges against him was that he was videotaping kids without their parents' permission, which violates both district police and state law. Think about it. Say you get the call. Somebody from school district headquarters asks if you would mind having your kid interrogated and the interrogation videotaped for possible use later in litigation.
Most parents are going to say, "My kid? Later litigation? You think my kid has something worth saying that could be used in later litigation?"
Then you ask to speak to your child. Then you instruct the poor dear child to lie face-down on the floor and say nothing even if struck painfully and just blow bubbles until you get there.
So if you're Liebbe and you want to get a kid to blab, how about you just don't ask the parents and tape the kid anyway? The point is, there's a reason why this stuff is against the law.
The report says, "PSO (Liebbe's staff) routinely recorded the interviews of student witnesses and complainants. A review of the case reports does not contain evidence that the written consent of the students' parent or guardian was obtained. If the student recordings were made or authorized to be made, without the written consent of the parent or guardians, the recordings violate DH (LOCAL), FL (LEGAL) and the Texas Education Code."
Maybe the language is a bit convoluted, but I feel certain the staff of the city's only daily newspaper could have teased it out. Liebbe and his people did interview kids. They did videotape them. They did not get the parents' permission. In so doing, they violated district administrative policy. They violated legal policy based on case law and statutes. They violated a specific state statute. How do they get a headline out of that saying the report didn't find Liebbe violated any policies or laws?
And then if you have time, you should take a gander at the rest of the report (below). An underlying legal reality here is that every piece of paper and every email the district generates is theoretically subject to state and sometimes federal open records laws. Therefore the district has a serious need and a legal responsibility to know what it has generated, so that it can decide whether a request for information should be granted or not under the law.
A portion of the investigative report on Liebbe describes how Liebbe led an exciting counter-espionage mission against the district's own IT computer department to clandestinely shut off all access to documents produced or gathered by his own little Inspector Clouseau operation:
"Upon returning from the IT department, Liebbe told his employees that while he was interfacing with the server in the IT department, Liebbe made a nudging motion to (his own employee) to get her to block the view of the IT personnel, while Liebbe accessed the server and quickly changed the configuration, so that 'IT's back door to our servers would be removed.' After Liebbe returned to his office, he was openly boastful to his employees informing them that he had gone over to IT and had been able to 'remove IT's back door' without them even knowing.'"
I swear I saw that scene on Homeland. The guy sneaks into the top secret computer room, and he says to the guard, "Hey look over there!" and then while the guard is looking away the guy sticks a little doo-hickey into the computer so all the top secret information will leak out of it. (Forgive me on the technical part.)
So, let's say we're having the story meeting over there at The Dallas Morning News, and an editor asks, "Well, wouldn't going over to the IT department and having your assistant distract the geeks by winking at them and then reaching in and fiddling the IT computer and not telling IT about it and hiding all of your own department's documents from the district's legal staff violate some kind of a .. well, some sort of a .. you know .. something?"
I guess the answer was no.
Another part of the Liebbe report had me laughing out loud. Apparently this all started because Liebbe went to his boss, Tonya Sadler Grayson, and asked if he could make his staff work overtime through the July 4 holiday. She said no. Sometimes bosses do that.
Right after that, Liebbe goes to one of his employees and tries to get her to look up the boss' criminal record. He says something to the effect that he'll get in trouble if he does it himself. But I love the way he tries to get somebody else to do it.
I guess he's standing right over the person he wants to do the search for him. "At first," the report states, "Liebbe did not mention the entire last name of the employee, but instead started to individually spell out the letters of the employee's last name, one letter a time.
"Leibbe started with the letter 'G,' then 'R', then 'A.' It quickly became obvious to GJ that Liebbe was asking her to look up the criminal history of his direct supervisor, Tonya Sadler Grayson."
Here's what I want to know. Exactly how many letters did it take? Was it like "G-R-A-Y-S-O-N, T-O-N-Y-A S-A-D-L-E ..." Heeeey, wait a minute! I know who you're getting at.
I have to assume Leibbe thought he could do the whole name and the employee would never figure it out, like it spelled, "THEBOSS," and the employee might say later, "By the way, who is this Theboss person I looked up?"
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There's more, much more. But the executive summary, right at the top, says the investigator, attorney Carlos Lopez, who looked into Liebbe's firing, "found conclusive evidence that Liebbe engaged in the first six activities that were the subject of the investigation and that his team engaged in the seventh activity that was investigated."
Seven out of seven. My own headline? PROBE TRIPS UP FIRED GUMSHOE. And maybe I'm just like that. But REPORT CLEARS FIRED GUMSHOE? I'm still trying to figure.