Termination letter says the district was investigating Liebbe, but Liebbe said he doesn’t know why
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles dismissed DISD investigator Jeremy Liebbe from his position with little explanation of why he was fired.
“At will employees may be dismissed at any time for any reason not prohibited by law or for no reason, as determined by the needs of the district,” Miles wrote in the termination letter. Then he says Liebbe was fired for a specific reason.
But Liebbe still doesn’t know what that reason is.
“You were the recent subject of an investigation,” Miles wrote. “The investigation substantiated allegations that you acted outside the scope of your role as manager of the Professional Standards Office.”
Liebbe said he has no idea how he acted outside the scope of his job description. At the time of his original suspension, he had just passed information to Miles about his own supervisor having served a year on probation and lying about it on her job application. But that sort of investigation is exactly what his job was, not “outside the scope” of his position, he said.
Liebbe had been with DISD since 2004 when he started as a narcotics investigator. He was outed as a gay man during his first few months with the district, which already had a nondiscrimination policy in place, and he said his sexual orientation hadn’t been much of an issue during his 10 years there.
During that time, Liebbe rose through the ranks and became one of DISD’s top investigators. His most recent promotion was to head the Professional Standards Office, the investigative unit of the district’s human resources department.
In June, Liebbe’s investigation into the district’s athletic program led to Miles firing 15 employees — 12 head coaches, assistant coaches and teacher assistants from schools and three from the downtown athletic office — for recruiting violations at Wilmer-Hutchins and James Madison high schools.
The investigation centered on two students who were living in the same apartment in south Dallas, away from their parents, and attending the two separate high schools. In March they got into a fight, and one killed the other.
In his investigation, Liebbe uncovered forged documents that showed these students should not have been going to those schools.
“The only reason they were where they were is because of something our employees did,” Liebbe said.
Dallas police investigated the murder. Liebbe was only involved in the personnel investigation.
In his current position, Liebbe investigated teachers having sex with students. Through his investigations, he also found someone who was threatening to unleash a Newtown-style massacre in a Dallas school on the anniversary of that tragedy, averting a local copycat massacre.
Since 2008, Liebbe has been regarded as DISD’s top investigator, repeatedly receiving evaluations of “exceeds expectations” or “exemplary.” He was never counseled or given any warnings.
But it was his investigation of his supervisor that Liebbe and his attorney Pete Schulte believe led to his termination.
At the time Liebbe was put on administrative leave in July, he was investigating Tonya Sadler Grayson for allegedly lying about her criminal background on her employment application.
She served 12 months’ probation for misdemeanor charges when she was 19.
Grayson claimed she thought her situation didn’t apply to the question on the application.
DISD now claims she properly revealed the 25-year-old misdemeanor and probation, but Liebbe claims she didn’t reveal it until after his investigation.
Whichever it was, Liebbe said he took the information directly to Miles so he could deal with it privately and never intended to make the information public.
Soon after and without being given any details, Liebbe was placed on paid leave.
Dallas Voice obtained a copy of the letter informing Liebbe he was on leave through a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
“The district is hereby placing you on administrative leave with pay. The leave status will not affect your days or your pay. This action does not imply guilt or any wrongdoing by you, nor does it indicate any disciplinary action on the part of the district,” the letter from Miles said.
The letter doesn’t give any reason for placing Liebbe on leave or indicate what might be under investigation or why anyone might imply guilt or wrongdoing on his part.
The termination came immediately after Liebbe sent a complaint to the DISD board of trustees.
In it he denies one rumor.
“The allegation that I secretly installed hidden spy cameras in district offices is absolutely false, defames my integrity, and wrongfully accuses me of criminal violations of federal law,” Liebbe wrote.
He acknowledges his review of Grayson.
“It would appear that the superintendent supports the violations of his top staff — else why do I remain on administrative leave while the chief and executive director remain on the job?” Liebbe wrote in his complaint.
This week, Liebbe said he and his attorney, Peter Schulte, are “researching and exploring options.” DISD spokesman Andre Riley said Grayson “is still an employee in her current capacity,” but would not say if she is under investigation.
Riley said it was unfortunate the matter was so public without being able to comment, because DISD doesn’t comment on personnel issues.
“The review, conducted by outside counsel, found multiple instances of poor behavior and decision-making, and violations of law and the Texas Education Code that warranted the termination of Jeremy Liebbe, who had managed the Professional Standards Office since March of 2014,” Riley said.
With accusations against him unanswered, Liebbe said he’s in limbo. He’s unable to apply for jobs elsewhere.
For the past several years, Liebbe has headed security for the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and Festival in Lee Park and, despite what happened with DISD, he retains his private security license and will perform that job again, this year out of uniform.
“He’s very letter of the law,” Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said.
He said Liebbe screens officers and only uses those who are comfortable being there. Before Liebbe took over managing security, some of the officers at the Dallas Pride celebration were obviously uncomfortable interacting with parade attendees, Doughman said.
“He’s very efficient,” Doughman said. “He brings the very best officers and makes sure they’re completely comfortable with the event.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 12, 2014.