HISD using taxpayer cash to hide trustee emails

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- He said he talked to the FBI on March 10 about problems at the highest levels of the Houston Independent School District. Then, HISD auditor Richard Patton was abruptly suspended.

Four months later, he remains at home.

He still hasn't been replaced.

Officials at HISD have repeatedly refused to tell the public why, simply saying -- repeatedly -- that "it's a personnel matter" and part of an ongoing investigation, just like HISD School Board President Manuel Rodriguez recently told abc13.

Since then, Ted Oberg Investigates has asked for all the emails HISD board members sent the auditor, hoping to see what they were telling him and if they were telling him to look away from anything in particular.

For example, in a grievance that Patton's attorney issued the trustees earlier this year, Patton outlines an illegal practice known as splitting job orders, where officials divide pricey contracts into smaller amounts, usually to avoid having to put those deals out to bid. Splitting job orders also makes it easier for those in power to steer contracts to friends and family.

HISD's top brass initially refused to hand over the emails.

Then, the state's Attorney General told HISD to turn over the documents to abc13.

HISD refused again, asking the Attorney General to change his mind.

The state's Attorney General -- again -- told HISD to turn over the documents to abc13.

Then last week, HISD decided to reach into its taxpayer-funded purse to pay for attorneys to fight to keep the emails secret by taking the issue to court.

HISD has always maintained the emails should be secret to protect talks with its lawyer and other legal matters, but the Attorney General found HISD cited the wrong section of the law in its argument, failed to comply with redaction rules, may have violated federal privacy law and blew well-established deadlines.

And all the while, the public has no real idea why HISD auditor Richard Patton was suspended and why he is sitting at home, collecting a paycheck.

See other Ted Oberg Investigates Reports here on Patton and HISD here:

Former HISD trustee Larry Marshall headed to trial over bribery allegations

HISD auditor grievance: Suspended for being a whistleblower

HISD auditor says FBI asking questions about district
Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.