Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

February 13, 2013

Questions arise about possible conflict of interest with JISD contractor

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — A concern about a possible conflict of interest between JISD board member Jeff Horton and concrete work done at a local school has revealed that his company was awarded a contract last August to do minor jobs for the district other contractors deem too small.

According to Super-intendent Dr. Joe War-dell, Horton Con-crete “has done work for the district for a long, long time, long before Jeff ever got on the school board” and is an approved vendor with the Region 7 Education Service Center.

“We use that list to do a lot of things in the district, and we use other local people on the list,” he said. “We're not doing anything illegal in any way, nor do we feel that there's been any kind of discrepancy or that we've tried to hide his work.”

According to a Region 7 employee, the service center's approved vendor co-op ensures that participants have met all legal eligibility requirements that are part of the bid process, allowing the members to focus on the hiring, rather than the vetting, process.

“As long as (vendors and schools) have met district standards, it's not a problem (conflict of interest in that district),” she said.

The Local Govern-ment Code Chapter 171 – cited as part of the JISD policy on ethics and conflict of interest disclosures – addresses this.

Horton has filed a conflicts disclosure statement with JISD concerning his company, which is posted on the school's website.

“We're meeting every aspect of the law in everything that we do,” Wardell said.

The concrete work done at East Side Elementary called for replacing sidewalks around the perimeter of the school, work not part of the $49 million bond project that saw construction of two new schools.