The only thing that comes to mind is, “What were they thinking?”
“They” in this case being new Fort Worth schools super Melody Johnson and United Educators Association head Larry Shaw, when Shaw presented and Johnson accepted the gift of a refrigerator (albeit a “very small one,” Shaw said), a coffee pot, and a microwave for her office. In case, maybe, the workaholic super has to stay late as she works on district financial matters, like, oh, say, a raise for the teachers, bus drivers, and school custodians whom Shaw’s union represents? The board’s highly touted new ethics policy clearly states that district employees “shall not … accept any benefit from a person the employee knows is interested in or likely to become interested in any such [pecuniary] transactions… .”
Rufino Mendoza, the district’s ethics guru, told Static that if the items were given to Johnson as a personal gift, it would “most definitely” violate the conflict of interest clause of the new code.
Suddenly, the new kitchenette became a present to everybody. Johnson accepted the gifts, she said, “on behalf of the district, not for me personally.” Her ethics, she said, “have never been challenged.”
For Shaw, it was just UEA “being nice.”
But for Board President Bill Koehler, the call wasn’t even close. “We are advising the superintendent to send the gifts back. … This district has too many big problems to get in trouble over a refrigerator and a microwave.”
The recent ice storm proved once again that Texans are a bunch of pansies when roads freeze. Two days after the Dec. 7 ice storm, people were still driving 30 mph on freeways, apparently mistaking sand and dry pavement for something dangerous. Perhaps one of those over-cautious white-knucklers was acting City Manager Joe Paniagua.
Fort Worth has seen its share of ice storms through the years, but few people can recall city hall ever closing its doors early or opening late for weather reasons. So it came as a surprise when Paniagua, filling in for out-of-town City Manager Charles Boswell, instructed department heads to notify employees to come in at 10 a.m. on an icy Dec. 8.
The main source of consternation among employees was not those lost hours of public service, but the city policy requiring them to use vacation or comp time to cover that period. “They told us to come in two hours late and then made us use our vacation time to cover those hours,” an employee groused.
Static normally stands up for The Minion and blasts The Man, but in this case the city policy seems sound. Municipalities, like mail carriers, should brave wind and rain. Offices that operate on tax dollars should keep a tight rein on the moolah. Paniagua might have overreacted to a storm that, looking back, was tamer than the inside of the Weekly’s office icebox, but there is a bright side to the brouhaha (love that word!). “It has spurred some discussion about developing a more comprehensive inclement weather policy internally,” Paniagua said.