Friday, October 5, 2012

For Sale: CFISD School Board Seats

Many in Cy-Fair ISD moved to the area for the schools.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                      A conservative community outside the hustle and bustle of big city Houston, CFISD offers all the benefits of city life with the small town atmosphere the suburbs provide

cfisd pac story

Parents are willing to fight the traffic to drive into Houston for work so their children can attend schools where they think the parents, not unions or corrupted officials, are still in control.

Unfortunately,  now that CFISD has grown to be the third largest school district in Texas, some of the problems seen in Dallas ISD and Houston ISD have found their way in.

Parental control has taken a back seat to big money. School Board elections now are controlled by district administrators, vendors, and financial stakeholders.

How did it happen? 

First, parents today are very busy. By the time they get home from work, get the kids to and from their activities, pick up supplies for school projects, and make sure all homework is done, they are TIRED.

When it comes time for school board elections, they don’t have time to research every candidate, so they usually vote for the candidates pictured on the expensive two sided multicolored pamphlets they received in the mail.

If they lose the mailer, they can always pick one up from card pushers in the parking lot outside the polling places on Election Day.

After all, if those candidates have that much financial support, they MUST be the BEST choice for the students of CFISD. RIGHT?

Second, School Board Candidate Financial Reports showing WHO is actually supplying the big money for these multicolored mailers, are filed directly with the school districts.

Districts who have nothing to hide, post the documents online for all to see. Districts like CFISD, have forced local property taxpayers and voters to file a Public Information Request just to view the reports and pay $15 per hour + $.10 per page for copies.
*New laws require CFISD to post candidate financial reports online, but not until  the week of 10/15/12

WHY does CFISD make it difficult  for voters to acquire such important information?  What is in those reports that school officials might not want the voters to see?

Let’s take a look…….

Because reports for the 2012 election aren’t filed until next week, we will have to use 2010-2011 reports for our information.

What do those reports and a little research tell us?

CFISD elections took the turn away from “the people” and toward “big money” in 2010 with the creation of a “PAC” (Political Action Committee) to elect School Board Trustees. Why?

Well, if you are liberal school administrators in a conservative area, you are going to need big money to sway the voters away from their conservative mindset and gain control over school trustee elections.

It started in 2009 when one of the duties of CFISD’s Associate Superintendent for Governmental Relations, Cheryl Salyards, was CFISD’s Community Legislative Committee (CLC),

 cfisd clc agenda
a “by invitation only” group of 44 CFISD residents gathered to “suggest” legislative priorities to the district.

Records show the information provided to the group favored the “liberal” side of the education issues.

For example, a quote from one handout concerning school funding reads:

“…Lawmakers and Governor Perry were more interested in a short term ‘fix’ than in long-term equity…”
cfisd leadership cf

At the end of the legislative session, the CLC was simply renamed Leadership-Cy-Fair and continued to meet under the “guidance” of the school district administration.

When Cheryl Salyards retired in June of  2010, those contacts came in handy when weeks later she started a PAC – Citizens for Quality CFISD Trustees - whose mission was to re-elect 3 current School Trustees who were known to vote with the administration: Dr. John Ogletree, Don Ryan and Bob Covey.

cfisd pac #1

Her PAC teammates were:

Darcy Mingoia,  with the Lone Star College System Foundation


Milford Milks, Jr , with  Pride and Recognition.

cfisd press release 2003

Records show their relationship with CFISD goes back many years.

With a recently retired CFISD administrator at the helm, the PAC started raising money for the November election.

Records show that before that time, candidates in CFISD Trustee elections spent anywhere from $00.00 to a few thousand dollars on their campaigns.

But this PAC used the contacts made through CFISD and the Education Foundation system to bring financial stakeholders – like school vendors, property developers, and district employees – into the election of School Trustees.

And their efforts paid off.

The PAC raised almost $70,000  vs  about $9,000  for all the conservative candidates COMBINED – and all three PAC candidates won back their Trustee seats.

But the PAC concept to control CFISD Trustee elections was just getting warmed up.

A message sent out to PAC supporters by Darcy Mingoia after the election  shows the group’s long term goal – to overthrow  the CFISD board by kicking out all the conservative CFISD Trustees. Her message reads:

cfisd pac #1 victory email
“…next year we have to unseat Larry Youngblood and Ethel Wolfe and in 2012 we have to do the same to Bill Morris. We have to take back our school board … and we have only completed one-third of that mission!”

cfisd pac #2The next year, Cheryl Salyards headed up a new PAC –CFISD Citizens for Jackson and Hartley – to elect Thomas Jackson and Christine Hartley as CFISD Trustees.

