Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Democrats Want HCDE to Encourage Students to Sit for the Pledge

Harris County is home to the only school board in Texas elected by political party – The Harris County Department of Education (HCDE.) 

At their October meeting, Democrat Trustee Erica Lee-Carter (daughter of Democrat US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee) refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Later in the meeting, Trustee Lee-Carter spoke on the issue requesting that an item be placed on the November agenda for HCDE to vote to affirm the right of all students and staff to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance.




Diane Trautman, the only other Democrat Trustee, stated her “support” for Trustee Lee-Carter in her comments.

Note: You can view the full meeting video here.  Lee-Carter at 54:23; Trautman at 57:20 

But, Texas statute already confirms a parent’s right to excuse his/her child during the Pledge of Allegiance. Every school district has a policy in place for parents to sign a waiver.

Why are these Democrat HCDE Trustees who have served on this board for FIVE YEARS, suddenly interested in sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance? 


Why do they want HCDE to go “on the record” supporting disrespect for our flag and the soldiers who died for it?

HCDE already uses our property taxes to push every liberal federally funded “education” program the Democrats crave, from Head Start to 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Now the Democrats want to use HCDE to train students and staff to protest in support of the liberal Democrat agenda during school hours!

The next HCDE meeting will be Wed., Nov 29, 2017 at 1:00 pm.

If you would like to let the HCDE Trustees know how you feel about elected County School Trustees refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, and encouraging students and teachers to do the same, their contact info is below:


(1) You can leave a message by phone: 713-694-6300
       ...ask to speak to the Board Secretary ...or...  

(2) You can email the Trustees individually:

Democrats


Eric Lee-Carter   elee@hcde-texas.org


Monday, January 30, 2017

HCDE & The Open Meetings Act


Greg Abbott said...

"The Texas Open Meetings Act represents a commitment to the people of Texas that the public’s business will be conducted in the open. It is a legal guarantee of a transparent government..."

 “The provisions of [the Act] are mandatory and are to be liberally construed in favor of open government.”

What is the point of these promises if elected officials aren't really required to follow The Texas Open Meetings Act?

So today I mailed the following letter to the Harris County DA's Public Integrity Division requesting an investigation into possible violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act by HCDE's Board of Trustees on Jan. 26, 2017.

 
Page 1



 
Page 2




The facts:

1. The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) legal services document reads as follows:
How does a school district hire a school attorney?
The board votes. The board, acting as a body corporate, selects and retains the district’s attorney. While the superintendent’s recommendation is valuable, the board is the “client” which ultimately makes this critical decision. 
Discuss in open session. Discussions and deliberations regarding the retention of an attorney, interviews with prospective counsel or discussions of their qualifications, and discussions or negotiations of the contract between the district and its attorney may not be conducted in closed meetings. All such discussions must be conducted in properly posted open meetings. An outside attorney or law firm is an independent contractor; therefore, the personnel exception in the Open Meetings Act does not apply. Of course, if the district is employing an attorney to serve as a member of its staff, then the attorney will be an employee of the district and his or her employment may be discussed in closed session pursuant to the personnel exception. 

2. HCDE currently contracts with the law firm of Rogers, Morris, & Grover, L.L.P. to serve as their board attorney. An attorney from the firm is present at every HCDE Board meeting to provide legal advice because HCDE does not employ a staff attorney.

3. HCDE held its regular monthly board meeting on Jan. 26, 2017. Agenda item 8W would have hired new general counsel for HCDE and changed Rogers, Morris, & Grover's role at HCDE. 
It read:
Consider hiring Chris Carmona as the HCDE’s board attorney and general counsel of HCDE. Rogers, Morris, & Grover, L.L.P. will be treated as “of counsel” and will be utilized at Chris Carmona’s discretion."       
4. HCDE Trustees held all of the discussions on this agenda item in closed session with the attorney from  Rogers, Morris, & Grover, L.L.P, even though the law firm is an independent contractor and a change in the firm’s contract was part of the agenda item.

