The $382,975.32 question

That’s the amount of a phony invoice submitted by electrical contractor Calvin Walker to the Beaumont Independent School District. Walker admitted as part of his plea deal he “altered” that $382,975.32 invoice. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney, the invoice actually turned out to be a quote and was not a purchase order, thus the items the invoice slated for purchase were never actually bought by Walker – and Walker’s check payable to that wholesaler in the amount of $382,975.32 was never presented to the wholesaler or negotiated. BISD records also contained similar altered documents purportedly from the same electrical supplier matching invoices submitted by Walker for materials in other projects.

Of course, fraudulently altered documents are nothing new for Walker. He pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in 2003 for doctoring claims submitted in a personal injury case involving Progressive Insurance in connection with an automobile accident. Testimony showed he submitted copies of bills for medical services he said he received, and checks that indicated those bills had been paid. Despite his guilty plea, he avoided final conviction by completing deferred adjudication and four years of community supervision.

In the BISD case, Walker pleaded guilty to federal tax violations, essentially acknowledging that he failed to pay federal income taxes in 2009 on a check he received from BISD for $1,592,389.10 for work he did for the district. The offense is punishable by up to a year in federal prison and a fine.

Now BISD trustees will consider whether or not to go after funds owed to them in light of Walker’s plea deal. The U.S. Attorney’s office indicated there is expected to be money left over from the $3.2 million that Walker forfeited. If BISD decides not to go after what’s left of the money, the government, which has possession of the funds, will put the money in the U.S. Treasury.

While some BISD board members have stated publicly they’re not sure if the district is owed money, Walker’s admission of the altered $382,975.32 invoice strongly suggests that something is awry.

Tom Neild, BISD trustee, said it’s clear that BISD needs to look at going after the leftover funds.

“This is not coming out of Calvin Walker’s pocket; this is money that Calvin Walker has forfeited and has admittedly stated that he altered documents,” said Neild. “This is not money Mr. Walker is having to pay; these are funds he has willingly forfeited.”

But other board members – including the board president Woodrow Reece – have shown little interest in demanding even the slightest amount of accountability from Walker and have voted to continue doing business with the ethically challenged contractor.

It is long past time for a thorough accounting of Walker’s dubious dealings with the district and to end his days as a BISD contractor once and for all.