Sunday, February 10, 2019

Who's on First at HCDE?

Tomorrow (2/11/19) at a special HCDE Board Meeting, we’ll learn whether the new Board has the backbone to clean up the mess at HCDE or if the only solution is to shut down this dinosaur.

The following seems like an Abbot & Costello routine. But it’s a summary of what’s actually happened. There are three organizations tangled up in this sequence: 

1) the elected Board of HCDE
2) the appointed Board of the Public Facilities Corporation (PFC) and 
3) the outside law firm paid by both Boards.

Try to follow this:

By law HCDE cannot issue bonds.

PFC sells bonds for HCDE WITHOUT any taxpayer vote or taxpayer notice.

The Board of the PFC has historically included the superintendent, two HCDE employees, and three elected HCDE Board members.

Not much attention is paid to PFC, except by the outside law firm, paid to keep things in order.

Last month the new HCDE Board asked the law firm which handles both organizations for a report on the status of the PFC, including an explanation of how the PFC Board is elected/appointed.

It appears that in preparing the report, the law firm found some embarrassing problems in PFC governance.

The PFC Board has not been following its bylaws.

Therefore contracts related to the $8.9 million to build a new ABS Campus have not been properly approved.

Payments have been made to these vendors without approved contracts.

PFC Board member(s) at the time(s) the contracts were engaged were apparently NO LONGER on the PFC Board and no longer even employed by HCDE. 


The HCDE superintendent called a meeting of the PFC Board, inviting FORMER members from different years to attend and vote at the meeting.

It appears the superintendent wanted this patched-together “Board” to retroactively remedy the governance issues that had been discovered by the law firm - the SAME law firm that was paid to PREVENT these kinds of problems.

The ELECTED President of the HCDE Board tried to call an EMERGENCY meeting of the HCDE Board to address the superintendent’s unusual actions. The law firm involved ruled that the HCDE Board President’s call for an emergency meeting was “illegal.”

The law firm, however, was present at the hastily called meeting of the PFC Board, including a patchwork of former members because, apparently, the law firm saw no problems with that meeting.

The ELECTED President of the HCDE Board drafted a detailed letter to everyone attending the PFC Board meeting, pointing out the serious problems with that meeting. You can see his letter below:

Despite the objections and warnings from the ELECTED HCDE Board President, the unusual meeting of the patchwork PFC Board was called to order at noon on Friday, 2/8/19.

The 2 CURRENTLY ELECTED HCDE Board members serving on the PFC Board made a motion to table all matters on the PFC Board meeting agenda until the ELECTED HCDE Board could meet to remedy the credibility of all PFC Board appointments.

The superintendent, another current HCDE employee, and two former PFC Board members shuttled in for this meeting (including a retired HCDE employee and a FORMER elected HCDE Board Member) voted down that motion from the CURRENTLY ELECTED HCDE/PFC Board members.

You can view the meeting:

The unapproved contracts and disbursements, dating back at least 2 years, were approved retroactively by the patchwork  PFC Board.

The outside law firm said everything about this meeting was legal and proper.

WHO’S ON FIRST AT HCDE?  Does anybody really know?

Tomorrow (2/11/19) the ELECTED Board of HCDE will meet to attempt to clean up this mess.

Agenda item #5 is approval of a new law firm.

Well, that's a NO-BRAINER !!!!

I will be asking the HCDE Board to insist on a refund of all tax dollars paid to the original law firm for time billed related to PFC, especially time billed to compile the report about their OWN errors.

NOTE: In reviewing video I have taken of PFC meetings, I found another major error by the law firm. You can view the attorney stating that the PFC Board does not have to follow the Open Meetings Act and told me I had to leave the PFC meeting because a quorum of the HCDE Board was not present:  Here

But, Section 303.044 of the statute covering PFCs states that a PFC "and its board of directors are considered to be governmental bodies under Chapters 551 and 552, Government Code." In other words they have to follow both the Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act. 

A quorum of the PFC Board WAS present, therefore The Open Meetings Act applied.

Another OOPS !!! 

Colleen Vera

Saturday, January 19, 2019

HCDE Takes a RIGHT Turn

While most of Harris County turned “left” in the 2018 November election, one countywide board actually took a sharp turn to the “right.” 

HCDE, the only school board in Texas elected by political party, replaced its two Democrat board members with two more Democrats as expected. 

But one of the RINOs, Louis Evans, was replaced by the STRONG conservative Republican, Josh Flynn. That seemingly minor change made a HUGE difference during their first board meeting on 1/16/19.

First, Josh Flynn was elected Board President, the first pleasant surprise at HCDE for Harris County conservatives in decades. 

Then, in total surprise for Harris County taxpayers, the Board voted to cancel their $220,000 a year lobbying contract with HillCo.

The discussion on the lobbying contract went as expected.

The Superintendent argued that the lobbying contract was necessary because he is too busy with his job at HCDE to pay attention to the Legislature.

Maybe he should stop playing golf on school time with $1,500 of taxpayer money ...or stop taking other HCDE administrators out to Perry’s Steakhouse with $741.92 of taxpayer money.

The Superintendent also argued that HCDE needs the “armor” provided by lobbyists to protect HCDE from the Legislature.

Is he afraid the Legislature will find out that HCDE opened and operated a high school last year with a FULL STAFF and ZERO students?

Or is he afraid the Legislature will find out that NONE of the four alternative schools HCDE operates are ACCREDITED by the State of Texas?

The best quote from the Superintendent came when asked by Trustee Danny Norris – one of the new Democrat Trustees - exactly what HillCo does for HCDE. The Superintendent answered,
 “I don’t like to share the playbook with the public because it defeats the purpose of the lobbyists.”
At least the Superintendent  admitted in an open meeting that he has been using HillCo to fight AGAINST the “public” – in other words – to fight against the taxpayers who pay his salary and all his expensive travel and credit card charges.

The lobbying contract discussion ended with a rant against Republicans and even Senator Ted Cruz by the biggest phony Republican in Harris County – Trustee Eric Dick. He made it clear that he does not understand the difference between hiring lobbyists with private funds and hiring lobbyists with taxpayer dollars.  Guess they didn’t teach that in law school.

If the first meeting of the new HCDE Board is any indication of what is to come, buckle your seat belts. This could be a great ride for Harris County taxpayers.

You can view the lobbying contact discussion:  here  
or view the full meeting:  here 

Colleen Vera