DA investigating former Lubbock ISD contract employees - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

DA investigating former Lubbock ISD contract employees

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

Nearly half a million dollars, that's how much Lubbock ISD says they were duped out of by two former contract workers.

The Lubbock County District Attorney's office is investigating and will decide whether criminal charges will be filed.

Sodexo is contracted by LISD for grounds keeping, maintenance, and custodial services.

They've been working with the district for more than two decades, and LISD says they've had a good working relationship.

On Tuesday we learned that there have been two separate allegations of inappropriate conduct by former Sodexo employees since 2003.

Office supplies and electronics like cameras, printers, and ink cartridges are all products LISD Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza says certain Sodexo employees could purchase with district money.

"Sodexo is responsible for our grounds so when a weed eater goes out, they're able to purchase a weed eater," she explained.

Lubbock ISD says starting in 2003, a married couple working for Sodexo would buy several different items and the bill would come to LISD.

The products never made it.

LISD says the couple sold them on eBay instead.

"They actually signed confessions. We were able to get full restitution for all of that it equaled about $446,000 since 2003," Garza said.

The incident came to the district's attention last year when Dr. Garza moved an LISD employee to monitor business transactions with Sodexo since the district pays them almost 15 million a year for their work.

"She started asking for paperwork from them and noticed transactions that were questionable and that started all of this," said Garza.

The LISD employee discovered that a different Sodexo employee, who no longer works for the company, used his authority to contract jobs and projects to another company that he had partial ownership in.

Garza said the case was sent to the District Attorney's office but it was determined that there was no criminal wrongdoing. The district and Sodexo felt the actions were inappropriate.

Sodexo then launched an investigation and discovered the suspicious transactions the couple is accused of.

"Every penny associated with the fraud was taken care of by the company and an additional amount, well over $1 million was paid to the school district just to make it right. I think they want to continue the relationship," Garza said.

None of the three work for Sodexo anymore, and LISD says the company is cooperating fully.

LISD is opening up bids for the services Sodexo provided a year early- this January, but Sodexo will be allowed to apply just like any other business.

The district attorney's office continues to investigate but no criminal charges have been filed.

We reached out to the couple accused for a comment but haven't heard back.

Read the entire Lubbock ISD statement regarding Sodexo below:

Our relationship with Sodexo began 24 years ago. Sodexo is a privately held company responsible for the daily maintenance of our district facilities and grounds. The district's annual contract with Sodexo is about $14.5 Million.

Recently, there have been two management issues on the part of Sodexo that uncovered mismanagement and financial impropriety. The employees in question are no longer employed by Sodexo.

The first incident occurred this past February. In my capacity as superintendent, I moved the monitoring and daily execution of the Sodexo contract to the same district employee who also negotiates the contract. This district employee noted some transactions that were of concern. We immediately notified Sodexo leadership and the company initiated an investigation of its financial transactions. Sodexo's investigation into the matter determined that there was a conflict of interest involving a former Sodexo employee. Sodexo reimbursed the District in the amount of $220,000. Sodexo also provided additional compensation to the District in the amount of $280,000.

Following this first incident, Sodexo replaced its local management. The district continued to work with Sodexo leadership and the new local management in monitoring financial transactions that resulted in the discovery of the second incident. The second incident occurred in July when the new local Sodexo manager noted possible financial impropriety by employees. The company immediately Lubbock ISD leadership and initiated an investigation of the financial transactions dating back to 2003.

The resulting investigation conducted by Sodexo revealed improper activity on the part of two Sodexo employees. Sodexo representatives have fully cooperated with the District throughout this process, and all documentation from the investigations has been turned over to Matt Powell, the Lubbock County District Attorney. The two employees no longer work for Sodexo.

The employees involved in these matters were Sodexo employees, not Lubbock ISD employees. There has been NO wrongdoing whatsoever on the part of Lubbock ISD employees.

Sodexo has made the district whole through restitution for improper transactions dating back to 2003 totaling $446,804 and additional interest and settlement in the amount of $1,671,790.

We intend to go out to bid for these services in January 2012, a year earlier than required. The provisions of bid proposal include an annual independent audit paid for by the selected vendor as well as additional contracted safeguards.

We continue to closely monitor all business transactions of Sodexo and all other vendors to ensure that we are protecting taxpayer dollars.

Sodexo spokesperson Greg Yost also released the following statement:

This matter is currently under investigation by the authorities and Sodexo is unable to comment beyond saying that we brought the findings of our own internal investigation to the Lubbock County District Attorney's office and we are cooperating fully.

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