Schools chief furnished home with public funds

17th October 1997 at 01:00
The superintendent of Dallas public schools has resigned after pleading guilty to embezzlement, but additional allegations of mismanagement, corruption, sexual harassment and bizarre behaviour continue to dog one of the largest state school systems in the United States.

Several separate federal investigations persist even after the resignation of Dallas superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez, who has admitted using falsified invoices to charge the school district for expensive home and office furniture less than three weeks after she was hired at the beginning of this year.

"It was not just a betrayal of public trust. It was how quickly it was done," said US attorney Paul Coggins.

Ms Gonzalez has agreed to plead guilty to a single felony count of embezzlement and to co-operate with the government's continuing investigation of the district.

In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of obstruction of justice and witness-tampering against her. She still could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Ms Gonzalez also remains the target of a lawsuit brought by the system's chief financial officer, Matthew Harden Jr.

Mr Harden claims the superintendent sexually harassed him by sending him suggestive notes. Mr Harden has himself been suspended while his department is investigated for mismanagement and corruption.

"We realise that our practices must be reviewed," said Jim Hughey, who has been appointed interim superintendent.

That was a bit of an understatement.

Beside corruption allegations, authorities are investigating charges of overtime abuse, contract fixing and other crimes. Thirteen school district employees have been indicted on federal charges of overtime fraud and six have pleaded guilty.

Mr Harden's lawsuit claims Ms Gonzalez, who is married, sent him sexually suggestive notes and showed jealousy and paranoia toward "rivals" in the district, including firing several of them.

JM

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