Recently, a Houston school district employee refuted claims that the district’s board was unaware of ongoing problems with budget and contracting practices. Now, a longtime HISD vendor, Charter Roofing, is also saying they too alerted Audit Committee Chair Trustee Juliet Stipeche about problems they found with bond project schools. And like everyone else, she ignored their concerns.

Charter Roofing presented a letter they sent to Stipeche shortly after the Rusk Elementary School’s partial roof collapse. Not only is this school in Stipeche’s district, but she was the Vice President of the Board of Trustees at the time.

Starting in 2003 and until 2010 HISD contracted Charter to provide field inspections and repair proposals for roofs at Rusk Elementary. As early as 2003 their inspections revealed failed roofing in need of full replacement.

The letter says:

“We submitted several replacement proposals to HISD to address the failed roofs at Rusk, and our bids included replacement of the deteriorated roof decking… We mention this now because recent statements by HISD that the deteriorated roof decking wasn’t previously known or ‘couldn’t have been foreseen.’ This sort of misunderstanding can come back and haunt a roofing contractor, so we want the record to be clear that we advised HISD about the need to address the failed decking years ago.”

This letter was sent the day after a Chronicle article quoting Trustee Stipeche on the school’s roofs collapse, “We can’t allow these things to go on… I want to find out who dropped the ball on this.” Just as she feigned ignorance on the shortfall with the 2012 bond funds, she did years ago with Rusk Elementary. And we now know that she was alerted in advance in both instances.

“We want to be sure that the record is clear on this matter, that Charter did indeed inform HISD with timely, accurate information regarding campuses with defective, failing or potentially dangerous roof or building conditions, similar to those at Rusk.”

“Comprehensive summaries describing a wide variety of roofing issues, including inspection reports and photos, were provided directly to Leo Bobadilla, Dan Bankhead, Willie Burroughs, Joel Falcon, HISD IG, HISD Inside Legal Counsel, and Coats, Rose Law Firm, over a period from 2008-2013.”

The letter goes on to explain that because of the repeated reporting, Charter felt HISD was blacklisting them, which wouldn’t be the first time whistleblowers regarding HISD’s internal problems have been treated punitively. “Our fear is that we are being outcast and punished because we were compelled to report the roof issues up the chain of command.”

Twice now Trustee Stipeche has blatantly lied about having no knowledge of an issue that she was in a unique position to help prevent. In addition, it further illustrates HISD’s disastrous environment of opaque government where accountability is dodged and those who seek to earnestly remedy the associated problems are not only ignored, but scorned.


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.


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