By Charles Sercombe
Public School Boardmember Titus Walters will be the first to tell you he has a temper and can be “passionate” about his support of the schools.
And he will also admit to using profanity when going head-to-head with the president of the Hamtramck Federation of Teachers, Bo Karpinsky.
That temper, apparently, lead to an exchange of words that have come back to haunt the district.
According to a complaint filed by Karpinsky with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission in December of 2009, Karpinsky says that in a private meeting with Walters and Superintendent Tom Niczay, Walters lashed out at him.
In the meeting, according to Karpinsky, Walters threatened to have Karpinsky fired: “I’ll have a couple students make up a couple things, say this and that, and you’ll be gone, mother——.”
At the time,Walters was president of the School Board. The confrontation was a follow-up to a labor grievance Karpinsky filed against the district over having the athletic director also serve as a coach.
Unbeknownst to Walters, Karpinsky and Niczay had worked out a deal to allow the athletic director to serve as a coach for the remainder of the season, just before Walters confronted Karpinsky.
Under questioning in a court hearing, Niczay confirmed that Walters threatened to have Karpinsky’s job.
But in a telephone interview with The Review, Walters denies he made the threat.
“I’m not going to ask a kid to say something, come on,” Walters said. “I’m a direct person.”
Walters said he did swear at Karpinsky.
“Did I curse, yes,” Walters said. “It is what it is. Only God judges me.”
Reached by telephone, Karpinsky said he could not comment because he was with students, but did say the findings of his complaint “speak for itself.” He called a short time later to inform The Review about a school district health run to be held on Saturday, and then quickly hung up.
Superintendent Niczay said the school board does not plan to contest the findings. He declined further comment.
Since the complaint was filed, Walters was not reelected by his fellow boardmembers as president. The new president, Elizabeth Zwolak, said the incident is “unfortunate.”
“But we’re not going to fight the legal decision. We’ll just go forward by staying positive,” Zwolak said.
An administrative law judge hearing Karpinsky’s complaint ruled that the school board must promise to not “restrain or coerce” employees in exercising their labor rights, and must ensure they are free to engage in legal union activities.