KFDM Investigates: BISD audit


    BISD

    KFDM is uncovering key details in the massive Beaumont school district audit. It focused on the $389 million bond issue voters approved in 2007 to build new schools and a stadium.

    The audit, released a short time ago, uncovered more mismanagement of the bond money.

    It definitely shows taxpayer dollars were misused and recommends possible criminal prosecution.

    However, months after its release, no action has been taken.

    Former BISD superintendent Dr. Carrol Thomas played a big role in the $389 million bond issue, but according to a forensic audit that looked into how that money was spent, Thomas didn't cooperate with the investigation based on advice from his lawyer.

    The auditors say that former assistant superintendent Willis Mackey, who had agreed to talk to them, did not keep his promise.

    The audit found the bond money was not accurately accounted for, with more than $17 million in misclassified accounting entries. Much of it, $14 million, was mis-coded under the supervision of Devon McCraney and Sharika Allison, two of the district's chief financial officers who are now in federal prison.

    The total amount of bond funds, including interest, more than $391 million. The money was deposited in seven accounts but bond-related expenditures were not paid from those accounts. Instead, they were co-mingled into the district's general fund.

    The audit determined that all but $7.9 million were spent on approved bond projects. Almost $309,000 of that amount was used to pay Gayle Botley, the original auditor hired by the board of trustees before the state removed them. The forensic audit concluded Botley's fees were not an approved use of bond program funds.

    Weaver, the company that did the forensic audit, referred six matters arising from its investigation to federal and state prosecutors for possible prosecution.

    A spokesperson with the U.S. Attorney's Office told us the forensic audit didn't offer any new information, that the feds had already reviewed those findings, and there was no new information that would warrant prosecution.

    While Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham says "it's still under investigation. The assistant D.A. who'd been in charge of overseeing the investigation died sadly of a heart attack last weekend. At this point, I'm not ready to comment on whether there was any suspected criminal actions by anyone."

    Parsons was hired to act as manager for the bond program. The forensic audit finds the company obtained the contract under suspicious circumstances, indicating improper communications between Parsons and the district.

    Legal counsel for Parsons blocked access to former and current employees, so Weaver couldn't question them about the awarding of the contract.

    According to former assistant superintendent Terry Ingram, he said the man in charge of the Parsons team was not qualified and had no experience building schools, just prisons.

    The most controversial aspect of the bond program was the local and minority-owned businesses initiative requiring general contractors to partner with minority-owned businesses.

    The audit revealed that this resulted in a number of minority-owned businesses participating in bond projects who were little more than window dressing...

    The audit states they provided little or no actual construction services but rather hired non-minority sub-contractors to do the actual work or did work that was unnecessary.

    The forensic audit also focuses on the Carrol Thomas Center, which houses the stadium, as one example of how Dr. Thomas and other administrators concealed price changes. The stadium came in millions of dollar over the amount the school board approved.

    Tuesday at 9 and 10 Greg Kerr investigates key findings about the building of the Carrol A. "Butch" Thomas multi-purpose facility and the overspending of millions of dollars.


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