DMN Story on Liebbe Report Confuses Me, Mainly Because It’s Wrong

Because the report clearly shows an investigator was fired for good cause

Did you read … did I miss … wait, didn’t the report say … ?

I’ve spent the better part or this morning trying to make sense of this story, the one in which the DMN tries to argue that a DISD report does not “clearly” show that Jeremy Liebbe, recently placed on leave then fired as a DISD investigator, violated school policy and state law.

Please read the report in its entirety. My takeaway, as you might suspect, greatly differs from this (the first blog post on the subject) and this (the story for the news site/newspaper itself). And, for what it’s worth, it differs from the analysis DISD insiders got from its own lawyers, with whom they double-checked today, because they too made the Britney Spears confused face when they read these stories.

My takeaway is that this characterization of the report is clearly wrong. The report explicitly quotes board policy, which is itself a policy derived from state law: “A District employee must obtain the written consent of a child’s parent before the employee may make or authorize the making of a videotape of a child.” The report goes on to say: “There is no indication in the reports that the written consent of the parents or guardians of the students was either sought or obtained, prior to the recording.” As well, the portion of the report that shows how “someone” illegally accessed Liebbe’s computer records TWO HOURS AFTER he was placed on administrative leave and WIPED THEM CLEAN is “clearly” obstruction of justice. I mean, that noise is illegal, isn’t it District Attorney Watkins? Am I crazy? I mean, of course I am, but am I crazy about this?

Because, according to the DMN blog headline: “Report on fired Dallas ISD investigator Jeremy Liebbe does not find he violated laws or policies.” That’s bananas. This isn’t a question of interpretation. That’s just wrong. That’s just pushing a narrative you’ve been pushing for weeks. That facts prove otherwise. In what other universe, except when it’s dealing with the piñata that is DISD, would the paper allow itself to question the conclusion of an independent report, and then allow a point-by-point rebuttal from the person that the independent investigation proved broke policy and law? Show me. I’ll wait.

Fun fact: In the second iteration of these stories (the article for the news site), note the more cautious headline, and the addition that the report does not “clearly” state that Liebbe violated DISD policy or state law. Well, okay, sure. I guess if by “clearly” you mean “there is no YouTube video attached of Liebbe violating the law in real time.” If any normal person reads this, though, the takeaway is that Liebbe “clearly” violated school policy and state law. More to the point: It shows someone willing to justify whatever actions he took, in any instance. It shows a rogue employee.

From the Executive Summary:

Through the interview of witnesses (including Liebbe) and forensic computer analysis, and review of PSO Case Reports, the investigation found conclusive evidence that Liebbe engaged in the first six activities that were the subject of the investigation, and that his team engaged in the seventh activity that was investigated.

I don’t know how much more clearly you need.

Where are the experts saying this report does not show Liebbe violated policy and law? Perhaps Peter Schulte, his first lawyer, a highly respected defense attorney who has spent 20 years as a Texas Peace Officer, prosecuting attorney, and now defense attorney, will suggest the report exonerates Liebbe. Oh, wait! Schulte is no longer lead counsel. (Schulte says he is still part of the defense team, but that Liebbe’s father is a civil-practitioner expert and took over the case on Friday before the report was turned over to the Liebbe team. UPDATE: See end of post for response.)

I’m also amused that they put in there that Liebbe’s father-attorney says he doesn’t want this to go to trial if they can work out an arrangement with DISD.

OF COURSE HE DOESN’T! Because this report is damning!

You could argue, as Liebbe’s father-attorney does, that his son had reasons to take each action. Reasonable people could disagree if this is true. But the report concludes the actions were clearly taken, and such actions violate school policy and state law. (I’ve asked Jeremy Liebbe, his father-attorney Bill, and Peter Schulte to respond to this characterization. I’ll update when/if they do so.)

Ignore the legal question of would this report hold up in civil court as proving policy and law violations. (I have no idea; DISD lawyers think so, but I’m sure Liebbe’s father-attorney does not.) Ask yourself if this was the conduct of someone whom you would want working for your company. Only those of us who believe Jason Bourne fantasies think that investigators routinely ignore their bosses, ask others to pull files that you haven’t been authorized to pull (and if you were, why wouldn’t you do so from your own computer?), install cameras without permission, log in once suspended and wipe clean the contents of your computer, and conduct interviews with children without first gathering permission from parents, as the law stipulates you must in all but the most severe of circumstances.

Only someone who reads this report in the most charitable light possible — which you would only do if you were that person’s father-attorney, or someone protecting a valuable source who regularly leaked information — would suggest this report exonerates Liebbe.

If you want, you can ignore my theories that I’ve presented here, or my suggestion that this entire Liebbe episode is an outgrowth of Bernadette Nutall’s fury with an HR department that wouldn’t protect her favored-nation employees. I’ll go down that rabbit hole by myself, no problem. Just read the report, though. You’ll see a picture painted of a rogue employee, someone who believed his status as an investigator meant he didn’t have to follow policy, the law, or his supervisors’ wishes. Clearly.

UPDATE: Father-attorney Bill Liebbe’s response, in part:

“You are beginning to annoy me. I again urge you to consult a lawyer before you publish any defamatory statements to the effect that Jeremy violated any law or policy. Jeremy’s laptop computer contains sensitive and confidential information. Jeremy installed a security protocol on his computer so that in the event his laptop was stolen, hacked or otherwise compromised the security protocol would be automatically activated and delete from the computer sensitive and confidential information. To this end, he installed remote access and file wiping software. Only documents that were contained on his laptop were deleted. Copies of all of those documents remained on the District servers. There was no attempt to cover up the security protocol or the deletion.”

He also provided district policy that says investigators can record students, so long as they are part of an official investigation. Which is his legal argument, which I’m sure he will advance in court if it gets that far. But the report does not conclude this — again, the court may agree with him, if it gets that far — but my point that the REPORT ITSELF concludes he violated policy and law. If the report is wrong, fine, but if this were, for example, a report about policy infractions made by Mike Miles, the paper would dutifully report those findings, no matter the context.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Schutze read the report the same way I did.

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