Tens of thousands of dollars worth of desks, chairs, tables, filing cabinets, audio-visual rolling carts, gym lockers and other items have been removed from several campuses throughout the district over the past month and somehow ended up at local scrap yards, an investigation by The Examiner has revealed.In early June, the newspaper was alerted that several churches and individuals were observed backing up pickup trucks, cars and moving vans to Dunbar Elementary School off of Irving Street and taking away furniture and other items that were purchased with taxpayer money.
That tip spawned an investigation that resulted in the discovery this past Monday of another incident where people were removing items from Eugene-Field Elementary off Concord Road.
“We are not giving anything away,” said Daryl Johnson, BISD’s warehouse supervisor, who was overseeing the removal of items at Eugene-Field. “We are discarding it and keeping what we want to keep. This is not coming from me; there’s charities that are coming in. And these people are saying they have paperwork from certain offices and they are able to come in. I don’t have no control over that. All I can do is make a phone call.”
When asked what charities specifically, Johnson said, “Churches. Everybody is saying churches.”
Johnson also would not say which churches were taking the items.
“I am not answering all of that,” he said. “If they say churches and they throw a certain name out, they ain’t nothing I can do about that.”
Johnson was then asked which name the individuals claiming to be from churches were name-dropping.
“I can’t reveal all that,” Johnson said. “Just like you won’t reveal it.”
Over the course of several hours, a reporter observed at least seven moving trucks and a number of pickup trucks, SUVs and cars being loaded with items from inside the school. Most of the moving trucks were either registered to BISD or being rented from Ryder or Enterprise rental agencies. However, one of the moving trucks was painted completely black.
While at the school, a man who had been loading trucks with BISD property approached the reporter, leaned into his car and asked why he was taking photos. He then said the district was now just throwing the items away because “someone had made a big deal about giving stuff away.”
A group of women sifting through items being removed from the school confirmed they were not school district employees but refused to provide information regarding who they were associated with or which organization or church they were representing at the site.
A short time later the moving vans began to leave and the reporter followed one of them to BISD’s warehouse near the Babe Zaharias Stadium and watched as wooden desks, wooden bookshelves and wooden tables were thrown into roll-off trash containers.
A local antiques dealer who asked not to be named confirmed the wooden desks have a significant value. She said the desks are worth several hundred dollars apiece or more.
Later that day, the reporter followed one of the Ryder moving trucks that was previously at Eugene-Field Elementary to 3540 Minnie St. in north Beaumont and observed the BISD employees back up the truck to the garage and open the rear cargo door. At that point, one of the three men noticed their photos were being taken and they left the home without unloading any items. A white van registered to EAN (Enterprise-Alamo-National) Holdings in Oklahoma City with about eight occupants who had been moving furniture at the school also arrived but quickly left when they realized their photos were being taken also. The residence where the truck appeared to be delivering items is listed with the Jefferson County Appraisal District as being owned by Elijah Domoneck Jr. but the 2003 BMW 745i parked in the grass is registered to BISD’s Daryl Johnson.
“That’s where he was living unless he moved,” Domoneck said of Johnson when asked to confirm who was living at the address.
The Scrap YardsMel Wright, president of Wright’s Scrap & Recycling on Washington Boulevard, confirmed that he had been receiving loads of metal items with BISD emblems on them for some time. He said he has been buying the items for several weeks as scrap metal but noticed a lot off the pieces were in new or like new condition.“We had some people in here, we call them peddlers, but I don’t think they are employees of the school district,” Wright said. “I assumed someone was putting it out for them. It is not very good scrap because it contains wood and plastic. If they would have contacted me I could have put a box out there and the district could have made some money off of it.
“A guy was here yesterday in a black rental truck and he had a bunch of stuff.”
The scrap metal dealers collect ID information on all sellers, and The Examiner confirmed the black moving van was being driven by an individual named Kevin Johnson. It is unknown if Kevin Johnson is related to Daryl Johnson.
According to Wright, the truck weighed-in on his scales with as much as 6,000 pounds of scrap metal but Johnson decided to leave before selling the items.“His vehicle was weighing 21,000 pounds,” Wright said, “so it probably had a payload of 4,000 to 6,000 pounds, which would be 4,000 times $.09 for $360. If it were desks or tables that were contaminated with wood and other non-metallics, it would be half of that amount. If it weighed 6,000 times $.09 (it would equal $540).”
Wright said he was taking in three or four loads a day from people bringing in items from BISD. Some of the items were old like old bleachers, but some were new, like audio-visual rolling carts, gym lockers and a few of the filing cabinets that he pulled aside. He also still had dozens of metal-framed chairs with plastic seats that were in good condition.
