DODEA director accused of abusing authority
WASHINGTON — A federal teachers union is demanding a full investigation into allegations that the director of the Defense Department’s worldwide network of schools for military dependents routinely abused her office by steering jobs to relatives and friends, arranging retreats at luxury spas and resorts and misusing a government credit card.
Those and other allegations against Shirley Miles, the director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, are contained in hundreds of pages of documents and e-mails submitted last month to the department’s Inspector General by a longtime DODEA employee and former assistant to Miles.
“These allegations are very troubling and, if true, indicate serious problems in the management of DODEA,” said Michael Priser, president of the Federal Education Association, which represents nearly 8,000 teachers working in DOD classrooms around the world. “FEA calls upon the Inspector General to investigate these allegations thoroughly.”
Officials in the Inspector General’s office declined to comment on the allegations against Miles, submitted by Belinda Croteau, a 24-year federal employee who served as an administrative assistant to Miles from July 2008 to July 2009. However, a DOD official said on condition of anonymity that the office was looking into the complaints.
A spokeswoman for Miles, Elaine Kanellis, referred questions about Croteau’s allegations to the Inspector General’s office. Kanellis said Miles would have no comment on the allegations.
Documents, e-mails and correspondence that Croteau forwarded to the Inspector General — and which were reviewed by Stars and Stripes — allege that, among other things, Miles:
Directed that DODEA officials hire her daughter-in-law as a teacher, bypassing veterans and other qualified candidates and violating merit principles;Improperly hired friends for several high-level area superintendent positions, concealing her personal connections to the candidates during the interview and selection process;Misused a government credit card to purchase a computer which she subsequently refused to use because she did not like its red color;Ordered subordinates to purchase more expensive, upgradeable airline tickets for her travel because “I believe because we travel so much that we have the right to be comfortable when we fly;” andArranged staff conferences at luxury spa resorts when free government facilities were available.Moreover, Croteau alleged, Miles frequently harassed DODEA staff members she disliked and directed that staff e-mail accounts be searched for evidence of leaks.
“I saw how she malevolently attacks good people for no good reason and harasses them to the point that they retire or quit,” Croteau said in an interview.
Croteau, who now works at the Defense Human Resource Activity, said she is not a disgruntled former DODEA employee. Instead, she said, she left her position as Miles’ assistant after Miles allegedly directed that her daughter-in-law be hired for a teaching position ahead of more qualified military veterans.
“When I saw these happenings, I really couldn’t stay any longer,” she said.
Miles has been DODEA director since June 2008. Prior to coming to DODEA, she was superintendent of the Tempe Union High School District in Arizona.
In e-mails, Miles repeatedly asked DODEA officials if they have found a job for Stephanie Ermel, now her daughter-in-law and a kindergarten teacher at Kadena Elementary School in Okinawa.
“Anything for Stephanie yet?” she wrote in an April 26 e-mail. “My son is bugging me, they want to get married in July!!!”
In other e-mails, Miles corresponded with Paul Dellacroce about his application for an area superintendent position in Europe.
The two refer to each other as “city girl” and “country boy,” even though Miles claimed to have no connections with him, according to the minutes of a DODEA meeting last June. After Dellacroce was hired, Croteau said, Miles acknowledged that they had, in fact, known each other for years and got their teaching certificates together.
In her complaint, Croteau also alleges that Miles has had three laptops purchased for her using government money in the brief time she’s been in the position.
“She didn’t like the shade of red of the first computer so a second computer was procured for her which she also didn’t like — she now uses a regular silver laptop,” Croteau wrote.
Croteau also gave information to the Inspector General’s Office showing that Miles demanded that she be booked on flights that exceeded the rate permitted by the government on several trips.
In one instance, Croteau said, Miles and a colleague pressured her to book them flights to Bahrain via Dubai — an unauthorized route — because they intended to vacation in Dubai. That would have cost about $6,000, but Miles eventually went through Frankfurt, costing about $2,300, after the original plan came under scrutiny by Kevin Kelly, DODEA’s associate director for financial and business operations.
Miles is also accused of scheduling DODEA conferences in luxury resort locations, despite having free access to a government conference facility in Georgia. DODEA held a conference in April at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort near Tempe, Ariz., just months after AIG executives came under fire for holding a retreat at the same resort during the height of the government financial bailout.
Said Priser, the FEA president: “If Dr. Miles ordered a conference at the Squaw Peak Resort using appropriated funds, and AIG’s stay at the same spa resort resulted in calls for the AIG head to step down for wasting taxpayer money, this would raise significant questions about Dr. Miles’ judgment and sensitivity to prudent use of appropriated funds.”