Beaumont Independent School District trustee Mike Neil is responding to a preliminary report released last week as part of the state's investigation into the district.
In the report, the Texas Education Agency found that Neil failed to comply with conflict of interest and disclosure laws and accuses administrator Patricia Lambert of purposefully withholding her family ties to a vendor.
12News previously reported that a preliminary investigative report by the division of financial compliance of the Texas Education Agency has been completed and sent to Superintendent Dr. Timothy Chargois, Ed.D, and school board members.
12News obtained a copy of the report. Here are some of the bullet points.
- The board of trustees failed to monitor the district's finances by insuring that the superintendent or his designee implemented internal controls and procedures to protect the district's resources from fraud waste and abuse. This is in violation of the Texas Education Code.
- The superintendent failed to manage the day-to-day operations of the district by not implementing internal controls and procedures to protect the district's resources from fraud waste and abuse.
- The superintendent failed to manage the day-to-day operations of the district by failing to insure that adequate processes and controls were in place to achieve BISD desired results.
- The superintendent failed to monitor the district's purchasing and procurement processes, procedures and activities.
The school district has 10 days to respond to the preliminary report.
The findings do not address all of the complaints TEA received because investigators were denied the opportunity to speak with key staff members in the administrative offices, because these staff members took leave the day after investigators arrived for an on-site visit and remained absent for the rest of the investigators' stay.
BISD executive management summoned BISD staff members who were to be interviewed by TEA investigators and interrogated them in a manner that prohibited cooperation with investigators.
Financial records that were submitted to TEA investigators were incomplete, past submission deadline and were delivered in a haphazard manner.
A spokesperson for the Beaumont Impendent School District issued the following statement:
The Superintendent of Schools and the Board of Trustees of the Beaumont Independent School District have received the confidential preliminary investigatory report from the Texas Education Agency. Given the nature of the report, members of the Board of Trustees were asked to respect the confidentiality and refrain from releasing, discussing verbally or electronically transmitting any and all aspects of the report. The district is currently reviewing the report and will respond to the agency within ten business days. Upon review of the report and acceptance by the TEA, a final revision will then be issued. At that time, the report will be made public. The Beaumont Independent School District and the Texas Education Agency share the common vision of effective and efficient educational outcomes for all students. We will continue to work diligently towards this goal.
Trustee Mike Neil has responded to Finding #5 regarding a conflict of interest and disclosure laws. 12News obtained this letter from Neil.
This document is in response to TEA Special Accreditation Investigation #2013-06-005. I will specifically address Finding #5 that involves a potential conflict of interest between my role as trustee and me being employed by Tricon, Inc. As the finding states, Tricon, Inc. has the motor fuels contract for the district.
In Finding #5, points "a" and "b" are factually accurate.
Concerning point "c", there are 2 different things to explain:
1. During the beginning of my employment with Tricon, Inc. I was made aware that the company held the fuel contract. Since I did not work in the fuel wholesale part of the business, I did not become immediately aware of the business relationship. I became aware of this around March 2012. Upon becoming aware of the situation, I called Janice Teel, who was the Executive Assistant for board Affairs at the time. She was the person we directed most communications to in the administrative office. I explained the situation to Mrs. Teel and she told me that I did not have to file any conflict of interest report because I was not an owner in the business. Because Mrs. Teel had been in this position for many years, I had no reason to question her answer to me. Based off this answer, I did not file the proper paperwork.
2. It is incorrect that I participated in the vote for the renewal of motor fuels contract. The minutes to the October 18, 2012 meeting are incorrect. The minutes state that I seconded the motion and that I voted against the motion. The video of the meeting shows that Terry Williams seconded the motion and that I abstained from the vote. Here is a link to that meeting:
On the screen behind the board, it lists each of the trustees' names. Our votes are color coded. Green stands for "yes, red for "no" and blue for "abstain". It may be difficult to make out the colors in the video. If you can't make them out, please contact me and I will see if I can get a clearer video. The colors will show that there was not a "no" vote and that I abstained.
Concerning point "d", Calvin Walker filed a complaint with the Beaumont ISD Police Department for the same situation that the TEA listed in this finding. The police department did an investigation during which time they discovered the error in the minutes that I just described. They concluded that I did not vote for the motion or second the motion.
During this investigation, Danny Moore, the detective, made me aware that I had violated state statute by not filing my conflict disclosure statement. This happened around April 20, 2013. I explained that Mrs. Teel advised me that I did not need to, as I explained above. He showed me the statute and told me her advice was incorrect because I earned over 10% of my income from that job. He said that ownership was not the only determining factor. Upon learning this I filed the proper statement with the district on April 26, 2013.
I feel confident that my actions were above board in every way. There is no doubt that the minutes were incorrect. I will be contacting Dr. Chargois to get the minutes revised in order to show the real outcome of the vote. Concerning my lack of filing the disclosure in a timely fashion, I hope you understand that I was relying on the knowledge of the person who we have always been directed to for answers to questions regarding trustee matters."