Beaumont ISD refuses $2 million in restitution, renews contract with vendor accused of overcharging taxpayers

money

It’s hard to determine the most alarming information: federal prosecutors failing to convict a vendor accused of overcharging Beaumont Independent School District or Beaumont ISD trustees renewing the company’s contract and rejecting some restitution.

In most places public officials would demand accountability, considering taxpayers may have been overcharged as much as $3.7 million through an alleged scheme of falsified invoices, according to court documents. They might end the contract. And with cash-strapped districts dealing with austere times, trustees might try to get some money back to spend on educating students.

That’s not the case with Beaumont ISD trustees, who voted 4-2 Thursday to continue doing business with electrician Calvin G. Walker, the Beaumont Enterprise reported. Worse, trustees cast a second 4-2 vote not to seek $2 million in restitution.

This is the same school district that has the highest-paid superintendent in the state: Carroll Thomas, who is retiring by year’s end, earned nearly $348,000.

The episode started in May 2011 when federal prosecutors filed a 37-count indictment against Walker, doing business as Walker’s Electric Company, for overcharging Beaumont ISD. The case ended in a mistrial in December. The second trial was going to start when Walker pleaded guilty to tax evasion, a misdemeanor.

"I will agree that although unsavory to some, those are the facts," trustee Gwen Ambres said, as the Enterprise reported. "The man was not convicted on 37 charges."

Board President Woodrow Reece wanted more time to consider restitution to compensate for the time and money the district spent on getting documents to prosecutors.

"I think we're trying to fast forward,” he said.

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Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

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Photo of 'Burning Money' by flickr user Vanishing STL, used via a Creative Commons license.