With only two Trustee seats in play, the PAC only needed 2/3 the amount of money of the previous year.

They raised almost $46,000 vs  the conservative candidates’ combined total of $7,000 – and again, the PAC candidates won the School Trustee seats. 

Records shows that even though the two PACs Campaign Treasurer names were different, expenditures from both PACs were handled by the candidates themselves or by:

  • Cheryl Salyards
  • Darcy Mingoia  or
  • Butch Milks

PAC #1 PAC #2
cfisd pac #1 top cfisd pac #2 expen left
cfisd pac #1 bottom cfisd pac#2  exp  right

Who actually donated the approximately $115,000 to the two PACs to ensure the “RIGHT” people sit in the CFISD School Trustee seats?

Records show that approximately:

  • 43% of the contributions were from OUTSIDE of the school district and
  • 21%  of the contributions were from the candidates, the PAC team or their families.

cfisd pac sample $499

Many contributions were amounts just under $500.00

- with no occupation or employer listed -

so there is no way to know for sure if they are linked to a school district vendor or a person who might benefit financially.

*my notes in green

I taught and live in CFISD and I have never had anyone approach me to donate to either of these PACs.

So how did lawyers from all over the US know to send a check?

Lawyers from Corpus Christi, Waxahachie, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Beaumont, El Paso, OHIO and PENNSYLVANIA?

Could it be because they ALL happen to work for the law firm paid by the CFISD Administration to handle delinquent property taxes?

Is it just a coincidence that many of the people whose donations ranged from $400-$499 happen to have the same name as someone who owns or works for a CFISD vendor?

Isn't it remarkable that the PAC of a construction company gave $5000 to another PAC – and not a PAC to elect the President of the United States – but a PAC to elect CFISD School Trustees?

The biggest coincidence of all is that so many of the PAC donations were from owners or employees of the same companies and CFISD vendors who also donated to the local education foundations. Companies like:

cfisd ef

Bay Architects,

Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP,  and

Caldwell Companies 

  -  and it just so happens that:

  •  Darcy Mingoia, the first PAC treasurer, and current candidate, is the Executive Director of an Education Foundation and
  • CFISD Education Foundation Trustees donated over $12,000 to the PACs.

What a small world!

Just how did the PAC select their candidates?

cfisd clc list

Records show that the PAC chose their candidates from the handpicked
CFISD  “leadership committees” --

the same ones that had been part of Cheryl Salyards’ responsibilities while employed as a CFISD Administrator.

And records show that those CFISD committees supported the liberal side of many Texas education issues.

 Just read a couple of the emails the CLC sent to taxpayers during the last  session:

cfisd email2

cfisd email 1

Do most taxpayers in CFISD really side with this statement?…..

“Tell your Senator that you don’t care where they get the money from (they could take it from the Rainy Day Fund) …”
cfisd austin march photo

And the CLC proudly publicized their participation in the “Save Texas Schools Rally” in protest of public education budget cuts held in Austin on 3/12/11.

But I attended that rally with some other retired teachers, so I know first hand that the rally “to save schools” was really a rally to attack Texas conservatives, especially Rick Perry.  Here are some pictures from that rally that the CLC did NOT put in the newsletter.

* Click on any photo below to view a you tube video of that rally to see and hear for yourself.

cfisd austin march 3
cfisd austin march 1
cfisd austin march 4
cfisd austin march 2
cfisd austin march 5

Records also show that for some, their “investment” in the PACs may have paid off. CFISD Board of Trustee highlights show that two of the first items approved after the new “PAC supported Trustees” were sworn in were:

1.  CFISD’s participation in the newest school finance lawsuit.

    The Board adopted a resolution to participate in litigation against the State of Texas regarding the public school finance system and to engage Thompson & Horton, LLP to represent the school district in the litigation

2.  And changing the elections of CFISD School Trustees from the general election held in November of even numbered years (when MOST people vote) to odd numbered years (when FEWER people vote.)

Their excuse was that having elections in odd years when fewer people vote is CHEAPER.