While Rogers, Morris, & Grover, L.L.P. was behind closed doors with the Trustees, the other attorney being considered for general counsel remained in the public meeting room and was not invited into closed session.

You can view the Board's actions for yourself...

                                    View the video of the full meeting: here

5.  After the closed session, HCDE’s Trustees still held no public discussion of the agenda item. Instead, the agenda item was amended to issue a Request for Qualifications and Rogers, Morris, & Grover, L.L.P.’s  contract with HCDE remained unchanged with all discussions happening behind closed doors.

The Test

Those were the facts. Now for the test. 

Now is when the citizens of Harris County find out if the Texas Open Meetings Act really is "mandatory." 

If it really is a "legal guarantee of a transparent government..."

Or if it's all just more empty political promises. 


Colleen Vera
colleen@TexasTrashTalk.com



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

HCDE...New Year...Old Challenges

While so much of Harris County turned “blue” last November, the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) – the only school board in Texas elected by political party – added two new Republicans. Republicans who ran on conservative platforms.

So, I attended their first “special” board meeting on 1/9/17 with hopes the taxpayers might begin to see some positive change.

For those who could not attend, I made a video of the meeting with my cell phone. You can view it  below. I apologize for the poor sound quality. It seems that HCDE, who markets itself as a leader in technology support, couldn’t get their own microphones to work, so they passed around portable mics – sometimes.



The highlights include some good news and some bad news.

I will start with the good.

#1 . In his first board meeting, George Moore, the Republican representing Precinct 2, proved to be a taxpayer advocate. He made use of his career experience in project management to question such things as HCDE’s 15-20% contingencies in their building costs and cast his votes to end all tax-funded lobbying.

#2. The Board approved two conservatives to the board of their Public Facilities Corporation – the “separate” corporation controlled by HCDE EMPLOYEES which HCDE uses to issue taxpayer backed bond debt WITHOUT ELECTIONS.

#3. The Board terminated ONE 
       tax-funded lobbyist contract - 
       Pat Strong.

#4. After much he-said-she-said bickering, the board approved requiring full plans, including BUDGETS, for both new schools BEFORE spending any more funds. That is a given in most places, but it is a HUGE step forward for HCDE. 

Maybe with enough pressure, HCDE will even let the taxpayers review the full plans and budgets online BEFORE the Board votes to spend the bond debt they got us into without an election…but that will have to be another story.

Now, for the not so good news.

#1 - In his FIRST EVER Board meeting, Eric Dick, the Republican representing Precinct 4, used the Joe Straus method to get himself elected Vice President. The two Democrats quickly motioned to nominate and second the unelected RINO* for President and the newbie Dick for VP. After a 2 ½ minute delay, the Board’s attorney ruled that no substitute motion could be made, and Dick proceeded to vote with Sheila Jackson Lee’s daughter to keep the conservatives from the top 2 Board positions.
*appointed by the previous board to fill Kay Smith’s position after she resigned to run for State Rep

#2 – Later, Dick voted with the Democrats again to keep in place their $10,000 per moth tax-funded lobbying contract with Hill Co.

Positives


Even though this first meeting was disappointing for conservatives, it still was the MOST PRODUCTIVE HCDE meeting EVER for the conservative cause!

#1 – We got rid of ONE totally wasteful lobbying contract saving taxpayers $82,000 per year. May not seem like much considering the $21+ million HCDE collects in property taxes per year, but it is a start.

#2 – For the first time EVER, two conservatives have a voice in PFC - the ”shell” corporation run by HCDE employees which HCDE uses to issue taxpayer backed bond debt WITHOUT ELECTIONS.

#3 – For the first time, taxpayers may have an opportunity to view FULL plans and budgets for HCDE’s building projects without having to file requests for public information. Maybe even online BEFORE a meeting so the public can comment BEFORE the board votes.

#4 – The taxpayers have a new fiscally responsible advocate on the board in Trustee Moore. One who can use his professional experience in project management to rein in  spending lacking adequate planning and detail.

