Jeffrey Hernandez left the Palm Beach County schools on a sour note last summer. The chief academic officer endured a storm of criticism from parents and teachers who hated curriculum changes aimed to raise test scores.
As the district was hurrying him out the door, Hernandez kicked up more controversy by doing consulting work for Tennessee schools while still on the payroll in Palm Beach.
This month, the district hired an outside auditing firm to investigate allegations of misconduct against Hernandez and his boss, Superintendent Art Johnson. Now, just as the investigation begins, a sizable chunk of Hernandez's emails have disappeared from his work computer. They vanished sometime between last September and December, and a district police officer can't figure out what happened to them.
Even stranger: The emails didn't disappear until a parent submitted a public records request to view them last fall.
The police officer began looking into the matter this month, but after interviewing all the employees who had access to Hernandez's account, he still couldn't solve the mystery.
There were plenty of emails on Hernandez's computer, including notes dated between July 2010 and January 2011, but not any from his last six months of employment, January 2010 to June 2010. Yet the district is not treating the disappearance of public records as a crime.
"As of this time I cannot locate any evidence which would suggest that anything inappropriate occurred," the officer wrote in a report about the incident.
"Although there is an obvious absence of email for certain time periods (06/30/2010 and earlier) in Mr. Hernandez' account, this may have simply been Mr. Hernandez, or perhaps someone else, cleaning out his email account since he was no longer an employee."
So a public official deletes potentially controversial records on his way out the door and that's OK?
District spokesman Nat Harrington says he's "not aware" of any further detective work the district has planned into the matter.
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As for the outside auditors who were just hired to investigate Hernandez and Johnson, they can look at whatever they want. Happy hunting.
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