LEE COUNTY – Tonight, state officials order the Lee County school board to investigate Superintendent Joseph Burke. Florida's Department of Education is not satisfied with how the district handled accusations made against Dr. Burke and now they're demanding board members conduct an independent investigation. Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason has the latest.
Dr. Burke announced plans to retire after coming under fire for how he handled an investigation....now state officials have decided he's the one who needs to be investigated.
3 weeks ago, Lee County school Superintendent Joseph Burke admitted he suspended an investigation into Deedara Hicks.
Mike Mason: "So you told them to stop."
Joseph Burke: "Yes."
Mike Mason: "And that was the end of it."
Joseph Burke: "That was the end of it."
Witnesses say Hicks showed up to work apparently drunk in August of 2011. Despite district policy, Hicks was never tested. Burke says Hicks wasn't drinking...instead she was having a reaction to a previous medical condition.
Mike Mason: "But did you have proof?"
Joseph Burke: "I can't say for certain that I had documented proof at that time okay."
Mike Mason: "So you just took her word for it."
Joseph Burke: "Um, i did. I did take her word for it."
An investigation by Florida's Department of Education found no need to take action against Hicks but they do have concerns about why Burke suspended the investigation.
In a letter sent to board chair Mary Fischer on Wednesday, the state questioned whether...."Dr. Burke suspended an active investigation concerning Dr. Deedara Hicks."
Even though the district submitted its findings to the state....DOE officials determined an "additional investigation is necessary to determine if Dr. Burke acted appropriately by suspending that investigation."
In the letter...state officials also express concern about allegations "$293,000 from grant funds (were spent) for top level administrators, instead of (that) money (being used) for the students or classrooms. Additional investigation (into that is also) necessary to determine whether that money was appropriately used for the specified recipients."
The letter goes on to say: "the office of Inspector General requests that the Lee County school board move forward with an independent investigation.....within 45 days ...provide a written response indicating the results of the investigative findings and actions taken."
School board members will discuss how to move forward with this independent investigation next week. We reached out to board chair Mary Fischer but have not heard back.