Wherein Allen Gwinn Wonders if DISD Hasn't Just Wasted Another Million Dollars and a Whole Lot of Time

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The following comes from a July 31, 2006, story in The Dallas Morning News, shortly after the paper published a series of stories revealing that some Dallas Independent School District employees had used district-issued credit cards to run up more than $6 million in purchases that either violated district policies or state procurement laws.

Fraud experts say that hundreds of cardholders are likely to be interviewed by investigators. They could also have their personal finances, relationships and extracurricular activities examined as the district tries to determine how much of the $40 million charged in the last two years went toward illicit purchases.

This comes from a July 16, 2006, Dallas Morning News story about the persons leading the investigation into DISD credit-card abuse:

The last time Paul Coggins and Madeleine Johnson investigated corruption in Dallas schools, it was the late 1990s and both were U.S. attorneys. Their dragnet led to indictments of 13 DISD employees and sent Superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez to federal prison. Mr. Coggins and Ms. Johnson are about to dig into the Dallas Independent School District once again. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa retained the two lawyers Tuesday to lead an investigation into district credit card use.

And the following comes from a story on Dallas.org this morning, written by Allen Gwinn, who busted the district's big spenders long before The News. Using depositions taken in a related court case and other behind-the-scenes memos, Gwinn has discovered, in short, that Coggins and Johnson and their law firm have been paid $1 million in DISD dough, but that Coggins and Johnson have only interviewed one suspected credit-card abuser apiece. Gwinn also finds that the bulk of the investigation has been conducted by three other people who, after all this time, have looked at only a fraction of the alleged violations.

As opposed to gathering and organizing receipts in house, instead of retaining certified public accountants, instead of using resources which were already prepared, DISD made the decision to spend $1 million dollars using a $350-an-hour law firm to investigate between 12% and 16% of the transactions committed with its procurement cards.

Gwinn also provides some early-morning reading: depositions from two of the three investigators looking into the procurement-card abuse. We plan to start reading them...um...any second. --Robert Wilonsky

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