The Killeen Independent School District has again hired attorneys with taxpayer money to block the public from viewing a separate special education audit report — funded with $85,735 in local taxpayers’ money.
Austin law firm Walsh Gallegos, on behalf of Killeen ISD, has filed another Attorney General request to withhold the “separate report,” cited in the January draft audit, according to an April 5 notice to the Herald from the firm’s attorney Haley Turner.
Had it not been for the Herald’s freedom of information request for the original draft of the audit, that draft audit and the existence of this “separate report” would be unknown to the public.
This is the second time the district has asked the attorney general to withhold special education audit documents. In February, the district fought the Herald’s request for a complete unrevised copy of its special education audit. Just before spring break, the district released the documents. A review of the documents raised more questions.
In particular, the document mentioned a “separate report” that was not mentioned in the final public version of the report.
Board trustees and members of an internal board subcommittee — Susan Jones, Corbett Lawler and Shelley Wells and Superintendent John Craft — reviewed the audit by Gibson Consulting Group before it became public but say they were not involved in editing it.
“Again, the removal of any information from the Draft report to the final version would have been made by Gibson Consulting associates and clarification would need to be provided by the firm,” Craft said in an email to the Herald on March 18.
However, Greg Gibson, president of Gibson Consulting Group, which is performing several KISD audits, said he would not talk to the Herald.
“It is the practice of our firm not to discuss client matters with the media,” Gibson said in an email to the Herald on March 23. Gibson has more than 115 clients, most of which are taxpayer-funded school districts or education departments.
“All questions related to the internal audit of the Killeen Independent School District’s special education program should be directed towards the district.”
Still, one thing is for sure — an entire paragraph from the January draft mentioning the mysterious report was deleted by someone, prior to the district’s final release of the special education audit to the public in March.
Amid multiple document requests over the last few months, the point of contention between the Herald and the district continues to center on what the public has the right to see and know.
On March 11, the district’s professional standards administrator, Mike Harper, said the January draft of the special education audit was the original report received from Gibson.
The paragraph mentioning the “separate report,” found on page 22 of the January draft audit, is nowhere to be found in the final audit released to the public:
“A complete report of this assessment is contained in a separate report. However, key excerpts from that analysis are incorporated into this chapter.”
It is unknown who made the decision to remove this paragraph from the final document.
Additionally, it is unclear what this separate report contains and why the district would not want the public to see it.
What is clear is what the district will do to keep this document from the public — hiring an attorney who bills hourly — with taxpayer money.
Every hour Walsh Gallegos’ associate attorney Haley Turner spends on this matter costs taxpayers $255, according to legal documents obtained by the Herald.
But even a highly paid attorney can make a mistake, and Turner did.
On April 5, Turner mistakenly addressed the attorney general request to “The Honorable Greg Abbott” — despite the fact that Abbott is currently the sitting Texas governor and has not been the attorney general since 2015. Ken Paxton now is Texas attorney general.
Regardless, in the letter, Turner requested on behalf of the district to “withhold certain information which has been requested from the district.”
“Any public information and/or documents identified will be made available to the Requestor (The Herald) in accordance with the Act. The district respectfully asserts, however, that certain information is not public under the Act, and therefore not subject to disclosure, pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 552.002, as discussed below, and/or is covered by an exception of the Act and therefore may be withheld at the discretion of the District.”
Gibson Consulting “PMP Consultant” Cheyenne Rolf was cc’d on the letter along with Killeen ISD professional standards administrator Mike Harper.
The Herald will file a response, continuing to request the “separate report.”