Page 1


complaint against August. She claiins her phone and office were monitored, she was denied sick leave for doctors’ appointments, her pre-approved leave was canceled at the last minute for no reason, and her performance evaluation was lowered. Davis also alleges she was hit by her supervisor, Joan Ford. Davis alleges that August and Ford tried to force her to resign, and when she refused to do so, she was investigated by the Inspector General’s Officefor waste, fraud and abuse. The IGO monitored her mail and credit card records and interrogated her colleagues about her comings and goings. According to Davis’ lawsuit, her supervisor told her she would never be able to make her charges stand up in court. In the past, court intervention had been used to compel the Dallas OCR and other Department of Education offices across the nation to fulfill their legal obligations concerning sexual discrimination. In the 1970s, at the height of the women’s movement, women were filing complaint after complaint of discrimination and harassment in public schools and universities. But sometimes years would pass before the OCR bothered to investigate. A court order, obtained by the Women’s Equity Action League in the mid 1970s, finally compelled the department’s civil rights offices to do their job in a reasonable and timely manner. That court order was in effect for ten years. But in 1987, after the court order had expired, a federal report revealed that the Department of Education was still doing an abysmal job of enforcing civil rights legislation. The Congressional Committee on Education and Labor conducted a spotcheck of six of the ten OCR regional offices, and concluded in a report to the 100th Congress that “OCR’s case-processing statistics reveal that the agency had not vigorously enforced laws protecting the rights of women and minorities in education since 1981.” In a significant number of complaint investigations closed between the years 1983 through 1988, the committee added \(echoing the Texas complaints of found “no violation” of civil rights statutes. Those findings do not surprise Olga Cardenez, who said she realized something was wrong within the OCR very soon after transferring there from the Dallas federal EEO office. “There was a fear in the office,” Cardenez said. “Everyone was always so fearful.” “What they’d do if you filed a complaint,” Cardenez said, “was punish the schools you were investigating by punishing you.” Cardenez said that when an investigator who was in disfavor with management turned in a report or finding, the supervisors would pick it to death. “Then we would re-work it to please upper-man agement, and [then] legal would tear that up and make us go back to the original draft. It was all so trivial.” The management report submitted to DOE Assistant Secretary Cantu stated unequivocally that the ultimate victim of the pathological environment at Dallas OCR was the public. OCR work at Dallas, the report noted, is command-controlled, and “professionalism and performance is suborned by fear and obedience.” “There is no doubt in my mind, no doubt at all,” John Harris said, “that the quality of the work was impaired by the work environment one that pitted the legal department against the investigators, and managers against staffers.” Harris and Honig filed their final report with Cantu in the Washington headquarters of the DOE in late 1993. The report noted that in recent years, of all DOE offices, the Region VI office had the worst record, the longest case processing time, and the highest number and percentage of pending concluded that at the very minimum, Regional Director Taylor Augustwho had been re-assigned to Washington while the Harris Group was investigating his office would have to be relieved of his duty. Instead, shortly after the report was filed, August was re-assigned to the helm of the Dallas OCRdespite the protests of three Democratic members of Congress from Dallas. In a letter to Riley, Martin Frost, John Bryant, and Eddie Bernice Johnson wrote that they had received “voluminous complaints” from the employees at the Dallas OCR detailing harassment and threats by August, which had been confirmed by the Harris Group investigation. In their judgment, Taylor August’s return to the OCR would have a “severely detrimental impact on the OCR.” Upon hearing of August’s reassignment, OCR employees submitted a petition, signed by fifty-six of the seventy-six OCR employees, asking Secretary Riley to reconsider. When they received no response, the employees picketed outside the regional office with signs that read, “Norma, do the right thing. Free our employees.” and “Vice President Gore, when will you reinvent the Department of Education?” After August was reassigned to his duties at the Dallas OCR, William Webster, then Riley’s chief of staff and now the White House Director of Scheduling and Advance, told OCR employees that August’s return to Dallas was part of a larger settlement agreement. August had filed his own discrimination complaint with the department. Webster assured the Dallas OCR staff, however, that August would be given sensitivity training. Purnell Johnson and other black OCR investigators were furious, and they accused Webster, Riley and Cantu of merely covering for themselves. Johnson also questioned how it was that August managed to have his discrimination case heard and acted upon so quickly by department officials, and he blamed Congressmen Kweisi Mfume and Bill Clay, of the congressional black caucus, for interceding on August’s behalf. In a letter to David Wilhelm, thenchairman of the Democratic National Committee, Johnson blasted the Clinton Administration’s handling of the situation. Johnson was particularly outraged that OCR deputy assistant secretary Raymond Pierce not only had introduced August to members of the congressional black caucus, but had described him as one of the OCR’s “best” regional directorsafter the Harris Management Report, calling for August’s removal, had already been completed. “It appears,” Johnson wrote, “that Vice President Gore’s call for the reinvention of government has fallen on deaf ears in the Department of Education.” “It’s an old boy network,” said investigator Harris, “and very well-connected. Basically, they circled the wagons to protect themselves….And the one really hurt is the public they are charged to protect.” \(Author’s Note: The Harris Management Review report to the DOE, as obtained through a Freedom of Information request, had been heavily censored. Specifically, the Equal Employment Opportunity portion of the report was omitted, and the final ten pages of the management portion of the reportwhich state unequivocally that Taylor August must be replacedwere also omitted. After eighteen months of filing FOI requests which generally received no response from Department of Education, I was able to obtain the reports from anonymous sources within the OCR who Comprehensive Computer Services A Holistic Appproach Troubleshooting, Consultation Installation, Upgrades, Repair Networking Custom Database Programming Data Analysis PC or MAC Ongoing Comprehensive Support Gary Lundquest 1405 West 6th Austin, TX 78703 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13