A Houston school district employee is refuting claims that school board members were unaware of problems with the district’s bond program.

Frank Hodges, a 34-year HISD employee, recently sent an email to Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Audit Committee Chair Trustee Juliet Stipeche to refute their claims of ignorance.

Mr. Hodges’ letter states:

“For several years I worked on numerous HISD Bond Construction projects, including many brand new replacement facilities. I personally observed what I believe was gross waste and mismanagement on many of the HISD Bond Projects, involving millions of dollars of defective, substandard construction that did not meet codes or specifications.”

Hodges, who worked in the Construction & Facilities Services (CFS) department, went on to address over-budgeted construction projects, substandard work, and payments for services that were never provided. This information directly contradicts the district’s claims that inflation and costs of construction caused the $211 million shortfall of the 2012 bond program.

Once news of the shortfall broke, Superintendent Terry Grier quickly stated that he alerted the board of the financial woes nearly a year ago. At the same time, Trustees are calling for internal and external audits because they want someone to be held accountable. Meanwhile, Hodges says that he has been reporting these ongoing issues to all parties for years.

“I’ve reported this many times, all the way through the chain of command, including Superintendent Grier and the HISD Board, as recently as 2014-2015. I included photographs, engineering reports, and repair bids to fix the shoddy work. There was no response…” 

“I also reported the information of waste, mismanagement, and resulting safety issues to the HISD Audit Department, directly to Richard Patton. To date I have never been interviewed, and no one has contacted me to audit or investigate the information I submitted.”

 Hodges says that not only were his concerns repeatedly ignored, but his occupational duties were reduced as his efforts to address the waste went on. Just as HISD officials are doing everything to cover up this most recent failure, they did everything to cover up previous ones and attempted to silence those who felt it was their duty to speak out.

To date, the Trustees claim no knowledge, and have not held anyone accountable. But as Hodges’ efforts show, by ignoring claims, and allowing the administration to run roughshod, the Trustees are directly responsible.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.