Meet DISD's "Number Two": Steve Flores

[Part two in a series - along with another sworn deposition!]

"...and this is the second in command of our district?" (former board member)

"Who does Number Two work for?" (Austin Powers, Int'l Man of Mystery)

Folks, meet (through his sworn deposition) DISD Chief Administrative Officer Steve Flores.

Flores' job is arguably the single most important job in the District.

Flores, in his own words (I know the depositions are lengthy, but you really need to be reading these depositions, at the bottom of this page, yourself), described his position as "Chief Administrative Officer for DISD" -- changed from deputy superintendent in September 2005.

Flores is the supervisor of the area superintendents--who supervise the principals--who supervise the teachers, etc.

Flores is the DISD's "Number Two." He is second only to, and reports directly to, DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

It would probably be reasonable to expect that the second-in-charge would be intimately familiar with operations in which he or she was involved. Right?

While reading this, bear in mind (and you'll see where this is headed in a moment) that Scooter Libby was convicted for saying "I don't know." Keeping that in mind, read on...

Something else we need to keep in mind is that Flores' sworn deposition centers primarily around events that occurred on the "Superintendent's Ad-Hoc Legal Review Committee" between January 10, 2007 and March 22, 2007--a little over a 2 month period.

This Ad-Hoc Committee, as we'll call it, was established for the sole purpose of deciding who to fire or discipline over the unfolding DISD credit card scandal.

Flores, was a part of the Ad-Hoc committee along with Denise Collier, chief academic officer, Ron Peace, chief of staff, and Eric Anderson, chief of business services.

Before we get into the "meat" of Flores' deposition, I did something for grins. I dropped by Office Depot and bought a tally counter--one of those things that you see the guy in the movie theatre clicking as he counts how many people walk into a particular movie.

Why?

I wanted to just tally up the times Flores said things like "I don't know," or "I don't remember," or "I can't recall," or "to the best of my recollection," or "I'm not sure", or "if I recall correctly" -- evasive answers, that sort of thing throughout his deposition.

I clicked 102 times, in his 58 page deposition where Flores either didn't know something, hedged his answer, or gave an answer similar to those above.

As an example (Ardis McCann's attorney Daniel Ortiz) questioned Flores with regard to actions taken by the Ad-Hoc committee. One would think that, given the media attention and the $1,000,000 outlay, a member of a committee of four "district chiefs" would be able to remember discussions, decisions, and meetings in rather vivid detail.

Ortiz: (page 37) Another member of this ad hoc committee testified earlier under oath. He testified that this committee, the same committee that you're a member of, this ad hoc committee, has recommended termination of five people. Who are they?

Flores: Wow.

Ortiz: Sir?

Flores: I said wow. Let me -- let me think. Five. Well, first of all, I want to verify that I can remember five because -- I don't know.

Ortiz: Well tell me the ones that you can remember. Start with the easy one first, Ardis McCann.

Flores: Ardis McCann.

Ortiz: Sure.

Flores: Dwain Govan.

Ortiz: Who?

Flores: Dwain Govan, Charlenta Govan. I believe it's termination, yes.

Ortiz: What?

Flores: Termination. I'm trying to remember the -- I mean, exactly what the recommendation is. A teacher and I don't recall --

Ortiz: A teacher?

Flores: I think it was a teacher. I don't remember the name. I believe it's a teacher. And that's four? Is that four or five? If -- I need to -- if there's five, I don't recall right now. I guess I need -- I'm kind of stuck on is there five.

So here we have DISD's Number Two, Flores, with either a very poor memory, clearly confused, or perhaps worse.

Ortiz asked Flores the purpose of the Ad-Hoc legal review committee. Flores answered, more or less, it was to "hear and review" reports from Fish & Richardson's investigators Kip Mendrygal and Peter Nielsen.

Ortiz: (from page 13) [...] I'm trying to understand what you mean as a member of this ad hoc committee when you say that this committee's purpose was to hear these reports from these investigators. Tell me what you mean. Explain that.

Flores: By hearing -- the reports that we reviewed, the actual investigators, those conducting the investigation -- by hearing, what I mean there is that they presented, you know -- the actual report. And from that report, they verbalized -- they didn't read the whole report; but when I say hearing, that's what -- that's what I'm alluding to. They stated the report, we reviewed -- that's why hear and review. We reviewed in the discussion the actual review of the paperwork that was submitted from that investigation. So that's what I refer by hear.

