The Granbury Independent School District (GISD) Board of Trustees took no action against a district administrator on Monday after a third-party investigation concluded he might have repeatedly appropriated the small district’s private plane for personal use.
Assistant Superintendent Jimmy Dawson allegedly piloted the 60-year-old single-engine Cessna 172 six different times with his family members — mostly around holidays or spring break — and without any written authorization from GISD for the flights, according to a report.
Dawson apologized at the board meeting on Monday, per WFAA, stating, “It never was my intent to bring any negative attention to the aviation program. I regret the position this has placed our wonderful school district in.”
An investigation into Dawson’s use of the private plane and GISD’s aviation program was ordered by GISD’s superintendent following an expose in November by WFAA that put a spotlight on Dawson and his use of district taxpayer money to allegedly take personal trips with family.
When interviewed by investigators and the press, Dawson claimed that his flights were not personal trips but instead required practice flights to keep his pilot’s license current.
Southern Methodist University education and ethics professor Watt L. Black Jr. told WFAA back in November, “I don’t recall having seen cases ever where district employees would take a [school] bus, a van or a Suburban and load their family up and take them on a family vacation. It wouldn’t be appropriate. That’s not why taxpayers fund those purchases.”
The investigation into Dawson concluded that the administrator deserved minimal disciplinary action, at most a written warning and “ethical trainings on use of school property.”
The report claimed that the administrator’s alleged personal trips were not “excessive,” “extravagant,” or “abusive” and did not constitute “misappropriation.”
Still, not everyone at the board meeting was satisfied with its conclusions. Multiple district residents criticized GISD for its alleged lack of transparency, with at least one arguing that Dawson should no longer have anything to do with the aviation program, according to WFAA.
At least one member of the Board of Trustees was also dissatisfied.
Trustee Melanie Graft stated, “I don’t believe it was a fair or unbiased investigation.”
The alleged misuse of taxpayer money by Texas school districts has drawn increased attention following scandals at DeSoto Independent School District, Crosby Independent School District, and Dallas Independent School District (DISD), each involving either gross mismanagement and incompetence or criminal behavior.
In recent years at DISD, internal auditors and whistleblowers alleged that upwards of $67 million had been misspent in a bid to circumvent state laws regarding district expenditures of taxpayer money.