CREATED Mar. 11, 2013
LEE COUNTY - More people coming forward saying Lee County's school Superintendent should be held accountable for improperly suspending an investigation into one of his top administrators. Dr. Joseph Burke is accused of obstructing an investigation after one of his top directors was reportedly drunk at work. Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason speaking to a district employee who's calling it a double standard.
Deedara Hicks has worked with Burke before and he hired her to be one of his top directors. Now some feel he bent the rules in order to make her investigation go away.
Several witnesses, including the district's Director of Professional Standards - Ranice Monroe - told investigators Deedara Hicks appeared to be drunk when she reported to work in August of 2011.
Witnesses say they could not only smell the alcohol but they found several mini wine bottles in Hicks' purse and car. Monroe says she gave the wine to Dr. Burke, but he firmly denies it.
Joseph Burke: "I didn't receive any alcohol."
Mike Mason: "But did anybody tell you that they saw alcohol?"
Joseph Burke: "Oh yes, people did tell me that. Yes they did, yes they did, yes they did."
Mike Mason: "And what did you do? And how did you handle that?"
Joseph Burke: "Well they told me, they told me after the fact it wasn't on that day they told me later that they had seen alcohol, okay?"
Hicks was then investigated according to district policy, but instead of suspending her Burke suspended the investigation. He says Hicks was only having a reaction to a previous surgery -- even though he had no proof.
Mike Mason: "So you just took her word for it?"
Joseph Burke: "Um, I did. I did take her word for it."
That has one district employee furious.
Employee: "I was shocked, if there was nothing to hide there should have been no reason for her not to have taken a breathalyzer test, as I was required to.”
She's been with the district for 10 years and was suspected of being under the influence shortly after Hicks. We're protecting her identity for fear of retaliation. After she was suspected of drinking - she was promptly given a breath test, which she failed. Burke then sent her this letter the next day telling her she was suspended pending an investigation. Since Burke refused to investigate Hicks....she feels this is clearly a double standard.
Employee: "I was not happy that she did not have to follow the same requirements that I did."
The woman was ordered to go to rehab, which she says cost her $40-thousand dollars. Meanwhile, Hicks was never disciplined, Burke says that was Monroe's decision.
Joseph Burke: "There's no proof of any consumption of alcohol at all."
Mike Mason: "But did you have her tested?"
Joseph Burke: "Well, I would have expected that Dr. Monroe would have done that if she thought that was the case."
But according to Monroe's statement, she spoke with Hicks’ daughter who: "informed me about past history which included information about alcoholism. She also told me that Dr. Burke was aware about the alchoholism because they worked together in Orange County."
Joseph Burke: "There is no alcohol involvement in dr. Hicks life right now at all."
Mike Mason: "Not right now."
Joseph Burke: "No well, not that I know of at any time."
This all has some questioning why Burke really dismissed the Hicks investigation.
Employee: "I would like to see somebody come in that wants to run the school district for the benefit of the children and not for the benefit of themselves."
State investigators will soon determine whether to investigate Dr. Burke for suspending the Hicks investigation. We'll let you know what they decide.