Former Bellevue administrator fights to regain job

BELLEVUE Sharp words were traded. Tempers flared. Objections were numerous and heated.
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

 

BELLEVUE

Sharp words were traded. Tempers flared. Objections were numerous and heated.

If Day No. 1 was any indication, the mediation hearing of Darrell Hykes, assistant to the superintendent at Bellevue Schools, is going to be a contentious battle.

Hykes, who was placed on unpaid suspension in mid-July, is fighting to keep his job after being accused of creating a sexually hostile workplace and violating the school district's professional code of conduct.

Superintendent William "Bud" Martin is also trying to avoid being fired for similar charges of misconduct.

Martin had a hand in Hykes' hiring -- they worked together at Strongsville Schools. Martin's mediation hearings are scheduled for the last week of the month.

In his opening statement on Thursday, Bellevue Schools attorney Ken Stumphauzer said Hykes viewed himself as "God's gift to women" and acted accordingly -- establishing a pattern of making sexually-charged remarks and behaving inappropriately.

Stumphauzer said Hykes used language at work more fitting for members of street gangs and biker gangs.

He also claimed Hykes shared a sexually suggestive photograph at work and urged female central office employees to form a team to compete in a wet T-shirt contest.

"The atmosphere at central office became so pervasive, so negative, so intimidating that these women took actions to protect themselves to make sure they were never in his presence by themselves," Stumphauzer said. "By way of an example, the staff of the (central office) ... developed a pact whereby none of them would ever be put in a position where they would be left alone with Mr. Hykes."

Female employees regularly picked up their phones and pretended to be on important calls when they heard Hykes walking down the hall toward them, Stumphauzer said.

But Hykes' attorney, Dennis Pergram, said his client has worked as an educator for 35 years and boasts an unblemished record.

Pergram said Hykes was merely the victim of the school administration's desire to get rid of superintendent Martin.

"That was the only mistake Mr. Hykes made -- not recognizing that in a community like Bellevue, when the superintendent is let go, the assistant superintendent has to go with him," Pergram said.

Pergram claimed the remarks and kind of language Hykes is accused of using was common in the central office.

He said the witnesses testifying against his client were offenders themselves -- using explicit words frequently and letting loose sexual statements.

"There will also be testimony (one employee) wore a low-cut top and short skirt and commented in the workplace to Mr. Hykes and others that her husband liked for her to dress sleazy," Pergram said. "The same individual mentioned in a lunchroom meeting with Mr. Hykes and another lady that she was taking hormone treatments and they increased her desire for sex. ... The same individual frequently discussed in the workplace about the boob job she had. ... He wasn't polluting the workplace, the workplace was polluted when he got there."

But one long-time central office employee testified she has never experienced a more "disgusting" and "appalling" work environment than that created by Hykes.

The employee said she was outraged to hear Hykes ask individual members of central office whether they wanted to join a wet T-shirt contest.

"No business professional should think that, say that or portray that kind of image," she said.

The employee and Pergram traded barbs at times during her testimony and cross examination.

He asked questions implying she was a prude, but tolerant of vulgar remarks from other employees. She said Hykes said things no one with sense would say in a professional workplace.