Ortiz: So the purpose of this committee is to hear the verbal reports of these investigators and to review documents presented?

Flores: Right.

Ortiz: Anything else?

Flores: Anything else with regard to --

Ortiz: I'm trying to understand the function of this ad hoc committee. Explain that for me, please.

Flores: The function was to hear --

Ortiz: Hear and review.

Flores: -- and review and then if -- and then make recommendations to the superintendent.

Ortiz: Make recommendations regarding discipline, if any?

Flores: If any, yes.

Ortiz: Were the recommendations made to the superintendent in writing or verbal?

Flores: Our committee made them -- if I recall correctly, it was verbal. It was verbal.

"If I recall correctly."

The Ad-Hoc committee is an important committee that, by the account of another member (who appears to have a better recollection than Flores) met 5 times between December and March.

But how many times have they met, according to Flores? "To this point, I believe we've met three, possibly four. But my my best recollection is three times, but it may be four." (page 14)

As to the dates the committee met, Flores could only recall one. "The dates -- again, best recollection, January 10th I believe was one."

Why does he recall this meeting? "I remember that because that's my birthday."

Flores evasive answers led Ortiz to conclude (page 23): "You don't seem to know a lot about the manner in which this ad hoc committee went about its business; is that correct?"

"No," Flores replied, "We -- we reviewed, we heard and I know the business. I knew that business. I knew that."

Giving Ardis McCann "The Business"

[NFL legendary referee Ben Dreith's famous personal foul call against NY Jets' Mark Gastineau for repeatedly punching Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly in 1986: "Number 99 on the defense, after tackling the quarterback, for giving him the business down there. That's a 15-yard penalty."]

So even with Flores' hedging, lack of knowledge, and even with the "best of [Flores] recollection," the purpose of the Superintendent's Ad-Hoc Legal Review Committee was to dole out discipline.

How all of this came about, and how we ended up with copies of depositions, is that Ardis McCann chose to take the District to task, legally, over firing him.

The DISD wrote a letter to McCann on January 30, signed by Flores, informing McCann he was fired. McCann has subsequently been rehired--but neither side will talk about the details.

But why did DISD fire him?

After more "ring-around-the-rosey" (on pages 27-28), Ortiz finally nailed Flores down to the reason the Ad Hoc committee chose to fire McCann.

Ortiz: [...] your recommendation to propose termination was based on two things; number one, that Mr. McCann had only produced 42 percent of his receipts and, two, the apparent lack of effort by Mr. McCann to produce additional receipts?

[...]

Flores: That would be correct, yes.

But procurement cards aside, how did Flores regard McCann as a principal? "[...] I want to make sure," Flores clarifies (page 41), "that it's understood that Ardis McCann in my opinion is a very good principal."

Fairness? Flores pointed to his "humanistic side" (page 46).

Ortiz: The what?

Flores: The humanistic side says --

Ortiz: What does that mean?

Flores: The humanistic side is that we're in a people business, and the people business is important and we -- I care about the livelihoods of the individuals, of children, of adults in our district. This [the firing of McCann] was a painful decision that was made on that day. But even with additional receipts, the question you asked, I would not change; and I'm adamant about that.

But why did Flores bring up his caring, and "humanistic side?"

Because, according to Flores, once the decision was made to fire McCann, it was final. It was cast in stone, and nothing could be said or done to make Flores change his mind.

Just before Flores explained his "humanistic" and caring side (on page 45), Ortiz questioned him.

Ortiz: [...] And let's also assume that he's now produced over 90 percent of these missing receipts. Would that make a difference [in the discipline]?

Flores: No.

Ortiz: Why not? Let's assume that these missing receipts had been misplaced by people other than Mr. McCann and mis-stored and only recently found. Now what reasonable person and/or judge would not at least consider that?

Flores: Because he was given the opportunity to verbalize that [...]

This leads us to question: if the receipts had been misplaced by someone other than McCann, and found after the hearing, how could McCann have verbalized something he did not know about?

