ENID, Okla. — The Enid Public Schools board of education voted unanimously Thursday to reject an agreement to reinstate former campus police chief Mike Dods onto the district's police force.
The board of education said it rejected the agreement in part to ensure that a public hearing regarding Dods' employment, and the Oklahoma Education Association allegations, would be held.
A public termination hearing had already been scheduled for noon Thursday, but the board instead convened to vote on whether or not to approve the agreement between EPS and the OEA.
"As board members, we have no greater responsibility than protecting the safety of students and staff. This has been a long-time commitment by the board, teachers, staff and administrators of Enid Public Schools. Today, we renew this commitment to our students, their parents, the staff and every person in our community," the board said.
"The board places extreme value on transparency, and we believe it is important to proceed with the hearing process which will allow all parties to provide complete and thorough information to the board and to the public."
This comes after EPS and the OEA released a joint statement Monday claiming the two had "agreed to resolve the present dispute" and that Dods would be once again employed by the district.
"Officer Dods will return to work next Monday to serve EPS middle schools and elementary schools, and administrators and campus police officers will receive training on proper reporting procedures to ensure parents, students, and staff are safe," the release said.
According to the OEA, the teacher's union representing Dods, the former chief was eliminated from his position as punishment for reporting violent student behavior to the Garfield County District Attorney's Office.
The OEA alleges that EPS administrators "obstructed justice" by threatening Dods with termination for reporting violent incidents, a threat which the district eventually carried out.
"Today’s decision by the board means that there will be a due process hearing where both parties will have the opportunity to present evidence and concerns about what has occurred," EPS spokeswoman Amber Fitzgerald said. "Based on today’s decision, the district looks forward to telling its side of the story and correcting the misinformation that has been released publicly."
Heath Merchen, the OEA attorney representing Dods, had called the agreement announced Monday a "great outcome." After hearing of the 7-0 decision against it, Merchen said of the district, "They will pay."
"I will say, that if the board did in fact vote to back out of a settlement they proposed (and a joint press release they drafted through counsel) it would constitute the single most manipulative and corrupt act of individual school board members I have ever seen. If what I'm hearing is accurate, and I'm still sorting through what occurred, it appears both the administration and board are wholly untrustworthy and corrupt," Merchen said.
"Officer Dods, despite being wronged, despite doing the absolute right thing in the face of threats, was willing to bury the hatchet and move forward so he could protect and serve the students and staff of the district. He took them at their word. The arrogance and out and out cruelty of this is inexcusable."
The board was not involved in the process of drafting the settlement agreement or proposing it, Fitzgerald said. Regarding the agreement, the entirety of the board's involvement was only to approve or deny it, she said.
"Frankly I don't trust anything coming out of there at this point," Merchen said, in part.
"It is important to note that at the outset I asked that the board request an OSBI [Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation probe] or have an independent investigator review the matter. I’d specifically asked that the proposal for an investigation be sent to the board, and it was my understanding they (the board) rejected it outright. Hence the board has been fully aware at each stage, according to my understanding, and they have rejected prior offers. If that isn’t the case, then the administration has been misrepresenting things all along," he said.
"If the board had any interest in being objective, this would be an investigation into their administration and not a termination of the only party involved who has done the right thing."