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Politically Tied Employee Creating Headaches for Education Officials

Aug. 22, 2006 — A construction worker that the administration has been trying to foist onto the Education Department as a highly paid permanent employee may yet get a classified position before the Turnbull administration ends. But his supervisors and colleagues are not happy at the prospect. In fact, two department employees have recommended he be dismissed.
Horace Brooks was quietly hired as the Education Department's assistant director of plant operations and maintenance at the start of Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's second term after a $65,000 three-month contract for summer maintenance work a couple years earlier didn't pan out when the contract became public knowledge.
A Notice of Personnel Action (NOPA) obtained by the Source seeks to change Brooks from exempt to classified status. Exempt employees work at the pleasure of the governor and generally are let go when a new administration comes in. The NOPA alters Brooks' salary from $50,000 annually to $48,459.
But Brooks is facing some other government paperwork that doesn't bode as well for his permanent employment. He was to supervise summer maintenance this year at Guy Benjamin and Julius Sprauve Elementary schools on St. John; however, the work is not progressing on schedule.
The Source has obtained documents that suggest Brooks is at least part of the problem, because he has repeatedly failed to show up for work on St. John. And not only has Brooks failed to perform his assigned duties, he has made public scenes and threatened department officials, according to correspondence from and between his supervisors.
A memorandum to Brooks from Deputy Superintendent Yahaya Bello documents an incident that took place in Bello's office last week. Bello states that when Brooks came to Bello's office Aug. 15 with a complaint that his pay had been unfairly docked, he was told by Bello that, if that were the case, the matter would be rectified.
Apparently Bello's reply caused Brooks to react in a way that dismayed Bello. In a letter to Brooks documenting the behavior, Bello wrote, "Your reaction to this was shocking to me. You began a tirade of steadily increasing volume in my office, which you continued when you stomped through the outer corridor and into the reception area of the Curriculum Center."
Bello describes Brooks' tirade as continuing for at least five minutes as he "obstinately persisted in shouting and haranguing all within in a manner that startled all and frightened most."
Bello concludes: "For one who is part of the district's administrative team, such an action is totally intolerable. I am recommending to the Insular Superintendent that you be suspended immediately and a dismissal hearing convened."
Copies of the memo were sent to Emily R. Carter, insular superintendent; Lisa Forde, deputy superintendent of schools; and Louis Hughes, territorial director of plant operations.
Apparently it was not the first time Brooks had displayed such behavior.
Carter, in turn, on Thursday wrote Education Commissioner Noreen Michael of the incident. "I was shocked, appalled and dismayed to return to my office and find that on Tuesday, Aug. 15, Mr. Horace Brooks had yet another disruptive performance at the district office. His outrageous conduct was reported by several staff members and witnessed by parents in the registration waiting area. He was loud and shouted veiled threats such as: 'I'll tell my son. You don't know who you are playing with, you will see.'"
Brooks is the father of Horace Tyrone Brooks, Turnbull's confidential assistant, who is running for a seat on the 27th Legislature on the Democratic ticket.
Carter's letter details problems Brooks has caused. "My staff is extremely upset at this type of conduct taking place in the office in the presence of the general public," she writes. "Many have expressed to me a concern for their safety because of the veiled threats; they are uncertain as to what Mr. Brooks' next move might be …."
Carter says that although every attempt has been made to have Brooks perform his assigned duties, "He refuses to report for duty as required, perform his assigned duties and respect those in positions of authority."
Echoing Bello's recommendation, Carter requests of Michael that "Brooks be suspended without pay immediately for a period of no less than three weeks. Based on his gross insubordination, I further recommend termination as an appropriate action."
According to the documents, Brooks was entrusted with the sole responsibility of supervising the maintenance work on the two St. John schools. A July 8 memo from Bello to Brooks reiterates his assignment on July 5 to go to St. John and "immediately take charge of the repair of the schools there."
Bello says he was "very disconcerted" to learn on July 7 of Brooks' failure to report. He says Hughes told him that Brooks had "not only not gone to St. John, but had not reported to him at all since the July 5 meeting …."
The memo tells Brooks, "Given all of our discussions and your intimate knowledge of the critical and pressing problems in St. John, I cannot fathom why you would squander three days involved in activities contrary to the instructions given to you by the Territorial Director."
Bello then spells out Brooks' duties, which include assessing what needs to be done at both schools, developing a full list of materials necessary to do the work, the time and manpower he will need and to report all of the above in writing "no later than July 14."
In another memo to Brooks written Aug. 17 (apparently before Brooks' visit to his office), Bello says that the report Brooks submitted on Aug. 11 "is the only indication we have that you have even been to St. John. You have not submitted any other reports and you have not reported to the Territorial Director of Maintenance. You have not given any indication that you have begun to carry out the instructions given to you. At best, this would constitute a dereliction of duty."
Also, Bello notes that Brooks' report primarily lists his dealings with contractors, something not included in his assigned duties. Bello says that Brooks' conduct amounts to "insubordination."
"Therefore," Bello concludes, "I am sending a copy of this memo to Emily R. Carter, with the recommendation that she initiate immediate disciplinary action against you up to and including dismissal."
Education officials contacted about this story did not return phone calls.
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