(UPDATED) City Schools of Decatur considers next steps to resolve controversy over media clerk
Decatur’s superintendent has promised an “impartial review” of the evidence that led to his decision to terminate a long-time Decatur High media clerk.
On Sunday, Superintendent David Dude pulled back on the decision to fire Susan Riley, opting instead to put her on paid administrative leave. The incident prompted several questions about how someone as revered as Riley, who by all accounts had an impeccable record at Decatur High for 19 years, was fired suddenly and without explanation.
Dude has declined to reveal what led to his decision, citing personnel issues.
Tom Stubbs, a local attorney who has been rallying the community to Riley’s defense, said in a widely-distributed email, “Outgoing Superintendent Edwards told Susan on Sept. 11 of last year that she (Dr. Edwards) had approved the upgrade from media clerk to media and tech assistant. The paperwork for that promotion disappeared, however. Superintendent Edwards reasonably does not recall all the details of what happened, but she did report to Susan [last] week that she remembered checking with the principal and HR about it – and these were the primary hurdles the promotion had to clear – and that there had been no objection. The promotion was never provided, however.”
According to Stubbs, Riley also “reported having difficulties” with two other employees at the school, but Stubbs alleges Riley’s reports were disregarded by CSD’s Human Resources Department.
Dude told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the investigation into Riley had been several months long. Dude came on board in November of last year. It’s unclear when precisely the investigation began. Decaturish asked Dude to clarify and will update this story when he responds.
Another matter that hasn’t been determined is who will conduct the “impartial review” of Riley’s termination. One name that’s been mentioned is School Board attorney Bob Wilson. Wilson’s firm, Wilson, Morton & Downs, represents the city of Decatur and City Schools of Decatur. Records released to Decaturish last year show CSD has paid Wilson’s firm more than $2.4 million between 2002 and May of 2015. The actual number is likely higher because Wilson’s firm has represented CSD for over 17 years. The school system’s records only go back to 2002.
Records released by CSD on March 2 show that the school system has paid Wilson, Morton & Downs an additional $202,000 since May of 2015.
Decaturish asked Dude on Feb. 29 whether he was considering asking Wilson to lead the review and if he was considered whether Wilson’s involvement would cast doubt on whether the review of the evidence is impartial.
“As I’m sure you know, Bob is a man of impeccable integrity,” Dude said. “Susan Riley has known Bob for many, many years. If she feels comfortable with him doing the review then I would be comfortable with that as well. If she doesn’t, then I have some alternative names we will discuss.”
In a message posted on his Facebook page on Feb. 29, Dude said the independent reviewer had not been selected.
“Some folks approached me at the rally with concerns about the impartial review I have ordered,” Dude wrote. “Contrary to what has been shared by some, the reviewer has NOT been selected. I will be working with Mrs. Riley and her attorney to select a reviewer who we both agree can conduct the review with independence.”
Riley’s attorney, David Hughes, said he is not in favor of having Wilson lead the review.
“If they do, that will not be the independent, unbiased investigation that we’ve been promised,” Hughes said. “That’s clearly something we’ve got to work out.”
Hughes said he first heard about the possibility of asking Wilson to head up the review from Dude. He said he spoke to the superintendent on Sunday night after Dude had called Riley.
“He said, ‘Well, I’ve decided to suspend the termination and Bob Wilson is going to do a full investigation’ and I took that to mean it was going to be an internal investigation by their attorney,” Hughes said. “Then the next day he says it’s going to be an independent, fair and impartial investigation and those two don’t jibe. They don’t go together.”
Hughes said he and his client will meet with Dude and Wilson today to go over the details of how to proceed with the review.