#5 – In this first meeting, Trustee Dick did vote WITH the conservatives MORE times than he voted with the Democrats.

Action Plan

Normally I suggest you contact the two new Trustees with your own comments. 

However, two months after the election, HCDE's website is still showing the names and contact information for their old Trustees. 

 I guess they have been too busy working on their microphones.


Colleen Vera
colleen@TexasTrashTalk.com

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Texas Ethics Commission - Time to Reboot?



The Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) was established in 1992 to ensure
fair, consistent, and tough enforcement of campaign finance, lobby, and other ethics laws.




TEC’s Key objectives are outlined in Chapter 571 of the Texas Government Code:

  1. Control and reduce the cost of elections.
  2. Eliminate opportunities for undue influence over elections and government actions.
  3. Disclose fully information related to expenditures and contributions for elections and for petitioning the government.
  4. Enhance the potential for individual participation in electoral and governmental processes and
  5. Ensure the public’s confidence and trust in the government. 

In 2014 the Legislature increased TEC’s funding in order to roll out a new electronic filing system that was described as an
“intuitive …system that will provide feedback for clearly wrong entries to help reduce filing errors…result in more accurate information for the public. The new electronic filing system will contain comprehensive management tools, including a robust database that will allow the Commission to verify the completeness and accuracy of disclosure information.”
And of course, the new system required new tax-funded staff positions to provide more robust training and enforcement. 

It sounded good at the time. The TEC using advanced technology to keep track of electronic filings by candidates made sense. After all, computers are great at mundane tasks such as making sure reports are filed on time and checking basic math.

But, a closer look…a look at an actual candidate in 2016…shows TEC’s expensive new technology and staff are NOT catching even the most basic noncompliance issues.

Thus, the TEC is NOT ensuring full disclosure of campaign finances.

Example: Judge Elaine Palmer – Harris County 215th Civil District Court 

Elaine Palmer was elected Judge of the Harris Count 215th Civil District Court in 2012.

She is currently running for re-election. She was on the ballot in both the 2016 Democrat Primary and the Democrat Primary Run-off. She won the run-off and is now on the 2016 General Election ballot.

As a current office holder, and a currently opposed candidate, she is required by law to file numerous campaign financial reports by specific dates throughout the year. 

But….

In July of 2015, Judge Palmer did not file her semi-annual report with the TEC.
What did TEC do about it?

     ...ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

In January of 2016, Judge Palmer did not file another semi-annual report with the TEC. What did TEC do about it? 

     ...ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

In February of 2016, Judge Palmer failed to file her “30 days before the Primary Election” report. What did TEC do about it? 

     ...ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

In February of 2016, Judge Palmer failed to file her “8 days before the Primary Election” report. What did TEC do about it?
 

    ...ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

In May of 2016, Judge Palmer failed to file her “Run-off Election” report. What did TEC do about it? 

     ...ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

In July of 2016, Judge Palmer failed to file yet another semi-annual report. What did TEC do about it? 

    ... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

In short – a current office holder and candidate did not report anything about her campaign finances for over a year before the election, during her primary election, or during her primary run-off....

And the TEC, the government agency whose duty is to ensure FULL PUBLIC DISCLOSURE of candidate expenditures and contributions did NOTHING…

     ...ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. 

Judge Palmer’s reporting issues don’t end there.

In September of 2016, six months after the primary election, Judge Palmer finally filed late reports going back to 2015.

That same day she filed a “FINAL REPORT.”


That’s right….a current officeholder…and currently opposed candidate…filed a “FINAL REPORT” ending her campaign reporting right in the middle of the General Election!
“I do not expect any further political contributions or political expenditures in connection with my candidacy. I understand that designating a report as a final report terminates my campaign treasurer appointment. I also understand that I may not accept any campaign contributions or make any campaign expenditures without a campaign treasurer appointment on file.”

According to TEC records, since terminating her campaign treasurer on 5/14/16, Judge Palmer has still not filed a new treasurer appointment ….

and yet…

She has claimed over $26,000 in new campaign contributions, while continuing to list her terminated treasurer on her reports, and not having a current campaign treasurer appointment on file with the TEC.

