Aspen schools superintendent: Probe into HR director to conclude in two weeks | AspenTimes.com

Aspen schools superintendent: Probe into HR director to conclude in two weeks

Members of the Aspen Parents Action Committee contend the school district bungled its hiring of the current human resources director because of her background that included a disbarment and criminal conviction.

The hiring of Elizabeth Hodges, and Superintendent Dr. John Maloy and Board of Education President Sheila Wills' defense of her have inspired the group to mount a full-court press — which includes a petition to have Maloy ousted from his role — on the Aspen School District. The parents said issues with the district's leadership had been simmering, but the Hodges' matter motivated them to mobilize.

"For me, the tipping point was when John Maloy and Sheila Wills gave their full-throated support to Elizabeth Hodges, despite her conviction, disbarment and ongoing probation," said Bettina Slusar at the parent group's first public meeting, which was held Tuesday at the Pitkin County Library.

Parent Esther Navias remarked that "teachers are very nervous of who's head of their human resources. That person has access to their personal numbers and information, and that is not the person that applied for the job."

Hodges said Friday she has not heard directly from any district staff about their issues with her.

"First, although there may be a segment of our employees who have this concern, I can report that not a single employee has raised this concern with me and, at bes,t a handful of employees have raised this concern with the (Aspen Education Association)," she said in an email.

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Parents' concerns about her having access to confidential employee information lack basis, she suggested.

Hodges said "there is rarely a time that I need to access current employees' private information. If there would be a concern, the administrative assistant would access the employee's information."

Hodges maintains she is the victim of a smear campaign by heirs to a deceased couple she represented in Missouri while she was a lawyer. She also has said she did not fight the disbarment because she didn't have the time nor money, and opted for a career change in the field of human resources. However, she said she is taking measures to have her law license reinstated.

"My only concern every single day is taking care of the staff in the district," Hodges said. "I am constantly worried about how we can make their lives better and/or easier. I am there every day to support them.

"I think that the paper and this new group has sold our teachers short. They are an amazing group of professionals who work every day to make the lives of the children in our community better. If they ever need anything, I am, as are all of the administrators, always available to help and support in any way we can."

In July, both The Aspen Times and the Aspen School District received anonymous mail regarding Hodges' disbarment in Missouri in April.

Maloy and Wills said they were unaware of the disbarment as well as a Missouri grand jury's felony indictment of Hodges. That indictment was issued under seal in February 2016; Hodges was served with it May 31, 2016, and pleaded guilty to deceptive business practices in December 2016. She currently is on unsupervised probation through December.

The conviction is related to her selling of a deceased couple's Kia Soul to a dealership without reporting proceeds of the sale in their probate case. As an attorney, Hodges helped the couple with their estate planning. The disbarment also is related to her work for the couple.

Hodges' first day as the district's human resources director was July 1, 2016; she accepted the job before she was served with the indictment and began her job after she was served with the indictment.

In the meantime, the school district launched a second background check into Hodges after learning of her transgressions. That investigation is ongoing, Maloy said.

Maloy and Wills have endorsed Hodges' performance as the district's HR director, and have expressed that her background does not have a bearing on her current job. They also said she wasn't hired as an attorney and she doesn't perform legal work for the district.

Hodges' salary for the 2018-19 school year is $132,345. Her starting salary was $120,000; her 19-year predecessor's outgoing salary was $111,600, according to the school district.

Maloy said Hodges' background as an attorney did not weigh into her salary determination.

"Ms. Hodges' legal background was not a factor in her school district salary as it was not relevant to the position for which she was being hired," Maloy said in an email that was in reply to questions from The Aspen Times. "Some of the key factors that were considered in Ms. Hodges' recommendation for hire by the district interview team were her educational level, ability to problem-solve, human resources experience, and interpersonal and writing skills."

Maloy said he has addressed members of the Aspen Education Association, the district's representative arm of certified teachers and staff, about Hodges.

"I regularly meet with the Aspen Education Association's executive officers and they are aware that the District is the process of gathering additional information related to Ms. Hodges," Maloy said. "I've sought feedback from AEA regarding teachers' concerns and feelings. The district will provide additional information regarding Ms. Hodges as it becomes available. We hope to finalize our internal review of this matter in the next couple of weeks."

rcarroll@aspentimes.com