But, apparently a line had been drawn in the sand. On page 47, it continues:

Ortiz: [...] And once you wrote that January 30th, '07 letter [firing McCann], you believe even had Mr. McCann produced 100 percent of these missing receipts the very next day, it would have been too late, sir; is that correct?

Flores: Yes. Yes. Unfortunately, yes.

Ortiz: So, in your opinion as you state, unfortunately, after you wrote this letter dated January 30th, 2007, there was not a thing Mr. McCann could do or say that would change your mind that this district ought to fire him nevertheless; is that correct?

Flores: Yes.

So, lets translate: McCann's true guilt or innocence at this point was off the table for consideration. The phrase: "through no fault of his own" mattered not. Once the ratchet of bureaucracy had clicked to the next notch, Flores' decision was final.

Fire him.

What Does Flores Think About Negative Press?

Shortly after Ardis McCann learned he was being terminated, (according to Kip Mendrygal's deposition), McCann received a phone call from officials at Marsh Middle School informing him that another box of his procurement card receipts had been "found in storage."

So McCann, having been fired, went before television cameras announcing that another box of receipts had been found by school officials.

Ortiz asked Flores (page 41): "[...] do you know whether or not Mr. McCann produced additional receipts after December 18, 2006 [...]?"

Flores: No, not specifically.

Ortiz: No, you don't know?

Flores: No, I do not know specifically. I do know that -- and I don't recall who stated that he as -- there was a news or he was on the news and was producing -- and produced some additional -- but I don't know the report. I didn't see the report to -- but the answer to that is no.

So on page 50, Ortiz questions Flores about negative press and its effect on the District:

Ortiz: Are you and/or Hinojosa and/or any other member of this ad hoc superintendent's committee or any member of the board of trustees concerned about the public image of this district with respect to the way the Dallas Morning News and other media will be treating you as it relates to Mr. McCann and these other folks that this district through this committee has proposed to fire?

[...]

Flores: I can' speak for anyone other than myself, but the media -- however the media determines, that's -- that's the media. That's their role. I'm not overly concerned.

So there it is.

The number two administrator in DISD isn't "overly concerned" with how DISD is portrayed in the news media.

It might make one wonder if he speaks for the rest of DISD, Superintendent Hinojosa and the Board of Trustees.

Then There's 2010

DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa set a goal for having the Dallas Independent School District named "the best urban school district in America by 2010."

Hinojosa's "Number Two," Steve Flores, however, doesn't care how DISD is portrayed in the news media, nor does his "humanistic side" appear to be interested in guilt or innocence.

Further, in the words of Attorney Daniel Ortiz, Hinojosa's "Number Two" doesn't "seem to know a lot about the manner in which" a committee closing chapters on a $1 million dollar investigation "went about its business [...]."

The 2007 school year is almost over. We'd be interested in knowing how "Number Two" fits in to Hinojosa's plan.



Links to Sworn Depositions:

You did it again!

Looks like your articles changed the course of action at the DISD. Once again, the DMN came behind you and did some mop-up work after reading your posts. Good work!

Flores Deposition

How is it that a professional like Flores, comes to such a deposition so obviously unprepared?

Let's see if I understand correctly, the decision to terminate McCann was based ONLY on the fact that he had not produced an adequate number of receipts by the due date in December.

It was not, in any way, based on McCann "openly and falsly accusing the district of botching the investigation".

Yet the termination letter signed by Flores states that accusation as one of the reasons for termination? I don't get it.

There is more that troubles me here, but those are the first things that caught my attention.

[Ed Note: Keep reading... there's alot more]

Flores

Oh, I don't think he was ill-prepared. I think he had practiced a long time for this deposition.

[Ed Note: I don't know about that. Personal opinion: he came across as both evasive and un-knowledgeable. Both of these tend to be unfavorable. I think this deposition will probably come back to haunt him (and the District) in the future.]

Flores: Evasive or Clueless?

Have you ever spoken with him?

[Ed Note: I've never spoken with the guy. As I have said: one nice thing about legal battles is that the lawyers do the interviews for you! So we already have him on record thanks to Attorney Daniel Ortiz. I've heard Flores is "a sharp guy" and I've heard "he's clueless." But I'm only reporting on how he came across in his deposition.]