And that’s still not the end of Judge Palmer’s reporting issues.

Two PACs reported Judge Elaine Palmer Campaign contributions to the TEC that Judge Palmer did NOT report.


The Harris County Democrat Party reported receiving $1,000 from The Elaine Palmer Campaign on August 3, 2016. But Judge Palmer did not report that contribution on her campaign financial report. 


The Texans for Good Leaders PAC reported making the following contributions to the Elaine Palmer Campaign
   $5,000   on   2/18/16
 $10,000   on   2/25/16
   $1,000   on   7/18/16
       
But Judge Palmer did not report receiving these three contributions totaling $16,000 on her campaign reports.

And the math Judge Palmer used in her report covering 2/21/16 thru 5/14/16 doesn’t add up either.


Palmer’s
Campaign
Math
Normal
Voter’s
Math
Starting cash on hand
$     8,233.17
$       8,233.17
Monetary Contributions
   +  9,350.00
     +  9,350.00
Total Expenditures
   - 34,055.00
     - 34,055.00



Ending Cash on Hand
$        964.92
$  (16,471.83)

A discrepancy of over $16,000…yet again…no red flags by the TEC’s new electronic reporting system and expert staff? The ones the Legislature was told wouldallow the Commission to verify the completeness and accuracy of disclosure information?
 

As a taxpayer, I find the lack of public disclosure being allowed by the TEC very disturbing.

In Summary


The TEC has been entrusted to ensure the public’s confidence in our government by ensuring full disclosure by candidates in Texas elections. 

The TEC “self- reported” to the Legislature that the TEC works hard to ensurefair, consistent, and tough enforcement of campaign finance, lobby, and other ethics laws.

The TEC purchased a state of the art technology system that they claimed would "allow the Commission to verify the completeness and accuracy of disclosure information.

Yet, one candidate breaks multiple compliance rules:

  1. Fails to file campaign reports for over a year 
  2. Fails to file any reports during a Primary Election
  3. Fails to file any reports during a Run-off Election
  4. Files a FINAL REPORT during a General Election and then continues to receive campaign donations
  5. Accepts over $26,000 without a current treasurer on file
  6. Fails to report $17,000 in donations reported to the TEC by PACs
  7. Math errors totaling over $16,000

And the TEC does NOTHING….

.......ABSOLUTELY NOTHING…. to inform the voters.


The TEC did not place Judge Palmer on their “delinquent filer list in 2015 or 2016.


The TEC did not have Judge Palmer’s campaign report issues on any meeting agenda during 2015 or 2016…and...

The TEC do not have Judge Palmer on their sworn complaint order list for 2015 or 2016...


...even after I personally filed sworn complaints concerning Judge Palmer's lack of campaign reporting.





So next week, Harris County voters will go to the polls not knowing a very important fact... 

...the fact that a candidate for the 215th District Civil Judge….a position which imposes penalties on others who do not live up to their responsibilities….completely ignores her own legal responsibilities in campaign reporting.

They will not have the facts because the Texas Ethics Commission is incapable of detecting simple, basic violations of campaign finance reporting laws….even with the newest technology and additional staff.

As a taxpayer, it makes no sense to me for Texans to continue funding the TEC. We should cut our losses, admit the TEC is a complete failure, and turn the responsibility of ensuring complete and accurate campaign reporting over to someone who IS capable of doing this important job for Texas.

Preferably a commission elected by the people of Texas. A commission which answers directly to us. So when they don't do their job, we can vote them out of office.

Colleen Vera
colleen@TexasTrashTalk.com

Friday, September 9, 2016

4th Grade Propaganda in Texas


Why should Texas parents read their child’s homework assignments?

Just ask Harris County ESD9 Commissioner, Scott Debour.

His 4th grade son, who attends Moore Elementary in Cy-Fair ISD, brought home this “writing” assignment yesterday.

Simple enough…read a passage and find the errors in capitalization, punctuation, spelling and grammar.

