Walker contract extended with BISD

Walker contract extended with BISD

Calvin Walker is a lousy bookkeeper.

That was the sentiment shared by Beaumont Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Carrol Thomas on Thursday night, July 26, after the Board of Trustees voted 4-2 to extend the district’s electrical contract with the 51-year-old Walker for another year.

A deeply divided audience reacted with both astonishment and pleasure at the decision when the votes were shown on the large projection screen behind the trustees. More than half a dozen private citizens addressed the board prior to its vote, and all but one of them spoke against extending the contract.

Many of the complaints against Walker surrounded around the fact he admitted as part of his plea deal with the U.S. government last week that he altered an invoice he sent to BISD.

The public sentiment included Beaumont City Councilman Mike Getz telling the board it would be “racist” to extend Walker’s contract simply because he’s black. "It takes a racist to identify a racist," District 2 Trustee Zenobia Bush would later exclaim from her seat on the dais.

Walker was under indictment on 37 counts of fraud and other charges alleging he over-billed taxpayers by submitting falsified invoices to the Beaumont Independent School District for electrical work. He was tried in December 2011 but jurors were deadlocked, failing to reach a verdict, and U.S. Judge Ron Clark declared a mistrial in the case. Clark reset the case for July.

Walker admitted as part of his plea earlier this month that, included in the wholesale invoices, was an invoice in the amount of $382,975.32 that had been altered to reflect it was an invoice when in fact the document was a quote and not an actual purchase. Walker’s check payable to that wholesaler in the amount of $382,975.32 was never presented to the wholesaler or negotiated. Records from BISD also contained similar altered documents purportedly from the same electrical supplier matching invoices submitted by Walker for materials in other projects.

Walker could face up to one year in federal prison; however, that’s unlikely since the prosecution is not suggesting jail time at sentencing, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Hobbs.

Trustee Mike Neil questioned Thomas on the BISD administration’s stance on Walker’s court case.

“We have no – not any reason at all – to feel that Calvin Walker has done anything illegal, inappropriate, whatever,” said Thomas at the board meeting, eliciting howls of disbelief from the room.  When challenged by Neil about Walker's submission of the altered invoice to BISD, Thomas responded, “No one said Mr. Walker is the best at bookkeeping.”

After the vote, the board of trustees also decided against ordering more information from the US Attorney’s Office in relation to Walker’s case. Trustee President Woodrow Reece said there are “three criteria” the board has to look at before it can go after what is left of the $3.2 million Walker forfeited as part of his plea.

Reece declined to comment on what those criteria are before being ushered away by fellow trustee Terry Williams.

Walker, surrounded by family and friends at the meeting and appearing upbeat after the vote, said he couldn’t comment about his case and declined comment on his contract being extended with BISD.