Calhoun teachers' group accuses superintendent of financial irregularities

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

June 19, 2014 at 1:19 a.m.
Updated June 20, 2014 at 1:20 a.m.

Five Calhoun County teachers claim school district funds were used to support a company the superintendent has financial interest in, according to an attorney's letter.

The school district purchases supplemental State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness resources from lead4ward, a company that employs Gayla Wiggins, Superintendent Billy Wiggins' wife.

The situation creates the appearance of financial conflict and raises questions about other financial irregularities, Julie Leahy, an attorney for the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, wrote in a letter to the school board.

The association conducted an investigation of public financial information and discovered an increase in the amount of business being conducted with lead4ward since Wiggins was hired by the district in December 2010.

The letter maintained Wiggins violated a school board policy by not filing financial disclosures related to funds paid to lead4ward.

Wiggins misunderstood the filing requirements, according to a news release from the school district's attorney, Anne Marie Odefey.

"He thought that Mrs. Wiggins would have to have some ownership in the company before he was required to file the affidavit."

Gayla Wiggins is an educational consultant for the company, which has received more than $33,902 from the school district. The only previous payment made by the school district to lead4ward was for $150 on Nov. 23, 2010.

The board policy, which is also a Texas law, requires the superintendent to file an affidavit with the board president disclosing any substantial interest in a business that benefits from school district funds.

According to government code, substantial interest exceeds 10 percent of a person's gross income for the previous year.

The letter, which was submitted on behalf of Christine Amerson, Rhonda Hahn, Brian Franck, Maggie Franck and Lina Moore, asked the school board to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter and take appropriate action.

Moore, principal at Travis Middle School, was the subject of a recent campaign launched by teachers and community members who were unhappy because Wiggins reassigned Moore to a different position within the school district.

Gayla Wiggins has no ownership in the company, and no payments were made directly to her. The purchase orders were initiated by curriculum personnel and campus administrators and not by Billy Wiggins, according to the news release from Odefey.

Gayla Wiggins is paid a percentage of fees when she is hired for speaking engagements within any of the 700 school districts served by her company.

Her earnings from the Calhoun County school district account for less than 35-thousandths of the couple's combined gross income over the last three years, Ervin Knezek, manager of lead4ward, said in the school district's news release.

Lead4ward was formed less than six months before Wiggins was employed by the district. School district records indicate lead4ward was paid $27,427.80 over the last three school years from a budget of more than $500,000 devoted to training and materials for the same period, according to the news release.

The superintendent filed the affidavit with the district as soon as he learned it was required. Odefey did not discover other financial irregularities, and her findings were forwarded to the district attorney.

"At this point, the criminal district attorney has no opinion as to whether it was necessary for the superintendent to file an affidavit since the facts are not yet known and verified," according to a news release from District Attorney Dan Heard.

The allegations were forwarded to the Port Lavaca Police Department for investigation.



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