Thanks for the money, mommy
Over the last several weeks, an investigation into Beaumont ISD Assistant Superintendent Patricia Adams Collins Lambert has shown her to possess a criminal record for extorting public funds from teachers in the New Orleans school district, unearthed accusations that she leads a massive campaign of both cheating and retaliation against her accusers, exposed her as having lied on her application for employment at BISD about her criminal background, and debunked her public claims regarding Loyola and Harvard credentials. Also shown in Lambert’s history was her steady climb up the BISD salary pay scale to the point where the administrator is now one of the highest paid employees in the district, bringing in more than $100,000 annually aside from supplemental pay, incentive pay, and paid travel.
Now, the investigation has revealed Lambert isn’t the only member of her family on the fast track at Beaumont Independent School District to bringing in a six-figure income — her son has charged the district more than $60,000 in a six-month time frame for “printing” costs, despite the fact he possesses no printing facility and is running the business out of a rented mailbox and an address where he no longer resides.
When the now assistant superintendent of secondary schools was still the principal at BISD’s Central High School, Lambert opted to stray away from Central’s longstanding practice of processing outside printing work through the local Kinko’s. The new vendor of choice was none other than Houston-based Designergy, owned and operated by Lambert’s son, Brian Collins. Since the Lambert offspring was first awarded vendor status in 2007-08, he has reportedly billed the district more than $350,000 for services rendered. In just this past school year alone, BISD invoices show Collins billed the district $61,896.44.
Among some of the items provided by Collins this year were the Central High School Rose Cutting Ceremony keepsake books, which came at a cost of $40 each billed to graduating Central seniors as part of their “Senior Package.” Not purchasing the Senior Package, which totaled more than $300 per student, meant that the senior could not attend prom or the Senior Class Picnic. Just for the 225 Central senior souvenirs, Collins billed the district $9,000. Added to costs Collins billed for Central’s graduation programs and extras such as $10 flute glasses, the total bill to the district for Central’s graduation project was $18,431.79.
But $18,431.79 is just the April check. Tracing back invoices over the last several months — in March, Collins billed the district $5,498 and the Central campus individually $976; in February, Collins billed the district $3,879 and Central an additional $4,550; in November, Collins billed the district $8,315; in October, Collins billed the district $6,494; and in September, Collins billed the district $13,751.
Designergy is touted as a “media production company established in Houston” with a business strategy of “Consult, Design, Produce, Satisfy.” On the company website, a few examples of the designer’s work are up for show including two banners produced for Central High School prior to July 2012.
“Our specialties are renderings of full color graphics, outdoor/indoor products and services for printed publications,” Designergy’s website contends. “Designergy does not compromise on quality. We invest time in product rendering to produce work at an industry standard. Our work consistently delivers results in the national marketplace.
“Designergy is all about understanding your business, as if it were our own. It’s about taking your marketing strategy and communicating it effectively to your target audience. It’s also about taking a message and pushing the ordinary a step further toward the extraordinary.”
Anyone besides BISD wanting to conduct business with Collins’ company, however, may find it hard to commission his help in pushing the ordinary toward the extraordinary. Collins did not answer calls to his listed work phone number, nor answer attempts at face-to-face contact at his Houston “office.” Instead, visits to the address listed on the BISD invoices were met by Deidre Collins, Brian Collins’ soon-to-be ex-wife. Deidre advised that Brian moved from the residence more than two years ago to a Houston-area apartment complex. Collins did live at the residence the two shared when he started Designergy, but the couple never owned or possessed printing equipment, Deidre said. BISD checks do arrive at her home from time to time, Deidre added, but are quickly passed off through a mutual friend to deliver to her estranged husband. Deidre further stated that she didn’t know how much any of the checks were for but that when he lived with her, all Collins did in his line of business was graphic design from a bedroom in their home he turned into an office.
In a conversation with Deidre, she said Brian started Designergy in 2007 and “always wanted to start his own business.” Asked if he had many customers, she said “BISD and his mom’s school when she was the principal” were the biggest. Deidre said she was unsure how much Collins routinely billed BISD and his mom’s school, but roughly $56,000 every six months “sounded about right.”
Using estimates from Collin’s wife and BISD invoices, the amount paid by Central High and BISD administration to Designergy balloons to approximately $371,378 over the last six years.
An alternate address businessman Collins gave to BISD other than his marital home is 10223 Broadway, Suite P 570, in Pearland. A quick trip to that locale revealed it as a UPS store that rents mailboxes. The UPS store manager at first said he could not give any information about Collins or Designergy but later said he knows Collins, although the former customer no longer rents a box with the UPS store. The store manager further stated that Collins had called recently looking for a check that was mailed to that location from Beaumont.
A separate attempt to reach the elusive Collins was made at an address Deidre provided from the couple’s divorce papers. Repeated attempts to get an answer at the apartment were futile, but motion in the apartment windows indicated someone was home but not answering the door. Multiple attempts to reach Collins by phone were also unsuccessful; the one time someone did answer the number given on the Designergy website, a man said he was not Collins but was the owner of a plumbing company.
Questions posed to BISD spokesperson and Public Information Officer Ron Reynolds regarding whether a principal and/or assistant superintendent contracting with a close relative was allowable under BISD guidelines were referred to the district’s policy on nepotism as it relates to vendors. According to the BISD policy, the only “officials” requiring nepotism disclosure are the elected board of trustees and the superintendent.
Texas Local Government Code defines officials differently, however. According to the state threshold, “‘Local public official’ means a member of the governing body or another officer, whether elected, appointed, paid, or unpaid, of any district (including a school district), county, municipality, precinct, central appraisal district, transit authority or district, or other local governmental entity who exercises responsibilities beyond those that are advisory in nature.”
Still, BISD does have policies in place that might affect the district’s business with Collins’ Designergy. According to purchasing guidelines of BISD, “Purchases over $1,000 should be purchased from an approved vendor on the Beaumont ISD approved vendor list; purchases over $10,000 will require three written or faxed quotes from vendors; (and) purchases over $50,000 will require board approval.”
BISD spokesperson Reynolds said information as to whether the appropriate bids were produced in Collins’ case were not available in time for this publication.
BISD trustee and professional contractor Tom Neild said if employees were indeed allowed to contract their own children in deals paying out tens of thousands of dollars, the district needs to re-evaluate its procurement policy.
“Where are the checks and balances?” Neild asked. “I think it’s a problem if there’s nothing to keep a principal from issuing a contract that’s improper. There’s definitely a way to fix it, though – it shouldn’t be allowed.
“If you’re in the district and you have the capability of making a purchase order, it should be a policy you can’t do business with your next of kin. Why would you – with the perception of it? If they did do business with a relative, they should disclose it so you don’t end up with situations like these.”