Tulsa School Police Chief On Unpaid Leave Of Absence
Lacie Lowry, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- The police chief for Tulsa Public Schools is not on the job Friday, after an inflammatory email surfaced regarding the recent arrest of a Tulsa principal.
A spokesperson for the district says TPS Police Chief Gary Rudick is on a "non-paid leave of absence."
An email from Rudick Tulsa police pushes for the conviction of an elementary school principal who was arrested last month for obstruction. That private email went public this week.
Rudick sent this email one day after Principal Lynnette Dixon was arrested. It says, quote, "we want to fire this woman, so your case is important to us."
"She's a real problem" Rudick writes. "The school district, from the superintendent on down is in support of this arrest."
That arrest of Lynette Dixon happened on March 7, 2011. She allegedly interfered with a police investigation at the Comanche Park Apartments.
She's been suspended ever since from her position at Hawthorne Elementary Community School.
Rudick also says, "If the criminal case is dismissed, it will hurt us badly in trying to fire this woman...make sure the prosecutors are on board."
"It literally took my breath away at the beginning. The casualness of the language communicates a sinisterness," Richard O'Carroll, Dixon's Attorney, said.
Dixon's attorney, Richard O'Carroll, got his hands on the email and read it in municipal court this week.
"We have policemen telling prosecutors what to do and when to do it. You have policemen calling ranking majors and saying 'contact the prosecutor, we're on board on this end,'" O'Carroll said.
Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard says no one except Chief Rudick knew of the email until April 19, 2011.
"No one at TPS directed Chief Rudick to send the email," and "The superintendent does not agree with many of the statements," Dr. Ballard said in a statement Thursday.
[Read Dr. Ballard's complete statement below]
Chief Rudick released a statement explaining that his communication with TPD on cases is common.
"We have consistently advocated for a position of aggressive prosecution when employees of the district violate the law," the statement read.
Rudick's statement goes on to say "If in my zeal to act in the best interests of TPS the communication has offended any person or group, that was not my intention and I apologize for any misunderstanding it may have caused."
[Read Chief Rudick's complete statement below]
Lynette Dixon's attorney has asked for the case to be dismissed. The next court hearing is May 10, 2011.
Dr. Ballard says he will start an internal investigation with Chief Rudick.
Statement released by Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard:
Neither the superintendent nor anyone at TPS other than Chief Rudick knew of the existence of the email until April 19, 2011, when Chief Rudick brought it to our attention.
No one at TPS authorized or directed Chief Rudick to send the email.
The superintendent does not agree with many of the statements contained in the email but because this matter involves a confidential internal employee matter as well as an ongoing municipal criminal matter, it would be inappropriate at this time to discuss the email in detail.
The superintendent will be reviewing with Chief Rudick his reasons for sending the email and the specific statements contained in the email. That review process will also involve a confidential internal employee matter and will not be publicly discussed.
All future employment issues involving Chief Rudick and Ms. Dixon will be dealt with in due course using established TPS employment processes.
I want to emphasize the seriousness of this situation. I will actively pursue an internal process of inquiry early next week with Chief Rudick. The Project Schoolhouse initiative has consumed much of my time and efforts particularly this week since we will be sharing with our public the final proposal in an all inclusive press conference at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, April 22, 2011.
Statement Released by Tulsa Public Schools Police Chief Gary Rudick:
An arrest of a Tulsa Public School employee prompts an automatic investigation by Tulsa Public Schools into the incident that led to the arrest. The purpose of that is to determine what impact that arrest may have on the ability of the employee to continue to carry out their duties and responsibilities for employment with the district.
The requests for arrests reports, witness statements, incident reports or affidavit information is conducted by the Campus Police for Tulsa Public Schools.
The recent arrest of a school principal prompted such an investigation and collection of information. As a result, my office had direct correspondence with members of the Tulsa Police Department regarding that arrest.
My communication with the Tulsa police is similar to others I have had with them, with the District Attorney's office, Juvenile Court or other members of the criminal justice system and is designed to make sure the cases that are filed are followed through to successful prosecution or, if warranted, to advocate for adjustment, amendment or even dismissal.
I have very strong personal feelings about issues of performance and integrity as it reflects on the school district.
That opinion is expressed in my correspondence with the Tulsa Police Department and it is clear that I believe this particular criminal case deserves direct attention as it does reflect on the school district and its purpose.
We have consistently advocated for a position of aggressive prosecution when employees of the district violate the law so that successful discipline, including termination, can be achieved. We will continue to do so. That should not be mistaken to believe that anyone in the Tulsa Police Department or any prosecutor in any court would file charges on my behest.
My communication with TPD was entirely my own. It was not approved or discussed with any member of the school administration here at Tulsa Public Schools nor the district's outside legal counsel.
Not Dr. Ballard, or anyone else, was involved in the investigatory process and no one was aware of the communication that I held with TPD personnel. No one should mistake that my comments or intentions were approved by Dr. Ballard or are a reflection of his future intentions, opinions or position.
At no time did Dr. Ballard inform me that he wanted the principal fired who is involved in this issue. The comments are my own and not the opinion of Tulsa Public Schools.
The decision on the future employment of the principal involved in this issue is the sole discretion of Dr. Ballard and the Board of Education.
As a member of the law enforcement community and the criminal justice system, it is also our obligation to assure that criminal cases receive the necessary attention so they are dealt with in a manner that reflects the morals and values of our school district and that administrative discipline, including termination in some cases, can be effectively carried out.
To that end, if in my zeal to act in the best interests of TPS the communication has offended any person or group, that was not my intention and I apologize for any misunderstanding it may have caused.