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PSC accepts Decatur Schools’ response to complaint against former superintendent

Decatur

PSC accepts Decatur Schools’ response to complaint against former superintendent

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: The City Schools of Decatur Board of Education. Top row, left to right: former Superintendent David Dude and School Board Chair Lewis Jones. Bottom row, left to right: School board members James Herndon, Tasha White (Vice Chair), Heather Tell and Jana Johnson-Davis. Image obtained via City Schools of Decatur
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Decatur, GA — The certification of former City Schools of Decatur superintendent David Dude remains intact after the  Georgia Professional Standards Commission declined to further pursue a complaint filed against him.

The PSC’s decision was based solely on the word of CSD and its attorneys.

The PSC, which certifies educators, on April 8 voted to remand complaint filed against Dude to the Decatur School Board. That move put the board in charge of investigating the complaint against the superintendent.

In its response, CSD did not directly respond to the allegations against the former superintendent, noting that some allegations are part of a lawsuit against the district and other allegations were investigated by an outside law firm.

The response, signed by Board Chair Tasha White, concluded with, “CSD has determined that no further inquiry into the complaint is warranted.”

That was enough to satisfy the PSC, according to Paul Shaw, director of the PSC’s Ethics Division.

“It was remanded, so we take the investigation by attorneys as satisfactory,” Shaw said.

So could the investigation be reopened at any point?

“If we were to find out later that the investigation was inaccurate or bogus, we could reopen,” Shaw said.

CSD claims that the McGuire Woods law firm found no evidence of illegal conduct by the superintendent, but declined to release a report summarizing the firm’s findings. Dude left the school district in April, a move that was described as an amicable separation between Dude and CSD. It’s unclear whether any of the findings of McGuire Woods led to Dude’s departure because it’s unclear whether the firm examined anything beyond whether Dude did something illegal when he accepted $100,000 in payments for vacation days he said he did not use.

Those payments were referenced in a lawsuit filed by former Human Resources Director David Adams. The lawsuit is still pending. A lengthy investigation by Decaturish uncovered evidence to support the allegations in that lawsuit.

But it is the lawsuit itself that has shielded CSD from having to provide answers to PSC.

The first allegation in the PSC complaint states, “Dr. Dude took more vacation time that he was contracted for and cashed that time in. When CSD’s finance director raised the issue with CSD’s attorneys, she and the HR director were forced to resign.”

CSD said it can’t investigate that because of the lawsuit.

In its response to the PSC complaint, the School District said, “Because Allegation 1 is the subject of an active lawsuit against the district, CSD has a conflict and cannot undertake an investigation into the allegation. Moreover, it would be inappropriate to address ongoing litigation in response to a PSC complaint. Because Allegation 1 alleges no acts other than those addressed by the lawsuit, this allegation will be better resolved in a court of law.”

Here is CSD’s full response to the PSC complaint:

Dear Mr. Shaw:

The City Schools of Decatur (“CSD”) hereby responds to your letter of April 9, 2021 requesting that CSD investigate Complaint 21-3-829 against David Joseph Dude.

Complaint

On March 10, 2021 Complainant [name withheld by Decaturish] submitted the Complaint along with a cover letter to the Professional Standards Commission. In her Complaint, she alleges that:

1. Dude took more vacation time that he was contracted for and cashed that time in. When CSD’s finance director raised the issue with CSD’s attorneys, she and the HR director were forced to resign.

2. Dude cashed out vacations days that he did not take.

3. Dude violated FERPA when he shared a video of a student on social media and identified him as a student in the District.

4. CSD may be violating the Georgia Open Records Act

Complainant made additional general allegations in her cover letter against CSD itself, claiming that CSD lacks transparency, that the Board of Education fails to safeguard the district from leaders who compromise its integrity and financial solvency, and that the district increased its taxes, presumably because of leadership failures. She also suggested that CSD’s attorneys are complicit in wrongdoing.

In support of the allegations in the Complaint, Complainant refers to five federal lawsuits against CSD and provides links to eight articles on the Oecaturish .com blog. She identifies no witnesses with firsthand knowledge and provides no direct documentary evidence of her claims. In her fax cover sheet submitting the Complaint to the PSC, Complainant stated that she supplied a complete package of supporting evidence weighing two pounds to the PSC’s office. The PSC informed CSD that it never received such a package.

The PSC referred the complaint to CSD tor investigation on April 9, 2021. The referral letter stated that Dr. Dude is alleged to have breached Standard 4 (Honesty), Standard 5 (Public Funds and Property), and Standard 9 (Professional Conduct).

Analysis and Investigation

As a threshold matter, the Complaint supports its allegations against Dr. Dude with only hearsay. She has provided as evidence only lawsuits filed by others and articles on a news blog. She claims no direct knowledge of any violations of the Code of Ethics, nor has she identified any witnesses who have direct knowledge of a violation. In addition, she has alleged no personal impact from the alleged violations. There is no prohibition in PSC regulations against filing a complaint based only on hearsay and without an alleged injury to the complainant. However, Complainant’s failure to support the Complaint with citations to any direct evidence reduces the Complaint’s credibility and makes it more difficult tor CSD to investigate.

Allegation 1: Dr. Dude took more vacation time that he was contracted for and cashed that time in. When CSD’s finance director raised the issue with CSD’s attorneys, she and the HR director were forced to resign.

Complainant supports Allegation 1 by reference to a lawsuit filed by CSD’s former HR director against the district, in which he also names Or. Dude as a defendant. Because Allegation 1 is the subject of an active lawsuit against the district, CSD has a conflict and cannot undertake an investigation into the allegation. Moreover, it would be inappropriate to address ongoing litigation in response to a PSC complaint. Because Allegation 1 alleges no acts other than those addressed by the lawsuit, this allegation will be better resolved in a court of law.

Allegation 2: Dr. Dude cashed out vacations days that he did not take.

Complainant supports Allegation 2, presumably, only by reference to Decaturish.com articles. It is public knowledge that the CSD Board of Education hired the law firm of McGuire Woods, LLP, to investigate Dr. Dude’s use of vacation time under his contract. That law firm delivered an oral report to the Board that revealed no finding of any illegal activity. After Or. Dude’s mutual and amicable separation in April 2021, the Board closed the investigation. Therefore, CSD has determined that no further inquiry into this matter is warranted now that Dr. Dude is no longer an employee of the district and in light of McGuire Woods’ findings.

Allegation 3: Dr. Dude violated FERPA when he shared a video of a student on social media and identified him as a student in the District.

Complainant supports Allegation 3 only by reference to a lawsuit filed against CSD. Because Allegation 3 is the subject of an active lawsuit against the district, CSD has a conflict and cannot undertake an investigation into the allegation. Moreover, it would be inappropriate to address ongoing litigation in response to a PSC complaint. Because Allegation 3 alleges no acts other than those addressed by the lawsuit, this allegation will be better resolved in a court of law.

Allegation 4: CSD may be violating the Georgia Open Records Act.

Allegation 4 makes no direct complaint against Dr. Dude, but only speculates that the district may have violated the Open Records Act. A complaint to the PSC must be against an individual educator, so Allegation 4 is not a proper subject for a complaint. See Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 505-6-.01(2)(f).

For the reasons discussed above, CSD has determined that no further inquiry into the Complaint is warranted.

– Tasha White

Chair, Board of Education of the City of Decatur

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