[Editor's note: see the bottom of the story for an update with KISD's response]
When Taylor High School's former head baseball coach Cory Bowyer resigned in mid-July, school officials said the coach wanted to spend more time with his family, and they publicly wished him the best. But according to emails obtained by the Houston Press through an open records request, Bowyer actually resigned amid accusations of lying and a police investigation into the disappearance of team funds.
The emails show Bowyer lied about funds missing from the school's baseball user fee account, and the emails also indicated that there have been concerns in the past about Bowyers' record keeping related to the school's booster club and that he once "lost" an exam key.
The 44-year-old Bowyer resigned after six years on the job and 186 career wins, following a strong season which saw the Mustangs finish 22-10 and win a 6A District title. Bowyer also resigned from his teaching position in the school's social studies department. Bowyer came to KTHS in 2009 right after he won a district championship at Channelview High School, where he had coached for four seasons. His abrupt resignation immediately raised concerns in the KTHS community.
The emails, which the Press received more than three months after filing the open records request in August, show the school district was aware of Bowyer's actions since April 27, when Taylor's athletics secretary Lynda Gardner noticed that there was a low balance in the baseball user fee account and alerted KISD officials. Gardner immediately reached out to Bowyer but the coach did not respond, prompting KISD Employee Relations Coordinator Andrea Arthur to stop by the social studies teacher's office for a visit in early May.
"At that time [Bowyer] made the statement that he was 'almost positive' that he turned the user fee in to Mrs. Gardner but that he would check back to be sure that it was not in his office," Arthur wrote in an email to KTHS Principal Jeffrey Stocks in July. "Toward the end of May Coach Bowyer and I met at my office and discussed the issue again. At this point he stated that he 'had no clue' where the user fee was. Once again, he stated he 'swears he turned it in' but did not have a good feeling that he would find it."
Bowyer told Arthur that he had spoken to three students who said they paid with a check, and Arthur directed Bowyer to track down the check numbers by calling all of the parents who were without a record of paying the fee. By June 24, Bowyer had still not done so, so Arthur alerted KISD Executive Director of Athletics Debbie Decker.
Two days later, Decker filed a report notifying Stocks and then-KISD Deputy Chief Robert Jinks that she was starting an investigation into "the mismanagement of funds" by Bowyer. From the notice:
"At this time there are issues involving unaccounted for funds related to athletic user fees for a maximum of 32 students at $50 each. [THS Athletic Coordinator Trey Hermann] has been discussing the collection and receipt of these funds with Coach Bowyer. In May, Coach Hermann told him to call the parents of the students to determine the method of payment they made and verify any checks cashed, etc. Coach Hermann talked to Coach Bowyer today and the parents have not yet been contacted therefore the funds, deposits and record management activities remain outstanding. To date, Lynda Gardner - THS Athletic Secretary - does not have any records of funds being turned into her for deposit and record management."
According to the notice, Jinks said KISD police would begin an investigation the next week. When we called KISD police in August, they refused to acknowledge the existence of an investigation into Bowyer and KTHS' athletic fees. But in a short phone interview yesterday, Jinks — who was promoted to KISD Chief of Police in September — said there was, in fact, an investigation into Bowyer, though he said he could not remember the specifics or the results of that investigation. Jinks said he would look up the case and get back to us, but we instead received an email from KISD spokesperson Lindsey Sanders requesting we direct our questions to her. As of today, no criminal charges have been filed against Bowyer in Harris or Fort Bend counties.
By July 7, Arthur's investigation had apparently wrapped up, and she emailed Stocks with her conclusions. The email shows Bowyer had a history of poor record keeping and lied about his collection of baseball user fees:
"Coach Bowyer has stated that he knows for a fact the tri-fold of money/checks will never be found. He admits that he did not keep record of checks or money received by students nor did he write receipts for the money collected for the User Fees.
Lynda Gardner - THS Athletic Secretary - does not have any record of funds being turned into her for deposit and record management, however she has emails from Coach Bowyer stating that all User Fees were collected by his baseball players.
Coach Bowyer stated he shut down and did nothing regarding finding the money/checks because he did not know what to do.
There have been concerns regarding Coach Bowyer and his record keeping. (Booster Club and lost exam key)
Coach Bowyer admits to having difficulty with paperwork and not being organized calling himself a computer "dinosaur."
