The third day of testimony in the federal court case alleging Calvin Walker of Walker's Electric defrauded taxpayers and BISD began Dec. 7. Still on the stand from yesterday was Chris Rybacki of Summit Electrical Supply, the warehouse Walker reportedly purchased supplies from to complete numerous BISD projects.
Rybacki told the jury many of documents under review were obviously altered, using genuine Summit quotes and forging them onto paid invoices. In reality, Rybacki said under oath, one order examined by Rybacki showed Walker paid for a single screwdriver. BISD documents provided by the prosecution show Walker billed BISD for the invoice at more than $20,000. Other quotes that were never paid invoices to Summit were altered and forged with his signature as paid receipts, Rybacki said. All totaled, Walker purported to have paid "roughly $2.4 million," he said. Walker actually paid $432,789, less than a quarter of the amount billed to BISD before Walker then added 10 percent mark-up to the altered quote total.Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin is now cross-examining the witness. The Examiner will provide updates as they become available.
As the second day of testimony came to a close, lawyers finished questioning Naomi Lawrence-Lee. Part of the new testimony solicited from the BISD purchasing agent detailed accounts from which Walker was paid for a series of contracts, including payments drafted from the maintenance department budget, capital funds and bond proceeds.
Also brought up in Lee’s testimony was the fact that BISD continued to operate in a manner inconsistent with TEA bidding requirements when signing off on hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts awarded without seeking independent bids. Just two invoiced and paid checks together totaled $1.7 million.
DeGuerin, electrical contractor Calvin Walker's defense attorney, finished questioning Lee by asking her to expand on documents that he said “look kind of funny.” Those included electrician’s names covered in “white out” on invoices submitted by Walker to BISD. He also drew her attention to the line items submitting payment for bucket truck rentals – trucks owned by Walker and rented to the district for his use in projects for thousands of dollars on multiple contracts.
“Maybe the contract didn’t follow the rules,” DeGuerin stated. But, according to him, BISD signed off on the project and project amount, so Walker perpetrated no fraud, as contended by the prosecution.
Federal Prosecutor Bob Rawls submitted, however, that an item in Walker’s contract for the project materials “shall be billed at cost with a 10 percent markup.”
The next witness to take the stand, Chris Rybacki, manager at Summit Electric Supply Co. Inc., expanded on how much Walker paid for materials since his company is the defendant’s supplier of goods. Rybacki was well known to Walker, and had even been a reference for him on prior BISD jobs.
According to Rybacki, Walker only purchased a small fraction of the materials he claims to have purchased from Summit. U.S. Flag and Flagpole also submitted documentation stating their quote to Walker for materials was misrepresented. In one instance, U.S. Flag and Flagpole charged Walker $8,800 for materials. Walker’s invoice to BISD claims the materials from that company cost $25,800. Walker then added an additional 10 percent to the total for his markup.
Judge Ron Clark, presiding over the trial, told counsel that in order to convict Walker of the counts lodged in the indictment, fraud must be proved. According to him, “Fraud is material misrepresentation.”
The trial will resume Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 8:30 a.m. The Examiner will continue to offer updates as they become available.
Rounding out the morning's testimony in the federal prosecution of Calvin Walker was the questioning of BISD purchasing agent Naomi Lawrence-Lee.
Walker's defense attorney, Dick DeGuerin, cross examined Lee, who is the prosecution's second witness. Lee was asked questions related to BISD's maintenance contract with Walker and how the electrician was paid for services.
According to Lee, the scope of work under question was not part of the BISD board-approved contract, and it was her opinion that the work performed was new construction, not maintenance. She also admitted that this scope of work should have gone through the bidding process.
Additionally, Lee stated that Walker's contract with BISD stipulates he be paid from the approved budget of the maintenance department, and the work submissions under question were all paid from insurance proceeds related to Hurricane Ike.
Defense council addressed invoices and statements from Walker to BISD and asserted that money billed to the district was approved, at no fault of his client's, even if the amount seemed excessive to onlookers.
Read more this afternoon as the trial continues, beginning at 1:15 today.
And earlier today...
As Day 2 commenced in the Beaumont federal court case against Calvin Walker of Walker's Electric, the prosecution continued the questioning of Beaumont Independent School District purchasing agent Naomi Lawrence-Lee.
Walker is accused of bilking the school district by altering invoices and overcharging for materials and services. Lee was asked pointed questions referring to multiple invoices submitted to BISD for payment that reflected materials used for different temporary campus projects that coincidentally totaled the same amount. In each of the invoices, Walker added a 10 percent mark-up of more than $50,000.
Although the mark-up alone exceeds the amount at which BISD seeks bids, according to Lee, she said the district elected not to do so in this case.
"I believe the district operated under the belief it had satisfied state law," she said.
However, the Texas Education Agency found that BISD had violated state law in the way it handled payments and contracts awarded to Walker's Electric - a fact Lawrence-Lee later admitted to under questioning by prosecutor Bob Rawls.
Testimony will continue throughout the week. The Examiner will post updates on the courtroom deliberations throughout the entirety of the trial. Check back today for more.