QUOLKE’S CORNER WHO IS ADVISING THE CEO – DID CHIEF LEGAL COUNCIL VIOLATE

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QUOLKE’S CORNER

WHO IS ADVISING THE CEO – DID CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL VIOLATE CMSD ETHICS POLICY?

A few weeks ago I received a text message and an email from the CTU attorney alerting me to the fact that we had won a significant arbitration for one of our members and that the award from the Arbitrator was fabulous.  I read the Arbitrator’s conclusion and award, and I was excited.  The CTU member was excited and was justified in her actions as the Arbitrator exonerated her.  While happy with the result, the joy was short lived because this never should have happened.  This story of what this district did to a teacher is shameful.  There are so many things that are wrong.  This story continues to beg the question “Who is Advising the CEO?”?

During the summer of 2014 a story by Carl Monday appeared on WOIO questioning the use of funds from a Target grant to take students to Puerto Rico.  This story caused the District to launch an investigation to find out who gave this information to Carl Monday.  Now I have to admit that the story gets pretty outrageous, so everything that is from the Arbitrator’s Report or from the record – I am just going to put in bold.  Everything in bold is not my opinion or recollection of the facts, it is the record or part of the Arbitratior’s Report.

During the District’s investigation it determined that on July 6, 2014, four (4) months prior to Mr. Monday’s report, The Grievant (the member of the CTU who Grieved and was now seeking redemption through this arbitration) had accessed information on four (4) out of the eighteen (18) students who attended the Puerto Rico field trip…a single time for a total of thirteen (13) minutes.  The CEO directed Victoria Brian the district’s Executive Director of Legal Services to conduct a preliminary investigation.  That was done and then a fact-finding was held.  According to Ms. Brian’s report, she found no evidence to support the sole allegation that (the Grievant) disclosed confidential student information as charged.  However, Ms. Brian recommended a 5 day suspension based upon conduct (she) was never charged with.

Now it is at this point that you would think that I would begin to attack Ms. Brian for finding no evidence, but then recommending a suspension.  However, I find it hard to believe that Ms. Brian decided to do this without the direction of her supervisor, Chief Legal Counsel Wayne Belock.  Why would I think this?  You will see his outrageous behavior as further outlined by this Arbitrator. 

I want to note that before this 5 day suspension was granted, it had to go to the Board of Education.  Someone from Legal provided the CEO with the information and the recommendation that he then shared with the Board.  The Board of Education heard directly from the member at a Board Meeting and still they voted for a 5 day suspension.  They also contacted the Ohio Department of Education, Office of Educator Conduct (which means - Yes, they went after her license). Further the member was transferred from her school of 19 years (Clark).   Upon leaving the school, the member sent an email to her colleagues expressing how much she did not want to leave the school and the reason why she was leaving.  As I continue this sad story, I will again use bold to indicate direct quotes from the Arbitrator or the record.

This Arbitrator must determine if the Grievant’s conduct did in fact rise to the level of behavior for which the end result would justify a five day suspension and subsequent forced transfer.

The issue, here, before this Arbitrator, to be adjudicated and the only issue before this Arbitrator is whether the Grievant violated any District rule or policy or the Collective Bargaining Agreement by accessing confidential student records.

The District argues that the Grievant did not have academic purpose for accessing student records during the summer recess.  By accessing the student records, the Grievant failed to adhere to the Internet Use Policy and the District’s Code of Ethics.

Coming up in the next few paragraphs I am going to add emphasis by underlining.

However, the District’s case is riddled with inconsistencies and lack of proof.  In labor arbitration it is a well-recognized principal that an employee must be made aware of a rule or policy and the consequences for violating the rule or policy prior to discipline being issued.  The Grievant was accused of violating Tenet’s 9 and 10 of the Code of Ethics by accessing student information without an academic purpose.

Based on the discussion above regarding the District’s permissive directions for teachers to be able to access student information coupled with the fact that the Grievant was never given the Code of Ethics policy and not trained or inserviced in the Code of Ethics policy, the District’s reliance on using Tenet’s 9 and 10 as a means to discipline the Grievant falls on its face and fails.

The evidence provided by the District, in this case, does not support the charges.

As a result of this conclusion the Arbitrator awarded that the 5 day suspension must be rescinded and that all earnings must be repaid.  The district must also send a letter to the Ohio Department of Education rescinding the district’s report of the Grievant’s misconduct.  However, there is one more very interesting piece to the Arbitrator’s report.  So let me continue with the words of the Arbitrator in bold and my emphasis underlined.

Because of what had occurred, the Grievant was forced to transfer from the school where she taught for nineteen (19) years.  Because of her relationships there with the other staff members the Grievant did not want to leave without giving them an explanation as to why she was forced to transfer.  That letter, from the Grievant, was rebutted by the District’s Chief Legal Counsel.

After reviewing both letters, this Arbitrator finds that the farewell letter from the Grievant to her colleagues was certainly understandable.  The letter was not disparaging to the District but respectful and dignified. 

The letter from the District’s Chief Legal Counsel, to clarify what the Grievant had written, on the other hand, was not only a disrespectful attempt to get the last word but a clear violation of the District’s Code of Ethics.

I am just going to emphasize what this neutral third party (by the way the Arbitrators are recommended by AAA and then both sides have to agree to the Arbitrator) said about Chief Legal Counsel Wayne Belock, a top advisor to Eric Gordon and a key member of his Negotiations team.  The neutral third party said that Wayne Belock’s letter was “…not only a disrespectful attempt to get the last word but a clear violation of the District’s Code of Ethics.”  As for the award from the Arbitrator he also is requiring the District to issue a retraction letter of the Chief Legal Counsel’s letter to all Clark staff and inform the staff that the suspension has been reversed and the member is now exonerated of all issues regarding this matter.

This is important.  I keep wondering aloud who is advising the CEO?  Here is an instance where a person who has a title that has garnered him an 18% raise over the last 3 years, a person who advises the CEO and the entire legal department, has according to the Arbitrator, broken the District’s Code of Ethics.  The Arbitrator continued his thoughts on Wayne Belock’s actions.

There was not a good legitimate business reason for the District’s Chief Legal Counsel to respond and clarify the Grievant’s goodbye letter.  In this Arbitrator’s opinion, the Chief Legal Counsel’s response letter was conduct unbecoming a professional school district administrator.

What would the District do if a teacher, paraprofessional, or related service provider was accused of violating the District’s Code of Ethics?  We all know because they just did it to this member.  The answer is a 5 day suspension, a transfer, and a report to the employee’s licensing agency (in this case ODE).  What will the district do with Mr. Belock who has clearly violated the District’s Code of Ethics of which he is so knowledgeable?  Will they take the same recommendation to the Board?  I would guess it all depends on who is advising the CEO. 

To be continued…

In Union,

David