This story has been updated to correct typos and for clarity.
About this series: Decaturish.com dug deeper into the allegations in a lawsuit against the city schools in Decatur by the district’s former chief of staff. The lawsuit alleges that superior David Dude took more vacations than his contract allowed and that the board gave him money to buy a house. Our investigation sheds light on these allegations and reveals new details about his latest contract. This is the first part of a three-part series about our results.
Decatur, GA – Decatur’s lack of affordable housing has been something that society has discussed and tried to address for several years.
It was a challenge for Decatur’s new boss when the board hired him in 2015. He had trouble finding a place to live.
Dude’s housing problems are referred to in a federal lawsuit filed against the district by its former chief of staff. Among other accusations, it is alleged that Dude bought a new home with a salary that the school board advanced him.
Records obtained by Decaturish provide more information about this claim and show that the school board in 2016 gave Dude money for a payment on his home by allowing him to take vacation days. The payment was not approved at a public school board meeting, Dude confirmed.
Dude says it did not need to be approved at a public meeting.
When Superintendent Dude arrived from Iowa, he struggled to find a home in the city that he could afford his then $ 179,000 salary. At one point even the school board considered renting him one of two homes owned by the district or provides him a scholarship in addition to the $ 1,500 scholarship he already received. Under his original contract, the $ 1,500 could be used for housing if Dude lived in the city of Decatur. It was not the only relocation assistance that the board offered Dude. His original contract allowed for a refund of $ 15,000 variable costs.
Dude was still struggling to find a place to live.
The school board in 2016 came up with an alternative solution to Dude’s housing problem, one that was not generally known at the time. The board in July 2016 gave him $ 21,608 for a down payment on his home. The board did this by letting Dude take 30 vacation days. The school board did not vote on this payment during a public meeting.
“My payment for vacation days is not public. It’s part of my contract, Dude said. .
A lawsuit from the school district’s former chief of staff, David Adams, mentions the money the district gave Dude to buy a house.
Submitted Adams his federal lawsuit against the district this year. Adams claims that Dude’s public statement about his departure from the district hindered his ability to find work and violated a non-deterioration clause in his departure agreement with the district. It is alleged that Dude took more vacation time than his contract allowed and that the school board gave him an advance payment to buy a home. The trial states that Susan Hurst, the district’s former CFO, in 2018 told Adams about the alleged salary advance. The lawsuit alleges that Dude drove Hurst and Adams out of the district after raising questions about his vacation time. Hurst and Adams both resigned in December 2019. At the time, school district officials called it a coincidence.
After Adams filed his lawsuit, Decaturish filed a registry request to learn more about the allegations. The documents confirm that the school board gave Dude money for a down payment on his home. The items also contain additional information on how the payment was made.
After discussing Dude’s housing challenges in public, the school board quietly came up with another solution: to let the new manager take 30 vacation days.
The case appears to have been removed on the morning of July 14, 2016.
Annie Caiola, who was Chairman of the Board at the time but no longer sitting on the school board, Dude sent an email with “housing” as the subject line. The email does not clarify what prompted her to send it. Caiola told Dude in the email, “I have no problem with this as long as the holidays are earned and it’s legal, which both are sure of.”
Caiola and vice president at the time, former school board member Garrett Goebel, appear to have consulted their legal adviser. The school district is represented by Wilson Morton & Downs. Emails from the law firm were edited in the records that the school district provided to Decaturish.
The emails from Caiola make it clear that she and Goebel were aware that the money was being used for a payment at Dude’s home.
“I usually agree that sick days should be valued,” Caiola wrote to Dude in an email. “Can we find out what this number is and can you let us know if it is still possible for your payout?”
She added: “I would be inclined to give a strong recommendation to other board members that we approve this one-off payment.”
Later that morning, Dude sent an email to Hurst, who was then CFO.
“I have asked Annie [Caiola] give you written permission to pay for my unused, earned vacation days, ”Dude wrote. “Continue with the preparations for issuing a check for 30 days of holiday leave so that this can be completed quickly once you have received the permit. Please note that 20 of these days come from the financial year 2016 (due to the relationship to earned leave) and 10 come from the financial year 2017. “
“Will do it,” Hurst replied.
And that seemed to be the end of the discussion.
The next day, Goebel emailed Dude and the entire board saying, “David, I’m glad to hear you’ve found a home. I hope we will be able to take advantage of what you have experienced and learned when the time comes for the district to look at housing in the workforce. ”
Goebel and Caiola both declined to comment when contacted by Decaturish.
Current school board chair Tasha White, who was on the board at the time, vaguely remembers that the board gave Dude money for a down payment for a house but does not remember many of the details.
“I have to go back and check,” White said. “I vaguely remember talking about an advance based on a 30-day vacation. I do not remember what happened to it. ”
Dude said $ 21,608 for his 30 vacation days was in line with what was in his contract at the time.
“When I started here and my housing challenges were well known,” he said. “In July 2016, a house became available that met our family’s needs … They suggested that I take my vacation for a down payment. So I took out 30 vacation days at that time. It was not earned. I earn my holiday leave at the beginning of each contract year. ”
That’s true now. Year 2017, the district changed its contract to say “All annual vacation days shall be deemed to be fully earned at the beginning of the contract year.”
But the 2015 contract did not specify that. This is the same contract that the board would have heard in July 2016 when it agreed to pay Dude for 30 vacation days.
Here is the provision in his 2015 agreement regarding his vacation days:
“The manager must earn thirty (30) days of paid vacation for the academic year 2015–2016 in proportion; thirty-five (35) days of paid vacation for the academic year 2016–2017; and forty (40) days of paid vacation for the academic year 2017-2018 and shall be accumulated and transferred to the next academic year up to sixty (60) vacation days as long as this agreement is in force. Any unused vacation days that exceed sixty (60) days that can be carried forward must be paid to the manager at the prevailing daily interest rate that applies at the time of payment. ”
In 2017, the school district added “Superintendent has the right to take up to 30 days vacation pay each contract year” to Dude’s contract.
During an interview on February 22, Dude learned that his 2015 contract contained different languages about his vacation days. He asked questions about this to the school board.
“My contract is with the board and the board handed over to their lawyer if I could take those vacation days or not and they all agreed that I could, so I do not know what to tell about it,” Dude said.
When asked why he needed money for a home payment when he was offered $ 15,000 for moving expenses and $ 1,500 a month that he could spend on housing, Dude did not go into detail.
“I’m not going to go into my personal finances,” he said. “I think it’s completely inappropriate, but the fact is, I did not have the money for a payout.”
Correction: This story has been updated to make it clear that David Dude was allowed to take 30 vacation days. The original version of this story said “30 vacation hours” in some cases. There was an editing error that has been corrected.
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