Funny how they didn’t mention that with fewer people voting it makes it easier for the Administration and the PAC to control who wins.
    The Board adopted a resolution to change the length of terms of the Board members to four years being elected in November of odd-numbered years.
    The election transition plan will roll out the following schedule:…
    • in November 2014, there will be no election and terms for Positions 1 and 2 will be extended one year;…
    ** Notice….the two new Trustees also gave themselves an extra year. That means the people voted them in for 3, and they are staying for 4. Sweet deal for them.

    With such a small group of people controlling  PACs with so much power, should it concern CFISD taxpayers to find something like this?

    cfisd keith williams

    Three men each donated $499 to the PAC

    cfisd wiki-gamma construction
    lists the first two men with the same names and

    lists the third man with the same name as persons who work for Gamma Construction Company

    CFISD Board Highlights show Gamma Construction Company was awarded the contract for Elementary School #53 in the amount of $14,765,500 by the Board of Trustees  – 5 of whom were elected with the support of these PACs.

      • Elementary School No. 53.
      • The construction contract was awarded to Gamma Construction Company in the amount of $14,765,500.…

    If you read through CFISD Board Highlights, you will find other instances where Trustees awarded contracts to companies who had owners or employees with the same names as persons who made donations to these PACs.

    This might not seem like much to some, but you have to look at problems Dallas ISD and Houston ISD have had with vendors getting too close to Trustees and school administrators…to see where all this can lead.

    cfisd disd to prisonDallas ISD administrator is now serving time in 
    federal prison for “receiving nearly $1million in cash and rewards in exchange for handing out rich computer contracts.”

    Vendor, Frankie Wong, is also serving time, They were both found guilty of “bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.” 

    The feds investigated Houston ISD for similar issues. No one was charged with a crime but The Houston Chronicle reported on 5/6/10:

    The federal investigation into HISD's E-rate program stemmed from a scandal in Dallas ISD that involved vendors who also did business in Houston and contributed to some HISD trustees.

    Under a legal settlement with the federal government, … an HISD board member now must abstain from voting on E-rate contracts if he or she has received more than $500 a year in campaign contributions from E-rate vendors.

    According to campaign finance documents, Frankie Wong, a Houston-based technology vendor who was found guilty in 2008 of bribery and money laundering related to Dallas ISD, previously contributed at least $1,000 to HISD Trustee Diana Dávila and $2,500 to former Trustee Kevin Hoffman

    The Houston Chronicle also reported that an HISD vendor, Analytical Computer Services, had to close  due to the ethics probe in DISD.

    Frank Trifilio,  Analytical's then-president and chief executive, … said the problem stemmed from his business dealings with Frankie Wong, former president and chief executive of Houston-based Micro System Enterprises…
    Since 2003, Trifilio has donated $5,000 to HISD trustee Kevin Hoffman,… according to campaign-finance records

    So who cares?
    That was DISD + HISD and we are talking about CISD.

    Well, it is election time again in CFISD and two Trustee seats are up for grabs.

    And, the new PAC - Citizens for Effective Trustees in CFISD is running two candidates:

  • Darcy Mingoia, who served as treasurer of PAC #1, and
  • Kevin Hoffman, the ex-HISD Trustee listed in the Chronicle stories above who accepted campaign contributions from both Frankie Wong  and Frank Trifilio

In the financial reports from PAC #1 we find these donations accepted by Darcy Mingoia while she was PAC treasurer:

    cfisd chang $498

    Three donations on the same day, all just under $500, no occupations or employers listed, all outside of CFISD, and two with the same address.


    cfisd disd 1
    The first donation was made by
    Hsiangpin Chang.

    A man named 
    Hsiangpin Michael Chang
    is the owner of Prime Systems,

    a Houston technology company involved in another legal issue concerning technology contracts in Dallas ISD.


And………..Prime Systems is a  CFISD Vendor

cfisd prime systems

Could all this really be just remarkable coincidences?

For anyone who watches NCIS, you know that “Gibbs” doesn’t believe in coincidence….

and neither do I.


Anonymous said...

So the citizens and parents of CFISD students are too tired to make themselves aware of who is running for the BOT? Do you think they'll have time to read this and research the details for accuracy? The details do need checking.

Anonymous said...

It's gonna hit the "Fan" Just the mere presence of the players is the epitome of corruption....

peggy venable said...

This was a very well researched story -- thanks for the good work!!!

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