After receiving my tax bill in the mail on a November morning in 2014 as a newly elected state senator, I decided to peruse the numerous entries that were charging property owners in Dallas County. The last entry, labeled “SCH EQUAL,” was suspicious, and a deeper look was needed.
The “Dallas School Equalization Fund,” also known as Dallas County Schools, was a hundred-year-old government agency with approximately 3,000 employees that had no teachers, no students, and no schools. Its main purpose was student transportation, not teaching students. Even though DCS levied a property tax on every home and business in Dallas County, only a handful of districts utilized its transportation services.
Continued research into this shadow government bureaucracy uncovered that DCS was also involved in the infamously corrupt “flash-to-cash” bus camera schemes, supposedly fining criminals but ultimately ripping off taxpayers. Eventually, additional digging into DCS unearthed roots of corruption and bribery that ran so deep the FBI, Texas Rangers, Dallas County DA’s office, and investigative reporters across the state had to get involved. We ended up uncovering the largest government corruption scandal in Texas history.
In the 85th session of the Texas Legislature, I authored legislation to abolish Dallas County Schools and transition services back to the ISDs that were using DCS buses. There was virtually no legislative support. Plus, the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House were—and remain—strangely silent on this massive political scandal. In May of 2017, DCS was two weeks away from finalizing the sale of over $50 million in new bonds, which would be paid by taxpayers. With the coordination of the Texas attorney general’s office, we were able to stop the sale just in time. These crooks spent over $1.3 million of stolen taxpayer money, hiring Austin’s finest lobbyists to beat the legislation meant to close them down. Per my legislation on November 7, 2017, the taxpayers voted to abolish DCS.
By the end of 2017, investigators discovered that over $30 million was stolen from taxpayers. Five thieves are now spending time behind bars for accepting millions of dollars in bribes. An entire government agency had become rotten from the inside out—overtaken with corruption and fueled by bribery. It is not possible that the elected board, DCS attorneys, bond underwriters, and senior staff didn’t know of the fraudulent scheme that was rapidly collapsing around them.
Why aren’t there more indictments? There are many more guilty actors that haven’t been charged. The former elected board members—Paul Freeman, James Hubener, Gloria Levario,
Omar Narvaez, Kyle Renard, C.W. Whitakerand —and those that publicly approved everything related to this scandal are accomplices, either by quiet complacency or incompetence. They were entrusted by the voters with taxpayers’ money, yet oversaw the ripoff. Anyone with knowledge of this scam essentially drove the getaway car in the heist of taxpayers’ money. They aided and abetted the murder of ethics and accountability.
If private citizens hadn’t taken notice, if our investigators had given up, if the reporters had backed out of reporting, DCS would certainly still be robbing taxpayers today. Elected office-holders make poor watchdogs for taxpayer money as most work hard to not be accountable to the people.
It is incumbent upon us, the citizens, to hold our governments accountable. Ask questions. Follow the money trails. Demand more transparency. Please believe me: there is very little oversight on any government or government agency. We, the people, are responsible for keeping track of how the government spends our money.
Hopefully, the investigation continues and more civil and criminal sentences are to come, but taxpayers are ultimately paying the fine for DCS because the dang tax is still on our bills.
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