Chairman of the Board

Folks don't know much about school board chairman Solomon Stinson, but they do know this: Don't cross him

"He said, 'Bill is a close, personal friend of mine, and I don't care about what kind of trouble you try to cause for him. He will be here long after many of you are gone. Bill is not going anywhere.'

"I looked around, and everybody looked like they were getting ready for another year of hell," Tarpley says. "I didn't know what [Stinson] was talking about. I was just happy to be there."

Less than a year later, Tarpley understood the underlying meaning of Stinson's admonishments. At the time Stinson warned Clarke's gloomy troops, three women employees at Northwestern had accused Clarke of sexual harassment. Two of those complaints eventually blossomed into lawsuits against Clarke and the school district. After a jury found in favor of one of these plaintiffs, Jacqueline Hazel, the school board voted on February 10, 1998, not to appeal that decision, and to settle a second suit brought by Sonja Renee Miller. The total cost of Clarke's alleged misconduct in taxpayer dollars: $1,035,740. According to Henry Fraind, the district is not planning any disciplinary action against Clarke.

As his address to the Northwestern faculty appeared to indicate to Tarpley, Stinson was aware of the allegations against Clarke. In fact, his lack of a response to those allegations was brought up during Clarke's sexual harassment trial. (The claims were made while Stinson was an administrator.)

Clarke was not the only member of Team Stinson to face multiple allegations of sexual harassment during Stinson's deputy superintendency. Stinson's younger brother Samuel, principal of Brentwood Elementary School, has also faced such charges. Whether Solomon Stinson interceded directly on behalf of either of these men is unclear, but at the very least, he was apprised of the inquiries into their behavior.

In 1993 Barbara Bennett, a part-time teacher's aide and cafeteria monitor at Brentwood, complained to the district's equal employment office that Samuel Stinson had sexually harassed her by calling her at home and asking her out. That office investigated and found her accusations unsubstantiated. In 1994 the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office in Miami also was unable to find a violation of the sexual harassment statute in Bennett's case.

In December 1995 Susan Onori, an assistant principal at Brentwood, lodged another complaint against Samuel Stinson with the district's equal employment office. On the form she wrote, "[Samuel] Stinson would continuously make comments about my clothing, my body, and my breasts. Stinson also inappropriately and without my consent attempted to kiss me and touch my hands and legs.... Mr. Stinson threatened me and told me that unless I showed him my appreciation and/or dated him, he would not give me favorable evaluations."

On February 29, 1996, Magaly C. Abrahante, then executive director of the district's equal employment office, wrote Onori that her staff had investigated these allegations, and that "... this office has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate the complaint you filed."

None of the interviews in this district office's file directly corroborate Onori's allegations and Samuel Stinson denies all claims. But two of the women interviewed for Onori's case told investigators that Samuel Stinson harassed them as well. There is no indication in Samuel Stinson's personnel file that the latter complaints were pursued.

Onori, who now works for the Broward County School District, would not comment on the case, except to note that she could have filed a federal lawsuit but decided against it.

Solomon Stinson, who at the time was both deputy superintendent for school operations and a school board candidate, received a copy of all relevant correspondence in his brother's case. Other than Solomon Stinson's comments in 1997 to the teachers at Northwestern, no one contacted for this story could characterize Stinson's reaction to the allegations against either Clarke or his brother.

Several school district employees, though, maintain that the district's inaction against Clarke and Samuel Stinson is related to Solomon Stinson's influence. Both of those men are widely perceived to be "protected" by the elder Stinson.

The employees also claim that any teacher or lower-echelon administrator who has a problem with a Stinson-protected principal can expect little recourse within the school system. Any workplace grievance related to the teachers' union contract, for example, eventually wends its way to the deputy superintendent for school operations: Eddie Pearson. Pearson was the man caught violating Florida elections law while raising money for Stinson.

"I work for one of Solomon Stinson's sorry-ass principals," growls one teacher who insists that his name be withheld. "He's just no goddamn good, but he's so clearly protected by Sol, it's sickening.

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