A local attorney took the Katy ISD administration and school board to task during this week’s school board meeting, telling trustees and Superintendent Alton Frailey that recent revelations about the district’s delinquent tax collection firm validated ethical concerns he expressed earlier this year.
Speaking during the public comments portion of the board meeting, Cormac Craven said last week’s indictment of a former partner in the firm of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson substantiated allegations he previously made about the ethical conduct of the firm.
Former Linebarger partner Mario X. Perez was charged last week on six felony counts of tampering with a government document in connection with false campaign reports in a 2009 Arlington ISD school board election.
Craven reminded trustees that he had told both the school board and Frailey that the Linebarger firm routinely engaged in ethical misconduct and urged them to move district delinquent tax collection to a different firm. Despite numerous ethical concerns being raised about Linebarger, Craven said the administration had stuck with its recommendation the district continue to business with the firm.
Craven also said the firm’s ethical violations were not isolated, and there had been “allegations of corruption in just about every county in Texas.”
Linebarger’s contract to collect Katy ISD’s delinquent taxes has expired, but the district continues to use the firm on a month-to-month basis.
Craven again urged the district to make a change.
“We need to stop rewarding bad acts,” he said.
Perez, who left the Linebarger last October but continued as a consultant to the firm until just recently, was indicted by a Tarrant County grand jury in Fort Worth last week.
According to the indictment, Perez made false entries on the campaign reports of Arlington ISD Trustee Aaron Reich during Reich’s 2009 campaign. The false campaign reports occurred at the same time Perez was directing Linebarger’s efforts to secure contracts with both Arlington ISD and Fort Worth ISD.
In late 2009, the Arlington school board voted to switch to Linebarger from Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins & Mott, which the district had used for nearly 30 years. The following year, Fort Worth ISD voted to contract with Linebarger over Perdue, Brackett, Flores, Utt and Burns, a joint venture the district had used for almost two decades.
The Fort Worth school board later terminated the contract with Linebarger after concerns were raised that the bidding process had been compromised because Perez had contact with school trustees during a no-contact period. The contacts included text messages containing sample questions for trustees to ask when publicly discussing the two competing proposals.
Court documents related to the indictment said Perez falsified four campaign transactions on Reich’s May 1, 2009, campaign report. Included in those transactions were two donations – one cash and one in-kind – totaling $1,338.70 from Perez’ in-laws, an in-kind contribution of $4,216.06 from a Mansfield, Tex., resident and two in-kind contributions from Murphy Turner & Associates, a political consulting firm, totaling $4,554.76.
None of the contributions were legitimate, according to the indictment.
Reich, who is currently running for re-election to the Arlington school board, was not charged.
Greg Westfall, Perez’ defense attorney called the charges “a political stunt” but did not elaborate.
Allegations of impropriety were also raised about Perez’ conduct in a similar case involving a Fort Worth ISD school board race in 2010.
In that case, Trustee Tobi Jackson initially reported an in-kind contribution of more than $4,000 from Murphy Turner & Associates. That was later changed to reflect a loan from Perez in the same amount after Perez reportedly warned Jackson she needed to file the amended report or face possible ethics charges.