FBI at HISD admin building months after allegations of mismanagement

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The FBI spent Thursday morning carting away boxes and computers from the Houston Independent School District's administration building and visiting the Spring home of Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby.

It's unknown if the activity at Busby's home was related to the three hours the FBI spent at HISD's Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center.

The only information the FBI released was that it was at HISD "regarding a court authorized law enforcement matter."

The FBI visit comes just months after a proposed state takeover of the district and a state report into management and performance of the district.

HISD and the FBI won't say why authorities were at Busby's home, but his past actions have been brought up in state reports.

Busby oversees an annual operating budget of more than $260 million and leads a workforce of more than 7,000 employees from seven major departments, including construction, transportation, nutrition, police, facilities, support and strategic engagement and outreach.

He's a 21-year veteran with HISD and has served in his current post since December 2016.

In 2017, Busby asked the school board to use "$99.1 million in cost savings from the 2012 bond program to fund additional construction projects, address safety and security needs, and develop a contingency fund for emergency needs," according to a Texas Legislative Budget Board management and performance review in November 2019.

RELATED: TEA says HISD should change its whole board

The LBB review says without proper oversight of construction services expenditures, there's no check in place to make sure the funds are being used in the most "effective and efficient manner." It goes on to say that the construction services don't provide "sufficient oversight into subcontractor bidding activities."

HISD has also been under scrutiny for months after the Texas Education Agency took control of the state's largest school district in November 2019.

Following the proposed takeover, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, called the HISD board out for its "inability to appropriately govern," saying it "routinely violated ethics rules and procurement procedures and then doubled down by making misleading statements to the TEA investigators."

"I'm afraid that there's a lot of activity there that should not have occurred and the leadership is at fault and that's why I've been calling for a replacement of that leadership," Bettencourt told 13 Investigates on Thursday.

The TEA's investigative unit issued a 318-page report in October 2019, outlining allegations, including that HISD's Board of Trustees violated contract procurement rules and attempted to tamper with contracts, among other things.

It is unclear if the issues from the TEA's investigation are related to the FBI activity at the district's administration building. The president of HISD's board referred comments to the district's press office. It doesn't appear that any homes or offices of trustees were the subject of Thursday's law enforcement activity.

"Government contracts are easily susceptible to fraud and therefore contract procurement rules should be followed accordingly," the TEA said in its October 2019 report. "However, HISD manipulated contract procurement rules through the abuse of Job Order Contracts and multiple change orders."

Following months of investigation, the TEA determined one of the ways the district abused the procurement process was by splitting job contract orders to make sure the contracts were valued under $500,000 and could then avoid getting prior school board approval.

13 Investigates reached out to a TEA spokesperson who was unaware of the FBI's activity until Thursday morning and didn't have additional information on the situation.
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