Veteran school district employee claims retaliation
Becky Demo witnessed top official accused of being drunk
Tonight, a firsthand witness speaking out about a school district official accused of being drunk on the job. The Lee County school Superintendent suspended an investigation into Deedara Hicks, who was suspected of being drunk at work. A state invest Video by fox4now.com
LEE COUNTY - Tonight, a firsthand witness speaking out about a school district official accused of being drunk on the job. The Lee County school Superintendent suspended an investigation into Deedara Hicks, who was suspected of being drunk at work. A state investigation into the matter did not lead to disciplinary action. Now one woman says district officials retaliated against her because she spoke up.
Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason has more on a story you will only see on Fox 4.
Becky Demo retired just 2 and a half years before her 30th anniversary at the Lee County School District. She could have cashed in on better benefits if she stuck with the district but says the intimidation forced her to leave early.
Demo has worked with the district for 27 and a half years. She most recently was the Executive Secretary to Alberto Rodriguez, the Superintendent's second in command. Demo says she was forced to retire because of the controversy surrounding Deedara Hicks.
Becky Demo: "In some way they'll get rid of you, they'll intimidate you until you have to leave or make life miserable."
In August of 2011, Demo was the first person to find Hicks sitting in her car slumped over the seat...seemingly passed out.
Becky Demo: "I went in and got her secretary, I said, 'we've got to go out there and check on her she could be dead'."
Mike Mason: "Because it had been 45 minutes."
Becky Demo: "Yes."
Superintendent Joseph Burke hired Hicks just 2 weeks before, so Demo told him what was going on. Demo says Burke told her to drive Hicks' car to Hicks' house while Deedara Hicks rode with the Director of Professional Standards, Ranice Monroe. While driving Hicks’ car, Demo says she noticed a styrofoam cup partially full and the smell was unmistakable.
Becky Demo: "So I bent down to smell, it smelled of alcohol to me."
Mike Mason: "And you know the difference, so it smelled like alcohol?”
Becky Demo: "I know alcohol, uh huh."
When Demo and Monroe drove back to the district she says Monroe told her what she suspected about Hicks.
Becky Demo: "She just said I have seen alcoholism and this looks like it."
District officials waited until January to investigate Hicks but Burke immediately told them to stop. Burke says the district failed to follow proper procedures and that's why he suspended the investigation. Around that same time an anonymous letter surfaced about Hicks and her suspected alcohol problem. Demo says that's when officials retaliated against her.
Becky Demo: "Yes, I felt it, I felt it."
Demo says Rodriguez changed her computer password...restricting her from doing her job...so she confronted him.
Becky Demo: "That's when I went in and said it looks like somebody doesn't trust me, which that has never happened to me before."
Mike Mason: "What did he tell you?"
Becky Demo: "He said I was told to do that."
Demo also says she was not given any more work and was transferred out of Rodriguez's office. We asked Burke if he retaliated against Demo.
Joseph Burke: "There's absolutely been no retaliation whatsoever, no retaliation whatsoever."
But Demo disagrees, saying the Superintendent has made one thing clear when it comes to the Hicks investigation.
Becky Demo: "Keep quiet. You may get a promotion if you side with us.”
Mike Mason: "And if you don't?"
(Demo motions her head will be cut off)
State investigators will soon decide whether to investigate Burke for improperly suspending the Hicks investigation.