Report clears ASDB head of wrongdoing, but faults his behavior

2013-11-02T00:00:00Z 2013-11-02T00:15:46Z Report clears ASDB head of wrongdoing, but faults his behaviorBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

An investigative report cleared Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind Superintendent Robert Hill of any major wrongdoing after five employees accused him of harassment and discrimination.

However, the report questioned the way Hill communicated with employees, as well as his handling of certain situations.

There were two reports compiled by the law firm Fennemore Craig, which was hired to investigate the complaints the employees made earlier this year.

One outlined the allegations against Hill. The other looked at accusations Hill made against former administrator Nancy Amann.

The Star obtained the reports through a public-records request.

The employees accused Hill of sexual harassment, gender and disability discrimination, and retaliation. However, the report found Hill did not engage in any unlawful activities when he dealt with the workers.

Hill was placed on administrative leave at ASDB’s Oct. 24 governing board meeting and will have an opportunity to respond to the allegations at the next board meeting.

Hill wasn’t available for comment and Amann didn’t respond to a Facebook message Friday.

Parents, students and employees have criticized Hill for poor communication, lack of leadership and the dismissals of Amann and former agriculture teacher Richard Layton.

Hill and former board President Bernhardt Jones are also under scrutiny from the state for a potential conflict of interest regarding their involvement with an interpreter-training program and for allegedly excessive travel expenses — issues that are being investigated by the state and not covered by the report.

Leadership questions

Most of the disagreements between Hill and Amann stemmed from her placement on administrative leave after a series of incidents where Hill questioned her leadership.

The incidents included a search of employee vehicles after a video gaming device was stolen, improperly hiring employees, and questions surrounding the school’s agriculture program.

Some of the incidents between Hill and the other employees involved a drug investigation at the school and sexual harassment allegations.

Amann filed two grievances against Hill.

In the first, Amann claimed her placement on leave was due to Hill discriminating against deaf people and women, with the intent to intimidate, threaten and harass her.

She also claimed Hill, along with Human Resources Executive Director Maria Murphy and Executive Staff Consultant Lauren Peirce, used the leave process as a “fishing expedition” to develop a record on her.

Hill put Amann on leave in February after school officials investigated a vehicle search that occurred a couple of months earlier when a PlayStation 2 was stolen from a dorm room. When her contract expired in June the board voted not to renew it.

According to the report, Amann authorized the search, which was described as a visual inspection where staff leaned into the cars and opened trunks, but didn’t go through personal property. The employees who were involved seem to have consented to the search.

ASDB officials thought the incident might have violated a school policy prohibiting searching student and employee property.

Although the report didn’t endorse placing Amann on administrative leave, it says Hill had grounds for doing so and no discrimination was involved.

Troubling issues

However, the investigators said in the report they were troubled by some of the circumstances surrounding Amann’s leave.

Hill told the investigators she was placed on leave so the school could continue its investigation, but the law firm wondered why school officials didn’t talk to her again during the rest of the probe.

“At no time, during or after Dr. Amann was placed on administrative leave was Dr. Amann requestioned about the vehicle search,” the report says.

The report also noted Hill hadn’t created an evaluation system for Amann and other contract employees.

Hill could have addressed most of his concerns about Amann’s job performance in an evaluation, but she hadn’t received one in a few years, according to the report.

In the second report, Hill accused Amann of conducting the search illegally, as well as failing to ensure the school’s agriculture program had the necessary licenses.

He also claimed Amann didn’t follow regular hiring practices, mistreated employees and didn’t follow other procedures.

The report agreed with his claims regarding the agriculture program, as well as hiring two employees for a summer literacy camp without his approval and hiring a night nurse for a student without getting the proper approval.

However, the investigators said Hill knew of these allegations before placing Amann on leave, but he never disciplined Amann or gave her any kind of warning of her behavior.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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