By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Nash spent the next four years with the Association of California School Administrators, where he advised principals and assistant principals on their right to due process. According to several former colleagues, by the time Nash landed the job as superintendent in Inglewood, he had grown bitter about his career lapse and determined to maintain control of his new position.
"He's just caught up in power," said one former school administrator who twice worked under Nash. "He's dictatorial. He surrounds himself with people who are beholden to him. He's very conniving. He's very vindictive.''
When Nash managed to regain the helm in Inglewood for a second time, his critics say, he began exacting vengeance throughout the district. In his first month back on the job, Nash proposed a sudden district re-organization. Within a month, many administrators and employees aligned with his enemies on the old school board found themselves demoted, transferred or out of a job. To expedite the reassignments, Nash recommended the board abolish the Inglewood Management Agreement, a 16-year-old policy that required the superintendent to justify all reassignments and transfers.
Hollis Dillon, director of the district's Special Services Department, a well-respected program that served the district's most at-risk students, was among the casualties of Nash's reorganization. As Dillon recounted in court papers, Nash phoned Dillon's office the day before Thanksgiving in 1996. Candidates for Inglewood's school board had just announced their intentions, and the superintendent suggested Dillon support board member Thomasina Reed, a Nash stalwart, in her bid for re-election. Dillon has said he told Nash he would not vote for Reed. "He said, 'C'mon Dillon, Miss Reed is the best educated, and she's a real good friend of mine,'" Dillon said in an interview. "'I tell you she's going to win. You ought to support her, and if you don't support her, you are going to be sorry.'"
Dillon said he hung up the phone and turned to two nearby colleagues. "I went into this whole tirade about when I marched in Selma and how this son of a bitch wasn't there," Dillon said. "I said, 'You can't just tell me who I'm going to vote for.'"
Four months later, Dillon arrived at work to find his office computer missing. Assuming it had been stolen, Dillon filed a police report. A few days later, Nash, accompanied by two other administrators and district counsel Asa Reeves, walked into Dillon's office, where his staff was gathered for a meeting. "Nash said, 'Mr. Dillon, I want you out of here. I'm placing you on administrative leave,'" Dillon recalled.
Confused by the superintendent's order, Dillon asked Nash for an explanation. "He said, 'You've been doing politics on the job,'" Dillon said.
Dillon later learned police had confiscated the computer after Nash and Inglewood Police Detective Harvey - the same officer who raided Marshall Abbage's home - searched his computer files. The nighttime office search prompted outrage on the part of two school-board members, who wrote to him objecting to "the appearance of intimidation and Gestapo-like tactics."
Nash responded by contending that he and Harvey had acted on a tip accusing Dillon of embezzling district funds. They found no such evidence. But Harvey did allegedly find writings supporting anti-Nash candidates in the upcoming school-board elections. Harvey contends they included a political flyer and memos. Dillon claims it was a personal log he had written after school board meetings. A precinct calling list was found inside Dillon's briefcase.
"Well, you might say that's not in good taste, but the Constitution of the United States allows me my First Amendment rights to say whatever the hell I want to say," said Dillon. Seven months later, Nash disbanded Dillon's department and demoted him to a teaching position. Dillon, along with four other former Special Services employees, is suing the district for violation of due process and political retaliation.
In yet another case, a district staffer was accused of a crime for which another district employee was later convicted. The target of this accusation was Kermet Dixson, a 23-year district employee and assistant superintendent of business services who was known as a stickler for the rules - some employees describe her as "coldly efficient."
That's why Dixson was so shaken in January 1996 when Nash publicly, and falsely, portrayed her as an embezzler. Nash insinuated at a school-board meeting that Dixson had been involved in a phony payroll scheme that had cost the school district $430,000. Three months later, Nash recommended Dixson be demoted to teacher, with a $39,500 cut in her annual salary. No one offered Dixson an explanation: "The police never spoke to me about it," she said. "Dr. Nash never spoke to me about it. I think he needed someone to pin it on."
To this day, Inglewood police have never questioned Dixson about the embezzlement. Custodian supervisor Andrew Truesdale was ultimately convicted of the crime of putting as many as 55 phantom employees on the district payroll. Truesdale is now serving a five-year prison sentence for the embezzlement. Police say they still expect to arrest more suspects in the case. Last November, on Nash's behalf, the district agreed to settle a federal lawsuit brought by Dixson claiming the superintendent's comments had defamed her reputation. The settlement amount was not disclosed, but Dixson is now pressing a separate civil suit claiming sex discrimination and wrongful demotion.
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