Emails Show Friction Between CMS Staff Over Legal Team Reorganization
CMS released hundreds of emails this week that several media organization requested after former Superintendent Heath Morrison’s abrupt departure. They leave many questions unanswered, but do reveal some friction between Morrison’s top people and the attorney who led the investigation into him.
WFAE’s Lisa Worf joins All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey to discuss.
MR: Tell us about the emails. What do they show?
LW: They certainly don’t explain why Morrison left. But they do highlight one situation where school board attorney George Battle was at odds with Morrison’s administration. In August Battle wanted to re-organize the legal team. The team had an open position. Instead of filling it, Battle suggested using part of the money to give raises to some attorneys. Anyway, Battle thought he had the board’s blessing and that’s all he really needed since he works for the board and not Morrison.
MR: So where did the tension come in?
LW: The head of HR tries to set up a meeting with Battle and the head of the finance department before changing any salaries. Battle did not like that. He wrote an email to the leaders of the school board and includes Morrison on it. Battle said meeting with HR and finance “to get their approval for the reorganization makes as much sense as requiring the superintendent to get approval from the legal department for any of his initiatives.” He went on to say, “Over the last four years, I have wasted countless hours of time fighting teammates just to perform the basic tenets of the job.”
MR: How is this resolved?
LW: The board votes to allow Battle to re-organize the department. And the minutes from that closed session meeting in September show Morrison actually recommending that change. Now, this whole episode did surface in November after Morrison left. Board member Eric Davis mentioned it to reporters. Battle then sent an email to the board accusing Davis of lying and trying to make it look like he had a vendetta against Morrison.
MR: Does this shed any light on the events leading up to Morrison’s departure?
LW: It certainly shows Battle was dealing with his own frustrations with some of Morrison’s top staff when he launched the investigation into the superintendent. That’s one reason board member Eric Davis had a problem with Battle’s report. But Battle also makes clear his frustrations go back before Morrison’s tenure.