City embraces fired Detroit Public Schools ombudsman

- Carol Banks had two jobs, ombudsman for the Detroit Public Schools and chief of staff for Detroit councilman Scott Benson.

That is, until Problem Solver M.L. Elrick caught her slacking. DPS fired Banks after that report and now the results of the city's investigation has been released.

In Aug. 2015, Elrick confronted Banks about her two positions.

Elrick: "You charge the city for time and you charge the school district for time but you don't give anybody a full day's pay."

Banks: "That's not true, yes I do."

Elrick: "We've looked at your time card and you charge the city and the school district for working on the same day. How is that possible?"

Banks: "I don't charge for the same day."

That was last summer.

"We found that on 12 dates, approximately 33 hours, there were conflicts," said Detroit Inspector General James Heath. "And by conflict, this is what I mean, times that she billed the city of Detroit for working and also was paid by the Detroit Public Schools."

If only it were that simple.  Last year Elrick revealed that while Banks had two taxpayer-funded jobs, she didn't spend much time doing either of them.

Banks came to work late, left early, and ran errands during the day. The report prompted both of her employers to investigate.

"As a result, on Dec. 4 she was released from employment with DPS," said Michelle Zdrodowski, DPS spokesperson.

Three months later, Detroit Inspector General James Heath says he found a dozen double-dips, but ultimately ruled it was all just a mistake.

Even though Banks' time cards show that she billed the city and the school district for the same times, Banks and her boss, City Councilman Scott Benson, persuaded Heath that the school district screwed up.

"We became convinced that she was in fact giving the city of Detroit the benefit of its bargain for the time periods that we paid her for," Heath said.

Heath came to that conclusion after Banks told two stories: First, she said she and the school district may have made mistakes on her time card.

Later, she said only the school district fouled up her time cards.

Heath says he didn't worry who made the mistake; his focus was on whether Banks actually worked for the city when she said she did.

"We did not want to spend much time deciphering who was the true party at fault between Ms. Banks and the district," Heath said. "The question of the conflicting payments from DPS frankly, was a matter for DPS to work out on its own."

FOX 2: "How should Detroiters feel knowing there's a woman working for the city of Detroit who's been found to have cheated the poor children of Detroit Public Schools?

"My major concern was insuring the citizens of the city as well as councilmember Benson and his colleagues that she was working during the time periods that we paid her for," Heath said. "That was our primary concern and I'll let others draw whatever conclusions they want from DPS's actions."

The school district has refused to release the report that resulted in Banks' firing. Banks has threatened to sue the district, but her lawyer just told me she is still weighing her options.

FOX 2 did reach out to Benson for comment, but have not heard back.

FOX 2 also reported that Banks was driving with a suspended license and the state of Michigan says that her license is still suspended and that it expired in 2001.
 


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