After being ignored by the Board of Trustees and other school officials, Frank Hodges a 34-year HISD employee, turned to the where he thought he could find resolution to the problem—the district’s Chief Audit Executive, Richard Patton. However, much like the other district officials, Patton did nothing.

Hodges released emails between Patton and himself alerting the chief auditor of the abuse he saw going on in the district, but Patton, displaying a cavalier attitude, brushed off concerns.

As recent as January 21st of 2015, Hodges reached out to Patton saying, “Can you please give me a date when we are going to meet to discuss my allegations of Waste, Mismanagement and Life Safety issues with HISD?”

Patton responded:

Please provide how you came up with your concerns and your level of expertise to make the allegations. In your opinion, do you think anyone in the District is at harm or risk of imminent danger as a result of your concerns? Can you provide me objective evidence to support your allegations?”

“In your opinion, what is the name of the person within HISD who is most knowledgeable of the situation or is directly responsible for the remediation of the issue?”

In an email responding to Patton’s inquires, Hodges said:

“I have previously provided voluminous amounts of correspondence, reports, photos and letters documenting dozens of known construction hazards, substandard construction and badly leaking HISD Bond Project Buildings.”

“I’ve offered to [assist] for several years, to date HISD has not contacted me, or followed up on my reports. I have been directly threatened with possible discipline and termination as a result of reporting these problems in good faith.”

“There are many instances where students and teachers are in imminent danger due to the substandard construction. Some schools have coal tar pitch dripping on to the ground and to the outdoor seating areas, CTP is a classified carcinogen.”

“…I can tell you that I have made these issues very clear to CFS Management, Bond Program Management, HISD Legal, outside Legal, HISD COO, and the Superintendent.”

In complete disregard to all claims made, Patton responds saying, “I am not sure I understand your current role within HISD or if you are responsible for these areas currently.”

Lastly saying, “If you have shared your concerns with the numerous parties mentioned in your letter, I feel confident that any concerns will be addressed in a manner to protect HISD, its personnel, and the student population.”

Hodges’ last letters express that he felt compelled to report these issues because it’s HISD policy. The district’s policies don’t prevent employees from reporting serious concerns based on their duties nor should their “level of expertise” discredit a claim that students’ safety is at risk. All HISD employees should be expected to report any issue they find regardless of its connection to their role without the fear of repercussion. And furthermore, the internal audit office should take these claims seriously and investigate their legitimacy immediately.

When the Chief Audit Executive will ignore allegations of waste, mismanagement, and potential safety issues because of his alleged confidence in fellow HISD officials, it signals a lack of meaningful oversight and a dereliction of duty. Hodges was brave enough to speak out about the issues he knew existed. Imagine the number of employees witnessing other examples of waste and mismanagement, but are afraid to make it known because of threats similar to what Hodges faced?

Whistleblowers exposing corruption, incompetence and waste should be rewarded, not punished.

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.