DISD Whistleblowers | The New Hire

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Zachariah Manning’s first day working for the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) was just over seven years ago, September 8, 2015, and it seems not much has changed regarding new employees.

He took a construction project manager job in the district’s Capital Improvement Department, which has since dissolved.

According to a lawsuit Manning would file against DISD almost three years later, the district provided him no training, no guidance on district protocols or procedures, and did not issue him a phone or computer for about two months; essential tools for the job.

As a construction project manager, the job entailed coordinating with vendors and contractors while preparing and maintaining records for the department. All had to be done in line with DISD policy and regulations set by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), undergirded by the Texas legal code governing job order contracts for public facilities.

The law reads, “The governing body of a governmental entity shall approve each job, task, or purchase order that exceeds $500,000.”

Regarding any actions taken by DISD’s Capital Improvement Department and its Procurement Department, that governing entity would be the DISD Board of Trustees.

Furthermore, any contract exceeding $500,000 would legally have to go through a public competitive bidding process, with some exceptions, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.

The point of having competitive bids, especially on big-budget projects, is that the taxpayer gets the best possible return on government spending, which should be efficient, nonwasteful, and, most importantly, legal.

Manning claimed that his coworkers and supervisors were intentionally circumventing the competitive bidding threshold and its corresponding rules in his suit.

Speaking to WFAA back in 2018 about what he allegedly witnessed, Manning said, “It was … an extreme misuse of taxpayer money.”

Pulling the same thread Manning had gotten ahold of, another whistleblower just a few years later tried to put a number on it, at least for jobs contracted between 2015 and 2018.

In an email recently obtained by The Dallas Express, the then-chief of DISD’s Office of Internal Audit Steven Martin, estimated the figure to be as high as $67 million.

Both Manning and Martin would learn during their time working for DISD that holding the system to account would be an uphill climb with no guarantee of success, especially with the district putting its thumb on the scale, maliciously or not.

While all of this has been a matter of public record for some time, The Dallas Express hopes to spotlight the patterns and alleged abuses faced by public employees trying to do the right thing.

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  1. David

    The more our government is involved in our children’s education the worse things have become.

  2. Pops77

    There is way too much bureaucracy and incompetent administrators in public education. Money is wasted and regulations ignored because it isn’t the administrators money and many just don’t care. It is time to tighten budgets on any items that don’t directly affect the education of our children.

    • RiverKing

      I basically agree except that tightening budgets won’t fix the problem. Complete school choice with the money following the student will.

  3. Djea3

    Remember this, if the district does not spend every dollar every year then they would be required to reduce the property tax.
    meanwhile, IF you want to resolve this, make it simple: Any employee should be able to make a formal complaint to the state police who under law must investigate and arrest the person that violated the law regarding this.
    Additionally, the law should allow FORENSIC examination of the bids to assure that they were reasonable and competitive and that the bidder was qualified. If not to any of the three, then a claw back of money by the government should be mandated and that all expected profit from the unlawful bid be clawed back as well.
    This would mean that any company moving forward with a no bid contract above a specific amount would have no profit. The companies KNOW THE RULES. Allowing the district to violate the rules should be on the company itself as well.
    It is a from of FRAUD and prosecutable as well.
    The prosecution needs to begin at the District employee and management level. Then to the contractor level.

  4. Becky Beck

    I won a Federal Whistleblower Suit and Federal Retaliation Suit (1998-1999) against DISD. They were making me misuse my CDC grant money for HIV Education. I couldn’t talk to my secretary, etc.


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