“These chairs that I still have I was thinking about taking them to my church because they are usable,” Wright said. “I don’t know why they would get rid of this stuff.”
Wright said the current scrap value for what he termed “tin” or junk metal is $9 per 100 pounds and that he had “loaded out three or four loads a day” at some points over the past three or four weeks.
Over at CMC Recycling on College Street, David McCallon confirmed he had also received several shipments of items that had been removed from BISD, specifically metal-framed chairs with colorful plastic seats and backs.
A truck pulling a lowboy trailer loaded with items that had been taken from Eugene-Field Elementary was followed to the scrap yard by BISD school board trustee Mike Neil.
The LawNeil said he wanted answers as to why taxpayer property was being given away, and he wanted to know who was responsible for making that decision.
“I went over to Wright’s and saw all of the same stuff you did,” Neil said. “They had some stuff over there with value — file cabinets, video carts. … Then I saw another truck that was going to the scrap yard on College Street. It was a pickup truck with a lowboy occupied by two black males.
“I also spoke with Daryl Johnson at Eugene-Field and he was very evasive with his answers but said the stuff was going to charities. I was also able to find out that we (BISD) have four Ryder trucks currently being rented by … I think they are supposed to be for moving the cafeteria equipment. When I spoke with Ms. Bonton at the administration building, I was told everything would be taken to Price Elementary, but obviously not everything was being taken over there.”
The Texas Education Agency confirmed that BISD had violated the law by not following the proper procedures for disposing of the items from its campuses, but said it would be up to the local law enforcement agencies to take action.
“No, they can’t give it away or donate it,” said DeEtta Culbertson, TEA spokesperson. “The board has to put a value on it and declare it as surplus. Then they must have an auction and try to sell it. If they determine there is no value, then the district should take it to the dump and if they get something (money) for it, then money would go to the general fund. The district should have a policy on surplus furniture.”
According to BISD Local Policy CI, “The Superintendent or designee is authorized to declare District materials, equipment, and supplies to be unnecessary and shall dispose of unnecessary materials, equipment, and supplies for fair market value. If the unnecessary property has no value, the Superintendent or designee may dispose of such property according to administrative discretion. Items obtained as federal surplus shall be managed according to federal regulations.”
Neil said he wants someone held accountable for giving away BISD property because technically it belongs to the taxpayers.
“We can’t give away BISD property it is against the law,” he said. “Everything that I saw out here had value, whether at an auction or as scrap. As tight as we are on our budget, we need everything we can get. We don’t need to be giving things away. We need every penny for this district and every penny that is given away is money that we cannot spend on the district, for example giving teachers raises. You know on one hand we are freezing pay and on the other hand we are giving away property – that doesn’t equate.”
Robert Zingelmann, BISD director of business and finance, barged into a conference room and interrupted an interview with assistant spokesperson Craig Eichhorn regarding the items being taken from the campuses.
“Once we were notified, we sent police there to stop it,” Zingelmann said. “I have not released any of that furniture to anybody. I don’t care what they are saying. The fact of the matter is that was not released, at least by me, and that is what I am certain of. A memo went out several weeks ago with the steps and procedures we would take.”
A public information request was submitted to BISD for the memo Zingelmann referred to but the document was not available by press time. A public information request was also submitted for copies of all video surveillance from the campus on Monday, June 27, 2011, in an effort to show who was removing taxpayer property.
Despite the statements from Daryl Johnson about individuals telling him they had permission from someone at the administration building to remove items from the campus, Zingelmann said BISD did not give anything away.
“We didn’t give that stuff away. There was no authorization to take that,” he said.
When asked why churches were at the school taking furniture and other equipment, Zingelmann responded, “I can’t answer that question.”
When pressed on the issue and asked if he was claiming the churches stole the items, he would not comment.
“I am saying when we were notified, I sent Beaumont ISD Police Department to contain and protect our property,” Zingelmann said. “Beaumont did not release any of that property to anybody. That property was supposed to be loaded and brought to Price (Elementary) for storage.”
In a follow-up call to Eichhorn, he said he was not aware of items being located at area scrap yards. When asked if the district was pursuing criminal charges against individuals taking items from the schools, he said he did not know.
Two e-mails sent to BISD attorney Melody Chappell seeking comment specifically about this matter were unanswered. A call to BISD board president Woodrow Reece’s cell phone went to voice-mail but a message stated the voice-mailbox was full.