Coach Bowyer admits to not having told the truth regarding the collection of Baseball User Fees when he stated twice in emails that all of his players had paid.
Coach Bowyer admits to not following the directive from Coach Herrmann regarding contacting the parents to determine how they paid their Baseball User Fees in May."
The email also indicates that Bowyer's teaching methods weren't the greatest:
"Coach Bowyer stated that he does not have problems in the regular classroom because he does all of his grading on completion and provided an example that if he asks students to write that he just skims the writing looking for key words."
Despite the circumstances surrounding Bowyer's resignation, Herrmann wrote a letter to the KTHS "baseball family" urging parents to "focus... on thanking Coach Bowyer for his effort" rather than asking "questions about his departure."
It is unclear if parents were aware of the investigation into Bowyer's "mismanagement" of funds, but when we first reported on Bowyer's resignation in August, at least a few KTHS baseball parents had told us they had been contacted after the school year ended by KISD police who said they were investigating missing fees for the baseball program.
A statement sent by KISD spokesperson Sanders to the Press in August took a tone similar to Herrmann's letter, adding that "THS wishes Coach Bowyer the best in his future endeavors." Hopefully, those endeavors don't include any more disappearances of team funds. We're still waiting for a response from Sanders this time around, and we'll update this story as soon as we hear something.
We still don't know exactly how much money disappeared under Bowyer's watch. The incident report refers to a $50 athletic fee for 32 students, which adds up to $800 — it is unclear whether other finances controlled by Bowyer, including fundraisers and equipment purchases, were "mismanaged" as well (we've asked Sanders for a specific dollar figure).
Calls to a phone number listed for Bowyer went unanswered Tuesday, but after we ran the earlier story about Bowyer's resignation in August he called the Press, though he refused to answer questions and only said he was upset and busy searching for a lawyer.
Bowyer also promised an "exclusive interview" if it was ever proven that he had done something wrong. We'll certainly update this story if he follows through on that promise.
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[UPDATE: Wednesday Dec. 2, 4:15 p.m.]
KISD spokesperson Lindsey Sanders responded to our questions late Wednesday afternoon with the following email:
"Leading up to Coach Bowyer’s resignation, the campus was informed of a concern from some parents regarding athletic fee collections under the coach’s supervision. Katy ISD reviewed fee collection process for athletic activities at Taylor High School to ensure practices complied with policy and guidelines. At the conclusion of the investigation, it was substantiated that processes in place for tracking and monitoring of user fee funds in the Taylor High School athletic office were inefficient. However, the Human Resources Department and Katy ISD Police Department’s investigation of this matter found no evidence that funds were misused by the coach or other staff in the athletic office.
As mentioned above, at the conclusion of the investigation, it was substantiated that processes in place for tracking and monitoring of user fee funds in the Taylor High School athletic office were inefficient. However, the Human Resources Department and Katy ISD Police Department’s investigation of this matter found no evidence that funds were misused by the coach or athletic office.
It is believed that potentially up to $950 may have been inadequately tracked by the Taylor High School athletic office, however, since there is no evidence of this dollar amount in the form of parent/student receipts or other documentation, that information cannot be verified.
No charges were filed against any employee in the Taylor High School athletic office as a result of the investigation that began on June 26, 2015.
Athletic user fees are used to fund cloth goods and equipment for student athletes throughout the school year. All services and equipment that are acquired by way of user fees were provided to student athletes during Coach Bowyer’s tenure at Taylor High School.
A new program for tracking and monitoring student user fees was implemented District-wide last year, with additional safeguards made this year. The new program includes a tracking system tied to attendance rosters for athletic classes and activities, and receipts emailed to students after paid fees are recorded.
Taylor High School (THS) Head Baseball Coach Cory Bowyer resigned effective July 14, 2015. During his six years of tenure at THS, Coach Bowyer served as Head Baseball Coach with the following record: participated in State playoffs five years; District Champions three years; Bi-District Champions two years; and Regional Quarter-Finalists two years.
Coach Bowyer resigned from Taylor High School and took a job offer elsewhere."
According to Channelview High School's online faculty directory, Bowyer has returned to CISD to work as a physical education teacher.