Taxpayer dollars fund Walker dance commercial
Longtime Beaumont Independent School District contract electrician Calvin Walker not only made millions of dollars off the funds given to the local school district to support the education of Beaumont’s youth – he also made a music video/commercial using the taxpayer funds meant to educate Beaumont students, according to information provided by the Beaumont Independent School District.
Walker of Walker’s Electric, aka Walkers Electric, is currently awaiting his day in state court to face allegations he bilked the local school district and its taxpayers out of millions of dollars by presenting falsified invoices for payment on materials he allegedly supplied for construction during the BISD bond, but before he was arrested on those charges on July 29, the embattled electrician took to social media to share a commercial wherein he is shown as a “too legit to quit” BISD electrician hard at work in front of students playing in the band and a bevy of females dancing on the roof of his work truck to the MC Hammer hit song that offers up the motto for Walker’s advertisement.
While it is unknown if Walker received permission from rapper MC Hammer to use the copyrighted music in his for-profit commercials, should Walker be using the recording without consent, he could be penalized by a statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000 or damages that can be proved by the copyright holder, according to American copyright law.
In June of this year, the Beastie Boys won a copyright infringement lawsuit against Monster energy drinks for the beverage company’s unsanctioned use of the musicians’ material in their online ads.
Walker challenged media outlets to air his commercial but quickly rescinded that offer, along with all traces of the commercial on the Internet, about the time of his arrest.
“I think they’ll rather shut down television than play this clip,” Walker quipped online. “Kinda like they are doing the BISD. Before they see me continue that contract, they would rather get rid of the entire School Board, fire the Superintendent, fire all the teachers and get a new law firm. DAMN, TALKING ABOUT INTIMIDATION!!! The bad part about it, they still won’t win. I have already accomplished my mission.”
“Too legit to quit” may be the anthem of his electrical business, but he was apparently not too legit to be dropped as a vendor with the school district once the Texas Education Agency installed a Board of Managers to replace the governing Board of Trustees ruled by the state agency to have “failed” in its oversight of school district dollars. Walker’s commercial is no longer viewable publicly, but was made by Ozen High School’s Panther Productions, headed by BISD employee Camille Briggs.
While Briggs does acknowledge the student team made the commercial for free, she said she did not have a copy of the commercial nor could she recall exactly when the advertisement was commissioned.
“Our students put together these packages,” Briggs said. “We’re not a corporation – we’re a school. We don’t advertise for people to come to us. We seek out stories that we can do and projects that we can do so that the students can get experience.
“Some days we record well … it’s student led – so you get what you get. We don’t charge to do your commercial, but then again you’re getting a 15-year-old doing your commercial - so you kinda get what you get.”
Briggs said Walker presented her with his “vision,” and she and a team of students brought that vision to life with production and editing. The dancers, musicians and extras, she said, were all friends and family of Walker – although at least one of Walker’s family members was indeed a BISD high school band member.
“Some people are happy with it and they donate to our trips to Hollywood, but we don’t necessarily charge,” Briggs continued. “We’re not like a corporation or a company where we charge a fee.” For example, she said, she and her class would make an Examiner commercial for only a contribution to their trips to Hollywood “if we had the students available and the resources at the time.”
In fact, Briggs said, Panther Productions produced more than one commercial for Walker’s Electric.
“I have done one with dancers in it – it was his daughter, one of his sons and some of their friends. His son is a student at Central. His son is a member of the band,” she said. “We filmed it and edited it.
“(The one that didn’t have dancers) was done at Ozen. (The other) was done in an open field – I think off Laurel.
“I got a student connected with him. Then other students edited it. It was years ago – I’d say 2011.”
Briggs said she and her student crew produced commercials for others, as well, all for free, although she did say that many of the clients did give money to the students’ trips to Hollywood. The students received grades for their work, but no copies can be found in BISD archives, Briggs said.
“We had LaCie hard drives – and they all crashed, so we literally restarted in like 2013, 2012,” she said. “I wasn’t the editor. My students edit and I approve it. Maybe the student who edited it maybe kept their work, but… So many come and go, I don’t know which one did what.
“For this school year, I have some documentation, but for three school years ago. … We’ve made mistakes, we’re getting better and we’re learning. That’s the way schools do it.”
Briggs said she couldn’t recall much of the intricate details related to the Walker production, or recall that Walker was, at the time she was making his commercial, facing trial in federal court alleging he falsified invoices submitted to BISD for payment.
“A commercial – that’s not significant to me,” she said. “I remember the little girl who was killed in the Christmas parade and we had to do something on that for her funeral. I remember that. A Calvin Walker commercial – I’m sorry, that’s not significant enough for me to remember.”
Briggs further explained that she produced the video at the behest of her boss, then special assistant to the superintendent Jessie Haynes and her protégé, Evelyn Fontenot, who were in charge of advertising on the Carrol A. “Butch” Thomas Education Support Center scoreboard.
“I get a note (from miss Evelyn Fontenot) showing who is sponsoring what,” she said. “We did graphics and videos for scoreboard advertisers and four promos for each campus.”
Although Briggs said she produced commercials for other scoreboard advertisers, she could not name any in her interview with The Examiner.
Fontenot, who testified on behalf of the accused in Haynes’ trial for blocking a public passageway, was not only the district’s media center manager and Haynes’ direct subordinate,but she was also the person collecting commission from the sale of much of the scoreboard advertising, as shown by a W-9 form Fontenot provided to the district when she registered herself as a vendor using the moniker “More is Better.” Fontenot billed the district more than $5,000 in commission for the sale of advertisements for the scoreboard under More is Better and roughly the same under her own name.