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Report: School Head To Plead Guilty

October 7, 1997

DALLAS (AP) _ School Superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez, already under fire amid allegations she harassed an underling, plans to plead guilty to embezzling $16,000, including $9,000 spent on a fancy bedroom set for her apartment, The Dallas Morning News reported today.

In exchange for a guilty plea, which could come as early as today, Ms. Gonzalez won’t be prosecuted on accusations of witness tampering or obstruction of justice, the newspaper said, citing sources it did not identify.

Ms. Gonzalez could not be reached for comment late Monday. Her attorney, Knox Fitzpatrick, wouldn’t comment on the charges or whether a plea bargain was negotiated.

The U.S. attorney’s office wouldn’t confirm the story today. The FBI has been investigating corruption at the school district for several months.

The latest allegations prompted a majority of school board members, including some of her supporters, to say they will accept her resignation.

``I am absolutely prepared to accept it,″ said Jose Plata, a supporter of Ms. Gonzalez. ``I’m offended. I’m deeply hurt. I am disgusted with all of this. We are mired in a web of absolute trash.″

Ms. Gonzalez, who was appointed to the post in January, has been on paid leave since last month, when she tendered her resignation as part of a settlement agreement with the district’s chief financial officer, Matthew Harden Jr.

Harden accused Ms. Gonzalez in a lawsuit of official misconduct and sexually harassing him. Ms. Gonzalez has denied any wrongdoing, saying Harden was getting back at her for investigating mismanagement and corruption in his department.

On Sept. 17, the board voted 6-3 to put her on leave and not accept her resignation for at least 30 days. The vote was along racial lines, with the board’s three black members voting to accept her resignation.

The embezzlement allegation, outlined in documents prepared by federal prosecutors, show she purchased furniture with district money, including a $9,440 set of bedroom furniture delivered to her apartment April 5, the newspaper said.

Last week, FBI agents went to the apartment with a search warrant and seized the bedroom furniture, the paper quoted sources as saying. Affidavits related to the FBI search remain sealed.

The witness-tampering and obstruction accusations stem from a taped telephone conversation between Ms. Gonzalez and her administrative assistant, Freda Jinks. During that call, Ms. Gonzalez reportedly urged Ms. Jinks to deceive federal investigators by creating false evidence about the furniture expenses, according to sources and prosecution documents cited by the newspaper.

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