DA Crenshaw warns BISD of potential code violations
Jefferson County District Attorney Cory Crenshaw sent a message to the BISD board regarding potential violations of the Texas Government Code and the Texas Education in a letter dated June 30. In the correspondence, Crenshaw warns that the posted agenda for BISD's June 30 board meeting could potentially violate state law.
In the letter, Crenshaw writes, "The District Attorney's Office has reviewed the posted agenda for the board meeting set for today, Monday, June 30, 2014. A cursory review of this agenda raises a litany of potential violations of state law.
"This office is aware that the adopted budget for the current fiscal year allows for legal services expenditures of $1.149 million. to date, BISD has spent in excess of $1.465 million in legal services. The agenda indicates that the board plans to take action and vote to consider additional expenditures for legal services and a separation agreement with the superintendent.
"Be advised that the Texas Education Code prohibits a member of the board of trustees from voting on expenditures that are in excess of the adopted budget. 'A trustee of a school district who votes to approve any expenditure of school funds in excess of the item or items appropriated in the adopted budget or a supplementary or amended budget commits an offense.' TEX. EDUCATION CODE, Sec. 44.052(c).
"Accordingly, any board member who votes in favor of expenditures for legal services (as contemplated in Item 'D'), or funding of a voluntary separation agreement (as contemplated in Item 'K') will be subject to arrest and criminal prosecution. Section 44.052(c) is applicable to an action(s) taken, whether occurring in closed or open session, effectively binding the district to expenditures regarding immediate or future payment(s).
"The posted agenda is somewhat confusing about the intentions of the School Board regarding executive versus public session considerations. Any matters addressed in executive session regarding Item 'K' as they may relate to binding the district to funding must be further considered publicly in open session and remains subject to prohibition found in Sec. 44.052(c). the Texas Government Code requires that a minimum of 72 hour notice must be given for posted agenda items, including those to be moved to executive to public session. Failure to comply with the proper notice as set forth in the statutes would subject the actions taken to civil remedies including voiding any action taken on said agenda items. TEX. GOV. CODE, Sec. 551.141.
We continue to believe it is in the best interests of this community for the School Board to be in compliance with the laws of the State of Texas, including the aforementioned Texas Government Code and Texas Education Code. We reserve the right to further investigate this matter, and to bring appropriate action as necessary to insure all actions taken are in compliance with the laws of this State."
In spite of Crenshaw's letter, the BISD board has made no move to cancel to tonight's meeting at the time of this report.