Police chief at W-H advised to end inquiry; Security takes priority over finances, DISD trustee Blackburn says

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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The police chief of the Wilmer-Hutchins school district has been told to lay off his investigations into the district’s financial problems unless he informs top administrators first.

“I am advising you to refrain from conducting investigations of this nature without your supervisors’ prior knowledge,” Lew Blackburn wrote in an Aug. 27 letter to Chief Cedric Davis.

Dr. Blackburn is both Wilmer-Hutchins’ executive director of human resources and a Dallas school board member.

Dr. Blackburn said Thursday that the letter was a statement of his frustration that Chief Davis is spending his time investigating the actions of district administrators rather than worrying about campus security.

“If you’re investigating administrators’ work or tasks or investigating management decisions, I have a hard time seeing where the safety and security comes in,” he said.

The letter stems from an incident at Wilmer-Hutchins High School. Dr. Blackburn received a call from an employee that Chief Davis was on campus, accompanied by an unidentified person with a camera.

Dr. Blackburn said he asked Chief Davis who the person was. He said the chief refused to say who the person was or discuss what was being investigated other than to say it involved the school’s roof.

Wilmer-Hutchins High has suffered from roof leaks for years, and a summer storm brought torrents of rain into the school.

The opening of school in the campus’s main building has been delayed for weeks.

In his letter, Dr. Blackburn wrote: “Additionally, I am advising you to refrain from bringing visitors to our campuses for investigative purposes of any nature without prior permission of assistant superintendent Annie Lee or Dr. Superintendent Charles Matthews.”

Dr. Blackburn said Chief Davis responded that district officials would have to talk to the chief’s attorney if they wanted to know whom he brought to the high school.

Chief Davis said Thursday that he was undeterred by Dr. Blackburn’s letter.

“They’re not going to stop me from upholding my duties as a peace officer,” he said.

Chief Davis and the district’s other police officers sued the district earlier this year after the district dissolved the Police Department and fired its employees. He has since been reinstated by a judge. The lawsuit alleges that Chief Davis is a whistle-blower who was fired because he was investigating allegations of district corruption.

The chief testified last week before a Dallas County grand jury looking into charges.

Dr. Matthews said he doesn’t mind Chief Davis investigating an issue without informing him. He said he has a good relationship with Chief Davis and has no problem with the chief not informing him every time he launches an investigation.

“He’ll tell you I’m like a daddy to him,” Dr. Matthews said. “We’re very close. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, he’s going to tell me what he’s doing. But I don’t have a problem if he doesn’t.”

Dr. Blackburn said he has made it clear Chief Davis’ job is not to be a freelance investigator.

“His job is to concern himself with the safety of the students and employees of this district,” he said.

Also Thursday, officials confirmed that the Texas Rangers are conducting a preliminary inquiry to determine if a full-blown investigation of Wilmer-Hutchins’ finances is warranted.

The Dallas County district attorney’s office sought the Rangers’ involvement, said Rachel Horton, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.

“The Texas Rangers are commonly called in where local investigative authorities don’t have the resources to complete the job,” she said.

Lisa Block, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, confirmed the Rangers’ inquiry.

Staff writer Herb Booth contributed to this report.