GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Big spending with little knowledge: That’s the bottom line of a report released by Grand Prairie ISD about how taxpayer money was spent over an 18-month period.
The investigation began after questions were raised about the superintendent’s home, which is owned by the district.
GPISD paid $694,500 for the property in 2016 to one day expand the school next door; Dr. Susan Hull pays $1,000 a month to live there. In June 2017 the board hired an outside law firm to look into spending at the home and in the district in general.
The firm gave its report to the board in February. Since then, trustees have discussed how much of the document to release. The report is said to be 40 pages long, with an additional 800 exhibits.
While it’s only a quarter of the original document, the excerpt details a stunning lack of knowledge by the board. According to the report, trustees were never told the scope of the work or presented any budget in relation to the home on South Carrier Parkway. Documents showed the budget was close to $80,000; accountants found twice that was spent. District employees interviewed for the report could not agree on who decided to renovate the home, who assigned the project to the construction company, or even when the work began.
At one point the board president at the time asked about work at the home and was told it involved “paint and carpeting” but the invoices show charges for plumbing and electrical work, tiles, ceiling fans, granite countertops, sinks, toilets and more. “At no point was the full board aware those renovations were taking place,” said board member Steve Pryor.
Pryor says it’s still unclear who allowed Hull to move in, in the first place. “At some point, the decision was made to lease it to the superintendent, but the report still doesn’t tell us who is responsible for the decision.”
OTHER PURCHASING PROBLEMS
The report also explains the apparent confusion over purchasing rules in the district. State code requires any purchase over $50,000 to be approved by the board, but employees interviewed for the report gave varying answers when asked what that meant. Some said it was one big purchase while others believed it applied to several purchases over a period of time.
Accountants studied 18 months of purchases by the district and found 50 vendors were paid more than $50,000 without board approval. Even so, the report says it found no intentional wrongdoing by employees, and suggested “more clearly outlining” policies and adding “controls and features.”
Consumer Justice repeatedly asked Dr. Hull why the district wouldn’t release the full report. She would only say that it was an independent investigation done by independent counsel. Questions about how much the district spent on the investigation have also gone unanswered.