Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Toxic Environment

No we're not talking about the Trinity River, though that's about as toxic as you can get.  We're talking about yet another board in Tarrant County that operates in the "Fort Worth Way" and is an embarrassment to all who it is supposed to represent.  Some of the quotes in the FW Weekly article about the latest Joe Palazzolo lawsuit speak volumes.  Remember that come election time.  WHO put these people in office in the first place??

The "That's the way things are done around here" excuse doesn't fly anymore...things are about to change.

And we now see yet another link as to WHY a certain trustee would want to censure Ann Sutherland.  The same trustee that according to the FWW article, lied during her deposition.  (Did she also call Betty Brink evil?!)

And could Mayor Price have one of her Police escorts return the Weekly's calls.  Inquiring minds want to know what took place at that meeting...

That sound you hear are the dominoes starting to fall...

His saga has taken more left turns than a NASCAR race. The drama started in 2010 when Palazzolo, acting in his role as the school’s diversity program officer, went to administrators with teacher complaints about attendance fraud, disparate treatment of minority students, misappropriation of funds, and the inappropriate behavior of some faculty members. When the administrators chose to cover up the wrongdoings instead of acting on them, he said, he took his grievances to the Texas Education Agency.

Eventually an internal investigation by the district found the majority of Palazzolo’s complaints to be accurate. Additionally, a TEA auditor found that during a six-week period in 2009 the school had reported numerous students present in their classrooms when in fact they were not and fined the district almost $18,000.

Based on the information Palazzolo produced, three administrators and one coach at Heights were pressured into retiring or resigning. But only one person from Heights was fired: Palazzolo.

For blowing the whistle while doing a job the district created for him specifically to report wrongdoing, Palazzolo was punished. He has been demoted, transferred twice, put on administrative leave, then fired, reinstated, fired again, and since then has yo-yoed in and out of courthouses and hearing rooms. The latest turn in the soap opera involves leaked records, busted agreements, and an inevitable return to court.

They want Palazzolo to get what is due him, but they also want their day in court. For them, this trial represents the best shot at getting out to the public the details of what they see as widespread, deeply entrenched problems at the school district: intimidation, cronyism, and corruption.

One quote from an April deposition of school board president Judy Needham exemplifies the kind of testimony that the district’s critics want to see come out.

Palazzolo attorney Jason Smith had asked Needham about reports that Palazzolo’s former boss at Arlington Heights had recommended him for a promotion to another campus. Why recommend a promotion for someone she disliked?

The boss just wanted Palazzolo out of the building, Needham told Smith. “That’s the way things are done around here.”

Ironically, many of its critics feel it is the district that is lying, covering up, bullying, and discriminating.

“I’ve never worked in a place like this … I am in shock,” she said at the time. “It is truly a toxic environment.”

Palazzolo said he thinks the board is trying to bully her into silence. “It’s…disturbing that the board would censure someone that I listed as a witness, apparently in part because they did not like how she would testify,” he said “It’s an insult to the judicial process and makes me worry about the other witnesses I listed who still work for the district and are reporting retaliation.

Several other teachers wrote that Perry often bragged about her friendship with Needham and threatened that the school board trustee would retaliate against anyone who spoke against Perry.

In her deposition in April, Needham said that she had no knowledge of Palazzolo’s involvement in the story. However, in a July 2010 e-mail to then-Superintendent Melody Johnson, Needham referred to Palazzolo and Brink working together on the story.

“Can you believe that evil woman and Joe,” Needham said in the e-mail.

Palazzolo believes that it was no accident that the district struck a deal with a law firm that collects taxes three weeks before he received a letter from the same firm trying to collect a 30-year-old debt from Oklahoma.

In the deposition, Needham admitted visiting the home of Barbara Williams, a partner of the law firm Linebarger, Goggan, Blair, & Sampson — the firm that collects delinquent taxes for the district, Tarrant County, and Fort Worth.

Needham told Smith she could not remember if her visit was before the board voted to award the firm the contract to collect taxes for the district. She and Williams met again, along with Mayor Betsy Price and trustee Tobi Jackson, at Michael’s Restaurant to discuss the contract.

The board hired the firm in October 2010, and the following month Palazzolo received a letter from Linebarger trying to collect the $435 debt owed to the state of Oklahoma. Linebarger claimed the debt, with late fees and penalties, had ballooned to $26,000. Palazzolo claims he paid off the debt long ago. (Linebarger also collects back taxes for Oklahoma.)

In an e-mail to the Weekly, Needham said that the meeting at Michael’s had nothing to do with Palazzolo.

There was absolutely no discussion of ‘going after Joe’ at the luncheon,” she said. “His name was never mentioned.”

Price could not be reached for comment.

No comments: