DETROIT - When you have a problem with the Detroit Public Schools, you call Carol Banks. She's the ombudsman. But she's also the Chief of Staff for Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson. He's the one to call when there's a concern with the city.
That's right, Detroit taxpayers is giving Banks two paychecks - but is she working twice as hard?
In 2009, Banks was elected to the Detroit school board. This past June, she resigned from the school board after helping Benson win Detroit's Third District. He hired her in January to be Chief of Staff, a part-time gig making $30 an hour. In February, Detroit Public Schools named Banks the first-ever ombudsman. That salary pays a bit more: $60,000 per year.
When M.L. learned she was pulling double duty, he wanted to see if she was the hardest working woman in Detroit or hardly working. Her response? She says she works 8:30 to 4:30 every day.
So he checked on her for one week in June. It was a Monday and she got up early but didn't go to work. She got coffee, stopped at IHOP, and only arrived at work at 10:30. Only to leave at 2:30, stop at Mr. Fish for food, and back home by 3:30.
On Tuesday, she pulled in to work at 9 a.m. but left at 2 p.m.!
Wednesday, she got out a bit later and pulled in to work a bit after 10. Only to leave 2 1/2 hours later and head home.
She took Thursday off to attend a funeral.
By Friday, she got to work before 9:00 but left almost immediately after pulling in. She topped at the bank and got back to work at 10:15 only to leave before 3 p.m. for the weekend.
She claims she put in a full eight hours each day, except for Thursday when she took a paid sick day. She denied the claims that she was leaving early.
So whose time is she on? Is she charging both the city AND the school district for working on the same day?
"I don't charge for the same day. I do not charge for the same day," Banks said that question.
She said her time cards would prove it. So we pulled her time card and planned to show them to her but she didn't stick around.
You can see, however, that Banks charged both the city and school district for her time on six different days in June. On three of those days she billed the city and the school district for some of the same hours.
For example, her DPS Time card for first 2 weeks of June and her DPS Time card for last 2 weeks of June.
This is her full CITY time card.
"We appreciate the fact that you called this to our attention," Zdrodowski said. "We have, in fact, turned this over to our human resources department and they have initiated an investigation."What about her other boss? Scott Benson praised Banks for her "integrity, worth ethic and dedication to the students and constituents she serves." To read that CLICK HERE. Benson says her efforts "should really be honored and celebrated."
"She's a very valuable person," Benson said. "There were some mistakes on DPS' side as far as how the time sheets were recorded. Her city time cards are correct."
But that doesn't add up. Banks is supposed to work for the school district during the day (between the hours of 8:30 and 4:30. If Banks is telling the truth and really works for the school district during the day, and if Benson is telling the truth that her city time cards are correct, it appears Banks double-dipped on at least two days in June.Former Benson staff members said Banks also attended Benson's staff meetings, which are held during the day on Fridays, when Banks is supposed to be working for the public schools.
Unlike most chiefs of staff - who typically seem like their boss' conjoined twin - Banks is rarely seen in city hall. So what's she doing?"She's out in the field on a regular basis, she's helping with organizing," Benson said.
Who are these people she works with?"She's more behind the scenes, and so you can talk to me. I'm her direct supervisor. I'm her direct report," Benson said. "She speaks with me on a regular basis. She's my direct report."
Whatever Banks does, he must appreciate it; he recently gave her a 10 percent raise, increasing her pay rate to $33 an hour.Public school officials have said Banks is an effective public official. Our investigation raised questions about that, too. She pledges to "take all questions and concerns seriously" and boasts of a commitment "to finding an appropriate solution as quickly as possible". So an investigative producer and I contacted her separately for help.