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BISD superintendent appoints board trustee's wife to administrative position

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BEAUMONT - The Beaumont Independent School District has been plagued by accusations of nepotism, so much so, that in response to an investigation by the Texas Education Agency, employees had to sign family disclosure forms.

But Monday night, Superintendent Timothy Chargois, Ed.D shocked many when he appointed the wife of a board trustee to a high-ranking position.

He appointed Debra Williams as BISD's interim director of Special Education.

He said she was the right person to lead the embattled department, which was the target of a TEA investigation, however community watchdogs worry that her appointment is the result of nepotism.  That's because the board hires the superintendent, and it's the superintendent who appointed Debra Williams.

But Chargois disagrees.  He told 12News, "As it relates to nepotism, she's currently and was in the district before that relationship began, so I think we're clear on that."

Debra Williams has been an educator for 27 years, the past five at BISD.  She started working at the district in 2009, and she married Terry Williams in 2010.

We contacted the TEA, and spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson told us she was working on getting an answer from the agency's lawyers.

However, we also checked with the TEA conservator who's currently over BISD.

Fred Shafer said, "I don't think that's a concern for TEA in that what Mr. (Terry) Williams will have to do in issues that relate to Special Education come up, he'll have to recuse himself from those decisions."

So we did our own checking of the law, there have been several opinions by the Texas Attorney General, and the most recent says the board can give its hiring authority to the superintendent, and that's what it did in this case, so Trustee Williams appears to be in the clear.

Still, David Bradley, who represents Southeast Texas on the State Board of Education, issued this statement: "One would think, at this point, the BISD board and administration would avoid any whiff of impropriety.  This doesn't pass the smell test."

The BISD board has also been accused of a double standard, because Tom Neild's wife, who's a teacher, has accused the board of denying her promotions because of her husband's position.  Her case is currently in litigation.

Debra Williams does have a family disclosure form on file with the district, but her husband Terry is not listed, because even though he's a board member, he's not considered a BISD employee.
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