Designergy describes itself as a graphic design and print media services provider. According to the Beaumont Independent School District's financial records, the vendor has charged the district nearly $340,000 since 2007. All of those funds were used for football programs, banners, instructional booklets and keepsakes for Central Medical Magnet High School. Purchases our in-depth investigation reveals could have cost taxpayers much less.
Brian Collins, founder of Designergy, started his own graphics and print business just one year after his mom became the principal of Central. It's a family tie that's generating controversy.
Designergy's website says, "contact us today." However, finding the business is easier said than done. Its address is a post office box in Pearland, so we went there. The box is inside a UPS store. Brian Collins no longer owns the P.O. box listed on his site.
Although Collins has been in business with Beaumont ISD since 2007, the district's board president Woodrow Reece knows little about Designergy.
"Don't know a whole lot, I didn't know their name per se, until this week," said Reece.
However Reece's signature is on at least two district checks made to Designergy in 2011. One for more than $9,000. The other for just over 20,000.
There is one other address for Collins on those checks. It's for a home in Missouri City, Texas. So we went there too.
"No, he no longer lives here actually," said a person at the home.
No Collins, just his brother-in-law Aaron Ford. Ford told us Collins was married to Ford's sister, but they are now separated. He also said that Collins has not lived at the home for more than three years, although records show that as recently as April, payments were still being sent to the Missouri City address.
We finally reached Collins over the phone. He told us very little, saying he was not an administrator nor employee of BISD and had nothing to do with the district's problems. However he does have a very strong connection with the district. He is the son of Patricia Lambert, BISD's assistant superintendent of secondary schools and former principle of Central Medical Magnet High School.
"Being the son or daughter of an administrator is not illegal for them to do business…" said Reece.
However, the Texas Education Agency requires that a conflict of interest disclosure be filed with the district if the business is paid more than $2,500. Officials have a year to disclose the relationship.
BISD has none on record for Lambert and her son.
All the transactions are for Central High School where Lambert had been principal until her promotion last year. Records show Lambert ordered and signed for thousands of dollars of work from her son, including instructional manuals, some of which have pages with little printing on them.
There are also fancy programs for special events like a mother/daughter tea that includes several photos of Lambert, as well as purchases of cups and wine glasses.
Our investigation took weeks of research, pouring over hundreds of invoices, and submitting dozens of freedom of information requests to the district.
One alarming expenditure we found is that the district spent $32,000 on delivery charges alone for Designergy to bring items from the Houston area to Beaumont when the district could have spent a lot less by shopping in our own backyard.
Our extensive research also involved comparative shopping which showed that BISD was overcharged because Designergy's prices were two or three times higher than other providers in region five.
We've contacted Lambert several times by phone, email and even in person, but she's avoided comment.
However Reece says our findings have alerted the district to other possible conflicts of interest.
"There are eight other folks of $50,000 or more that they're receiving for products and services that we're paying them," said Reece.
Despite all the red flags, Designergy was still doing business for BISD this school year.
One of its most recent projects is Central High's football program that was being handed out at last week's game. But Reece says based on the questions we've raised, he's talked to Superintendent Dr. Timothy Chargois.
"I can almost guarantee you from this day forward that he's discovered it…that his administrators will not be getting family members contracts or things of that nature," said Reece.
12News asked if the contract with Designergy would end.
"If it hasn't already," said Reece.
Superintendent Chargois sent a response to our investigation.
He said he was aware of the relationship we've reported on, and that the district is committed to financial transparency and to compliance with state regulations governing business with relatives.
He also said BISD has begun implementing the 85 recommendations from the legislative budget board which criticized the district for lack of financial accountability.
BISD also has a copy shop that Reece himself says produces printed materials similar to what Designergy makes. We wanted to get video of it, but BISD would not allow us in.
As to where Brian Collins was doing his printing, we don't know, since his two business addresses were P.O. boxes.