Houston Architectural Firm Gets In Trouble Near San Antonio

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People here expend lots of energy bitching about how HISD implements a bond program -- and with good reason, god knows -- but they should see how things are done in the school district of Judson near San Antonio.

A Houston architectural firm is in the middle of a messy battle because the district essentially handed over the job of implementing a 2006 bond program of $236 million (including a $100 million high school) without seeking competing bids.

On the other hand, the folks at PBK Architects were nice enough to pay so that relevant district employees could golf at legendary golf courses Torrey Pines in San Diego and Spyglass in Pebble Beach, according to an audit.

The school district tried desperately to keep that audit hidden, but television station WOIA wormed it out and put it online.

The audit showed that the school board took a pretty casual view of things like awarding contracts.

Superintendent Ed Lyman told the board during one discussion that he "had a problem with telling PBK that if they helped get the Bond passed, that they would get the work from the Bond, and then coming back later and saying, 'No, we don't want to give you all the work,'" the report says.

The audit concluded that the district tossed around millions in contracts without going through the state-mandated process.

The audit was commissioned, by the way, when residents objected that the $10 million planned to renovate the football stadium turned into $14 million.

PBK is one of the state's leading architects for school-district projects (they got $160,000 from HISD in 2008); it's obvious they know their way around a school board.

And apparently a round or two at Torrey Pines is not a bad thing.

-- Richard Connelly

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