Former Dallas Superintendent Sentenced to 15 Months

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Former Dallas Superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez was sentenced last week to 15 months in prison for illegally buying bedroom and office furniture with district money.

A federal judge also ordered Ms. Gonzalez, who pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of misapplying public funds, to spend two years on supervised release after finishing her prison term. And he told her to repay the $16,279 cost of the furniture.

Rejecting a plea from Ms. Gonzalez's lawyers for a lesser sentence, U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis said she had blatantly abused the trust that had been placed in her.

Yvonne Gonzalez

The resolution of the case does little to rescue the top administration of the 158,000-student system from a morass of accusations and counter-accusations. ("Scandal, Lawsuits Hound a Divided Dallas Board," Oct. 29, 1997.)

While racial and political conflicts have marked the system for years, they took a new and rancorous twist when Ms. Gonzalez began investigating allegations of fraud and abuse soon after her Jan. 1, 1997, appointment to the top job.

Turmoil Continues

The 45-year-old administrator, the district's first Hispanic superintendent, eventually became the target of the probe she had helped launch. Thirteen other district employees have also been convicted as a result of the investigation, all of them in the division headed by the district's chief financial officer, Matthew Harden Jr.

In September, Ms. Gonzalez submitted her resignation amid accusations of defamation and sexual harassment by Mr. Harden, who is black.

The school board, itself embroiled in lawsuits stemming from the Harden-Gonzalez conflict, has apparently made little progress in the search for a new chief. In December, board member Kathleen Leos was forced out of the president's job in favor of Hollis Brashear. Ms. Leos had been a supporter of Ms. Gonzalez, while Mr. Brashear boycotted the vote that appointed her, as did the other black members of the nine-member board.

Ms. Gonzalez and her husband, Chris Lyle, an investigator with the school district, filed for personal bankruptcy in December.

Neither Ms. Gonzalez nor her lawyers could be reached last week for comment.

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