No problem, until his dad read the passage…




…and found “writing” being used to push the liberal animal rights agenda on his 4th grade son.

You can read the full passage here.

Or read just a few lines…and you will get the idea…

  • If you ask me, I believe zoos should close…
  • “Another example of mistreatment at zoos is the chimps…”
  • “Another chimp named Mimi knows over 300 words in sign language. She’s as smart as a 2 year old. So if chimps are kept in zoos, why aren’t toddlers…”
  • “That’s why I believe all zoos are not animal friendly and should be closed down.

Does Cy-Fair ISD really think the Houston Zoo, the closest zoo to Moore Elementary, is a horrible place for animals?

Because most Houstonians would describe it as a wonderful zoo.

Not only are the animals living in natural habitats



…the zoo keepers work hard to keep the animals stimulated. 
Watch the clever way the African lions are fed at the Houston Zoo:

The Houston Zoo also offer a variety of hands-on animal encounters for kids…Animal encounters which could never be matched with just a picture or film.






What can Texas parents do?

First, make an appointment with your child’s teacher to preview the materials which will be used this school year. If you find assignments you feel are inappropriate for you child, request an “alternate assignment.” One in which your child learns the same skills, without the left wing bias.

Second, read the assignments your child brings home. If you still find issues, you can work your way up the chain of command – the school principal, curriculum director, superintendent, school board – but that could take months.

If you want faster results, read the problematic lessons to the school board during public testimony at their monthly meetings. Then send the lessons to your State Representative and State Senator so they have examples of the left wing lessons being taught in Texas public schools.


If you would like to voice your opinion on this anti-zoo lesson to the Cy-Fair ISD leadership, contact information is below:

Board President, Darcy Mingoia: board@cfisd.net
Superintendent, Mark Henry:  mark.henry@cfisd.net
Phone: 281-897-4077


Colleen Vera



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

HCDE Declares War on Texas Taxpayers


Since the video surfaced of HCDE’s superintendent outlining his battle plan AGAINST the taxpayers, Texans deserve to know exactly who declared war on them….



It is the two obsolete county school boards left over from 100 years ago when counties operated Texas public schools:




1. Dallas County School Trusteesdba-DCS,Texserve
2. Harris County School Trusteesdba-HCDE,Choice Partners

All other counties in Texas quit electing County School Trustees after all their students moved to Independent School Districts. 

But these two dinosaurs have refused to close.

They continue to operate and tax under a loophole (TEC 11.301) even after the laws governing county schools were repealed in 1995.

The archaic 1930s county school property tax they still collect is called the “equalization tax.“ It was supposed to be used for the public schools in the county. Instead, they use most of it for themselves.

Why should the average Texan care?


Becasue in recent years, these two have developed a new 
“Texas government business model.”



They use public funds from property taxes, fees and bonds to start-up, purchase, and/or operate business enterprises – 
everything from cloud computing to charter bus services.



They aren’t limiting these business enterprises to their own counties. They are selling “services” across the US




And…

because both are actually leftover “county school districts”…. 
their 3000+ employees qualify for the Texas Teacher Retirement System. 

That means the State taxpayers are responsible for providing their employees LIFETIME benefits, as if they were teachers, even when their work has nothing to do with public education – like storing records for the City of Houston or chartering buses for church trips.



If the Legislature allows these tax exempt subsidized business operations to continue, they will be sanctioning public debt to purchase private companies, and using public funds to supplement government owned businesses.


Government businesses which can put private sector companies out of business, and their private sector employees out of work. 

In other words, taxpayers are at war with subsidized public sector, socialistic businesses that are working to undermine our capitalist system.

If you want to join in the battle, you can contact your Texas State Representative and Senator and let them know you expect them to support a bill to close the two remaining county school boards.

You can find who represents you: here 


Note: 
You can view the Texas Senate Education Committee Hearing held on 8/3/16 when some of their business practices are discussed here. It was a long hearing, but very informative.  (start at 4:28:57)



Colleen Vera
colleen@TexasTrashTalk.com