The revelation that former Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Joe Hairston supposedly protected two administrative employees who recently have been transferred to other positions raises several huge red flags ("Hairston gave employment contracts to two top aides before retiring," July 13). These alleged "contracts" ignore the fact that all school personnel, including the superintendent, are employed by the Board of Education, not by an individual.
Donald Peccia was appointed assistant superintendent of human resources in 2004; Phyllis Reese was hired as chief of communications in 2009. It makes no sense for either of them to have waited until 2011 to secure their appointments by a special contract.
Further, at the time the contracts were signed Mr. Hairston had not yet decided to retire, nor had the board informed him of its not to renew his contract beyond the 2011-2012 school year. But the language of the contracts — "the superintendent of schools may not terminate this employment contract ..." and "in the event that the superintendent attempts to terminate this employment contract ..." — sounds as though Mr. Hairston is protecting Mr. Peccia and Ms. Reese from himself.
It is especially mystifying that Mr. Hairston would take such an action at the very time that Mr. Peccia was assuring one and all that Mr. Hairston's 200 personnel cuts would not deal a devastating blow to the county's high schools, and Ms. Reese had Mr. Hairston's back in the controversy over the hiring and salary of Renee Foose.
Apparently, no one was aware of these contracts, including the Board of Education. Neither document bears any witness signature or notarization. However, in one of his first official acts as the new superintendent, Dallas Dance asked the board to approve new appointments to these two high-level administrative positions — and suddenly two phantom contracts pop up out of the woodwork.
It makes one wonder how many other private personnel "contracts" Mr. Hairston signed. If the answer is "none," then why were Mr. Peccia and Ms. Reese singled out for special protection?
Perhaps the greatest red flag of all is Mr. Hairston's trademark refusal to be accountable for his conduct as superintendent. "I think ... people in the system need to talk about it. I am retired now," he was quoted as saying. That is exactly the kind of lack of transparency and honesty that caused him to receive a 78 percent disapproval rating in a recent Sun poll.
Mr. Hairston may be retired, but we can only hope that just once he will be a big enough to stand up for his actions. We can also hope that the board's attorneys will find a way to invalidate a Hairston decision that will drain nearly $500,000 from an already squeezed budget.
George W. Nellies, TowsonCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun