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9/20/07  Sherri Brokaw vs. DISD, Dr. Hinojosa, et al

As you know, I always enjoy reading, because, as you quote George Orwell, 1945: ?If liberty means anything at all, it is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.? 

I am compelled to follow-up Jim Schutze?s excellent take on Sherri Brokaw's situation,
Scapegoat, Dallas Observer, 9-19-07.  I believe the situation is more serious than just the old ?head in the sand? portrayal Jim gave.  Hinojosa has not escaped blame in this mess, and he will not escape.  Also, not to your surprise, neither the Dallas Morning News, Kent Fischer, Fish & Richardson, nor Paul Coggins have escaped from this public lynching.

Yes, Sherri Brokaw is a courageous woman, but she was always a faithful employee of the Dallas Independent School District, who loved her job.  When the hearings on her proposed termination came up, she had the backbone to open up an otherwise closed hearing to the public, including the media.  The hearings were not only about the DISD's effort to terminate Ms. Brokaw, thereby attempting to vindicate DISD?s behavior towards her and the public, but they were also about clearing her good name in the public eye, after disparaging remarks made by Celso Martinez were published by the Dallas Morning News. 

The Dallas Morning News has refused to publish that during the hearings it was revealed that after the News began its onslaught of Open Records Requests to DISD about the Pcard program, it was Sherri Brokaw whom the DISD higher-ups chose to field answers to same.  Ms. Brokaw was continually fielding Open Records Requests about various employees and Pcard transactions, including those of the ?One Big Spender?, Gloria Orapello (who has been sentenced to one year in the federal pen for her Pcard Misdeeds). 

Before the DMN ever broke the story about questionable Pcard transactions and abuse by a mere fraction of the PCard holders, Ms. Brokaw reported Orapello?s illegal activities to her superiors, who presumably then passed them along to Michael Hinojosa.  Dr. Hinojosa and his direct reports sat on the information without action until the DMN stories broke, and then acted as if he and they were ?unaware?. 

While possessing information about Ms. Orapello?s illegal Pcard spending, Hinojosa and his lieutenants sat silent.  When the fire hit the fan, they reacted by placing Orapello on administrative leave with pay, along with Sherri Brokaw.  Hinojosa even gave an affidavit in a United States District Court stating that:

?As General Superintendent, I have general knowledge regarding the District?s former procurement card (?P-Card?) program. However, I do not have any personal, specialized, or detailed knowledge of the specific practices and procedures of this program, which was itself instituted several years before my arrival at the District. My knowledge regarding specific practices, procedures, and possible abuses of the P-Card program has been gained solely through communications with both the District?s in-house counsel and its counsel at Fish & Richardson. These communications were made specifically for the purpose of obtaining legal advice for the District.? 

Importantly, when the termination process concerning Ms. Brokaw was on going, the hearings revealed that someone in the DISD administration sanitized Ms. Brokaw?s DISD computer to delete the reporting memos written by Sherri Brokaw to her superiors about Gloria Orapello.  This directly implicates the DISD as a whole in a cover-up of employees? misdeeds, and should be construed as an attempt to obstruct justice.

To add insult to injury, Dr, Hinojosa and DISD retained Fish & Richardson to do an outside, ?independent? investigation into the Pcard program, further in an effort to sanitize the DISD Administration from blame in the collapse of the program.  The budgeted amount of this so-called ?independent? investigation was a price tag of $1 Million of taxpayer?s money.

When Sherri was placed on administrative leave with pay, and the news of the administrative leave hit the Dallas Morning News, Celso Martinez, the official spokesperson of the DISD at the time, threw her to the wolves.  And then, Ms. Brokaw was gagged by DISD from talking to the news media about the Pcard program.

Now, is that fair?  Sherri Brokaw says no, and she intends to prove it in Court.  Hopefully it is understandable that Ms. Brokaw seeks to expose DISD Administration officials in attempting to cover up the Pcard ?scandal? (obstruction, if you will), and to then scapegoat her as the villain.

 To add further insult to injury, we have discovered that the Judicial Panel appointed by Hinojosa rendered a decision in late August, 2007, which ruled that the proposed termination of Ms. Brokaw be rescinded, and that Ms. Brokaw be returned to work in the District.  When Hinojosa learned of this decision, which we contend would have ?cleared her name?, Dr. Hinojosa blew his stack, and directed DISD attorneys to ?withdraw? its termination action against Ms. Brokaw, all on the last day of her current contract with DISD. 

DISD claims that the termination issue was ?moot?.  The name-clearing issue is not.  Now, DISD refuses to release the decision of the Judicial Panel, and we have had to subpoena the Chairman of the Judicial Panel, and a DISD official who refuses to reveal the decision.  Of course, we will be asking Dr. Hinojosa questions under oath about all these matters.

Thus, after all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, after the DMN labeled the Pcard program as corrupt, and a $1 Million ?investigation?, Dr. Hinojosa was told the underlying truth about Ms. Brokaw, by his own employees, and he still sticks his head in the sand and will not face the truth.  Dr. Hinojosa?s efforts to place the blame on Ms. Brokaw failed, and Dr. Hinojosa will be shown to be nothing more than a titular head of DISD, a little tyrant, who wouldn?t know the truth, or acknowledge it, even when it hits him upside the head.

In this case, as quotes Jim Schutze: ?Nobody sees a conspiracy after they join it.  Then it?s a project.? Jim Schutze,, 7/1/04.  I should think your readers would think this is a pretty poor example for top DISD administrators to set for DISD students, teachers and the public.  After all, the whole idea is educating ? not instructing on how to obstruct the truth and put a spin on plain embarrassment.

James Murphy

(Editor's comments:  James Murphy is an attorney representing Sherri Brokaw.  He has also represented Sharon Boyd in two suits.  He's one of those rare lawyers who tilts at windmills and is not afraid of challenging authority, when private citizens are wronged.  sb)






  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8