Friday 30 January 2015

AG: FBISD Must Release Marshall Investigation Documents

The Attorney General’s Office has ruled that the Fort Bend Independent School District must release documents to Fort Bend Now relating to an investigation into the possible “misuse of funds” at Marshall High School.

Fort Bend Now submitted an open records request in October of last year asking to view “any and all documents in the possession of the Fort Bend Independent School district and its campuses, whether digital or on paper, regarding an investigation into misuse of funds at Marshall High School.”

In November, the district appealed to the AG’s Office, claiming that all records concerning the investigation were exempt from disclosure.

The AG’s Office ruled this month that the district must release many of the documents. Following the ruling, the district released 249 documents to Fort Bend Now.

The open records request was made after Fort Bend Now heard about rumors circulating the community that an administrator at Marshall may have embezzled as much as $40,000.

The records released to Fort Bend Now include accounting records for school clubs and fundraisers, including one with the notation that there could be “possible missing deposits.”

It was also noted that there were “deposits with no backup (could be valid or could be entered to cover missing deposits.)”

Also included in the documents was a subpoena for the custodian of records for the Harris County Toll Road Authority, asking for all records for two toll tag accounts and all invoices sent to Marshall High School.

The subpoena also said the custodian of records must be available for a Grand Jury that convened on Oct. 25 of last year.

The toll tag numbers are for tags issued to former Marshall High School Principal Alonzo Reynolds. Included is an invoice sent to Marshall High School in December of 2009 for $139.20 for the month. The invoice included a total outstanding amount of $762.60.

The documents also included reimbursement requests and checks written to Reynolds for four trips for conferences and seminars.

Reynolds was reimbursed $278.40 for a trip to New York for training, $260.67 for a trip to Quebec, Canada for the IB Americas Conference, $145 dollars for travel to a convention in San Antonio, $235 for the 2010 TASSP Summer Workshop in Austin, and $80 for THSCA membership for 2010-2011 and coaching school tuition 2010.

Several of the documents indicate that Reynolds actually owed the district a refund, but the documents also included copies of voided checks written to him in the amount the invoice said he owed the district.

Total cost for the New York trip was $2,065.40, for the trip to Quebec, $2,622.61, for the Austin trip $760 and for the San Antonio trip $145. In most cases, Reynolds was advanced an estimate of expenses, then reimbursed for anything over the estimate.

Following the release of the documents, Fort Bend Now asked the district several questions, including the status of the investigation and the outcome of the Grand Jury last October. Fort Bend County has no record of charges being filed against Reynolds.

Grand Jury proceedings are secret, and certain cases can take months before an indictment is issued or the case is No Billed, which means there is not enough evidence for indictment.

FBISD staff legal counsel Leila Feldman said the district has “already released all of the information we were required to release by the Texas Attorney General and that we are not at liberty to further comment on a pending criminal investigation because disclosure of additional information could interfere with the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime.”

Reynolds resigned from his position on Sept. 1 of last year.