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Published: Thursday, 12/11/2008

Former TPS official faces investigation in Cleveland

BY THOMAS OTT
(CLEVELAND) PLAIN DEALER

The former chief business manager of the Toledo Public Schools, one of the highest ranking officials in the Cleveland school district, and his assistant have been placed on leave pending a probe into the purchase of thousands of dollars in equipment.

Daniel Burns, the district's chief operating officer, and Shenee McCoy-Gibbons were put on paid leave yesterday by Chief Executive Officer Eugene Sanders after state auditors raised questions during a routine annual examination.

The district said the probe centers on equipment worth at least $160,000. Mr. Sanders refused to elaborate on what led to the investigation or the type of equipment or number of pieces involved, saying he can't comment until the probe is over. The sheriff's and state auditor's offices are investigating.

The audit results are expected early next year but may be delayed by the probe, auditor spokesman Emily Frazee said.

Mr. Burns retired from the Toledo Public Schools June 30, 2006, after more 30 years with the district, the last three as chief business manager. He also was in charge of the district's construction program.

When former Toledo Superintendent Sanders took over as chief executive officer of the Cleveland system on July 1, 2006, he appointed four former Toledo Public Schools administrators, Mr. Burns among them.

Mr. Burns, 53, oversees operations that include personnel, transportation, maintenance, and food service.

He also is in charge of a $1.5 billion school construction and renovation program, two-thirds of which is being funded by the state.

Neither Mr. Burns nor Ms. McCoy-Gibbons could be reached to comment. They still will collect annual salaries of $184,597 for him and $63,654 for her.

About a year ago, Mr. Burns spoke of leaving the district after some school board members said he had not kept them informed on details of the construction program. He disagreed with the criticism but stayed on.

Cleveland teachers union President David Quolke praised Mr. Burns for being forthright on labor issues. Joanne DeMarco, who retired this year as president of the union, predicted Mr. Burns would be cleared.

"He's a man of integrity," Ms. DeMarco said. "I'm sure, upon investigation, he will remain a man of integrity."

Blade staff contributed to this report.



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