Superintendent speaks out after being accused of obstructing investigation
Dr. Joseph Burke's response may raise even more questions
LEE COUNTY - Tonight, Lee County school Superintendent Joseph Burke is breaking his silence about allegations of mismanagement. Burke has been accused of obstructing an investigation into one of his top administrators. Now he's speaking out about it for the first time. Four in your Corner's Mike Mason asking the tough questions.
Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke speaking with reporters today saying he did nothing wrong and neither did Deedara Hicks. But some of his answers seem to be raising even more questions about how he handled this investigation.
Here are the facts:
Deedara Hicks was hired 2 years ago by Burke as a director in charge of principals throughout the district. In August of 2011, several employees say Hicks appeared to be drunk. At one point she was discovered slumped over in her car. Superintendent Joseph Burke says Hicks wasn't drinking, instead she was having a reaction to a previous surgery she had for a gastric bypass. But I asked Burke why he ordered district officials to suspend its investigation into Hicks -- even though he had no proof she even had a medical condition.
Joseph Burke: "Well, I believe she had the medical condition from previous conversations that I had with her about the surgery she had in may of 2011 and the prior complications that she had."
Mike Mason: "But did you have proof?"
Joseph Burke: "I can't say for certain that I had documented proof at that time okay."
Mike Mason: "So you just took her word for it."
Joseph Burke: "Um, I did. I did take her word for it."
According to the report, a witness described finding "an empty wine cooler bottle" in Hicks' car, a "sealed mini bottle of wine inside her purse' and "several empty bottles in her trunk." two wine bottles were given to Burke.....along with a styrofoam cup that was reported to have "smelled like alcohol".
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?"
Mike Mason: "So when they state that they handed you the alcohol or the styrofoam cup you're saying that's fabricated?"
Joseph Burke: "That's not true."
By being in possession of alcohol, Hicks would have violated the district's policy stating "using or possessing alcohol...while in or on district property...is strictly prohibited." And if there's "reasonable suspicion" to believe an employee is under the influence they should be tested...but Hicks never was. Burke says the district failed to follow protocol when launching the investigation and that's why he suspended it.
Mike Mason: "So you told them to stop."
Joseph Burke: "Yes."
Mike Mason: "And that was the end of it."
Joseph Burke: "That was the end of it."
Burke is now being investigated for how he handled the investigation. As for the state's investigation into Hicks; they found no need for any further action.