DPS probes ombudsman over work for district, councilman

The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit Public Schools has launched an internal investigation into allegations of misconduct involving the district’s ombudsman, Carol Banks.

Banks, a former member of the Detroit Board of Education, was appointed in 2014 as the district’s first-ever ombudsman.

She’s also a paid employee at City Hall, working as the chief of staff to District 3 City Councilman Scott Benson.

DPS officials on Thursday said the investigation was spurred by a Fox 2 News report that questioned how many hours Banks truly puts in between her part-time work in Benson’s office and full-time role with the school district.

The news report scrutinized Banks’ time cards from both the city and district, claiming she was billing for hours not worked. The segment, which aired late Wednesday, also featured a Fox 2 News reporter tracking Banks’ whereabouts for several days in June.

“DPS takes all allegations of employee misconduct very seriously,” DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski wrote in an email to The News. “The matter has been referred to Human Resources/Employee Relations and they will conduct a thorough investigation.”

Banks could not be immediately reached Thursday for comment. In a separate call placed to Benson’s office, staff indicated the chief of staff was in during the evening hours.

Banks denied the allegations involving her work hours during a confrontation with a Fox 2 reporter.

Under her $60,000 annual contract with DPS, Banks serves as the district’s ombudsman/Title 1 parent engagement coordinator. Banks will continue to work while the investigation is conducted, Zdrodowski said.

In June, Detroit’s City Council approved a $33-an-hour contract for Banks that runs from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016. The 10-hour per week contract is for $19,800.

Benson, in a written statement shared with The Detroit News, conveyed his support for Banks and her “integrity, work ethic and dedication” to students and constituents.

He said Banks has been “transparent” with DPS superiors regarding her part-time commitment to his office, and called the report “distasteful.”