Anatomy of a disaster......When Lisa
Rickert and Ken Bryant were first elected to the Fort Bend
ISD school board two years ago, they have claimed in later
communications that they were mistreated by the current
board. They claim they were told to “sit down and shut up”
every time they offered suggestions about improvements.
Yet casual observers of board meetings at
that time didn’t notice any of this disdain on the part of
the old board members. However, they did notice that Bryant
and Rickert were often rude to then president Jane Clarke
and then-superintendent Betty Baitland. I even quizzed some
of the “old” board members I knew and asked them if Rickert/Bryant
ever offered new ideas that were derided. This met with
sincere denials all around. Somehow, from the open parts of
the board meetings and from what my reporter told me, I
believed the “old” board members.
Up jumps the devil......Then one year
ago, two new board members were elected to the board--Stan
Magee and Laurie Caldwell. Neither Magee nor Caldwell had
ever attended many board meetings before their election, but
did hold several meetings with Rickert/Bryant before being
sworn in. Evidentially, Magee/Caldwell bought into the
“mean, old board” because they quickly joined up with
Rickert/Bryant. Magee/Cauldwell even went so far as to swear
themselves in when their swearing in meeting was canceled
due to the death of board president Jane Clarke’s son.
Magee, who is a former teacher and has no
children, (and is married to a teacher) had his own personal
reasons for running for the board anyway. He wanted to get
rid of Betty Baitland who had forced the retirement of his
dear friend Wayne Howard, who also ran for the board and
So we have the new quartet of Rickert/Bryant/Magee/Cauldwell
who stayed together and played together just long enough to
get rid of the superintendent so it looked like they were
really accomplishing something.
Let’s see. They have fired the
superintendent, the district’s lawyers (probably for telling
them “you can’t do that”), run off the director of finances,
and several of the highly placed and highly regarded upper
management of the district. They have replaced the
superintendent with an unqualified (for superintendent)
human resource head who spends a lot of her board meetings
crying in closed session. According to records, they have
spent $41,795.48 in the first quarter of 2006 on lawyer fees
related to Board governance issues. In other words, the
district has come apart at the seams and absolutely nothing
has been done about the education of the students.
But as all agreements forged in the fires
of personal agendas, this one has soon came apart. The fight
to kick out the company who won the “Job order contract” and
hire a new company has split the new board right down the
middle. Lisa Rickert has been as unable to hold her group
together as she has been in running the district. Second,
several of the “new” board members are supporting different
candidates in the upcoming board election. Rickert is
heavily supporting and making telephone calls for Liz Mitton
and Steve Dieu. Magee is still supporting Wayne Howard.
Catfight.....I am in possession of a
email sent by FBISD board member Stan Magee to FBISD board
president Lisa Rickert. The seven page email details Magee’s
complaints about Rickert’s leadership and lends credence to
many of the things we’ve been hearing and saying for several
months. The letter was sent to Rickert and cc to all the
other board members. There were 17 points that he made in
this March 31, 2006 letter under the subject “leadership.”
I don’t have room to run the whole letter
but it will be on our website (at FortBendStar.com) under
Here is a short version of Magee’s
1. The JOC (job order contract) has
become a personal crusade for Rickert since she voted
against it in June, 2004.
2. Her involvement in a PAC or non-PAC in
new Territory where she used her title as “Lisa Rickert,
FBISD Board of Trustees.”
3. Unilateral postponement of the Feb. 27
board meeting and lack of continuation of the JOC contract
at the next meeting.
4. Lack of knowledge about Roberts Rules
5. Arguments with other board members
about placing item on the agenda.
6. Privileged communication about RHJ and
their JOC was made public to the news media.
7. Personal involvement with board
committees by managing from a distance without attending,
telling committee chair who to include or exclude from the
8. Informing all board member candidates
NOT to campaign on school property, but indirectly inviting
her candidate, Liz Mitton, to a political function held at
Elkins High School.
9. Broke promise to notify board members
on the Wed, prior to a board meeting, if anything went to
outside legal counsel. Ignored staff attorney and incurred
10. Possible violation of TOMA by
discussing something in closed session not on the agenda,
causing a board member to leave in order to not be in
11. Allowed a vendor to make a
presentation to the board when other vendors were not
allowed to do so.
12. Re-visited an item on the agenda that
had failed to get a second. Talked another board member into
bringing it up later in the meeting to circumvent Robert’s
13. Refused to place items on a board
retreat agenda, cut a board member off who was speaking,
wouldn’t tell the other board members why two members
wouldn’t come back the next day, and spent an inordinate
amount of time huddling with someone in the audience instead
of talking to other board members. (I have found out that
was Liz Mitton-editor).
14. Allows outside legal counsel to sit
in on closed sessions, act as 8th board member, even letting
counsel tell board member how to vote in open session,
refuse to refer things to in-house attorney, and told
superintendent to not hire a permanent outside counsel yet.
15. Accused a board member, openly, of
playing to the audience at a board meeting.
16. Blames board members for releasing
sensitive information when she had released the same to her
friend Liz Mitton. Discusses closed session items with
17. Sends email to chastise, demean,
control and argue with board members. Overstepped her
authority since May, 2005, and instead of bringing board
unity, she has further divided the board, causing a
splintering effect on many issues.
The full text of the letter, which
practically everybody in Fort Bend has by now (laugh) is at
is a picture of the automobile of Miss Liz “I won’t take
vendor money” Mitton. Unfortunately, it is parked in the
Dulles Elementary parking lot during school hours and has
affixed a huge sign about her candidacy.
And by the way, she has complained about
her signs being attacked by box cutters and has made a
police report because she said she paid $150 for each sign.
If she paid that much for each sign, I fear her handling
school finances because she could get about four of those
signs for $150.
If Mitton wouldn’t put her signs in the
public right-of-way, she might have a gripe coming but she,
like many of her political peers, litter the r-o-w with
their signs. Or place them where they don’t have the
permission of the property owner.
Signs wars are an indication that a
campaign is in full force. I’ve never covered an election
when one side didn’t accuse the other of stealing/destroying
If I had the energy, I would go out in
broad daylight and confiscate every sign in the r-o-w and
just dare someone to stop me.
He’s not hiding.......Dave Wallace
didn’t participate in a candidate forum in Harris County
because neither he, nor Gary Gillen, nor Tom Campbell knew
about it until the last minute. Then when Wallace asked to
attend, he was told thus:
"The meeting will convene promptly at
1:00 p.m. and will adjourn at 6:00 p.m. Your interview is
set to be from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. We apologize for the late
appointment. There is a Justice Foundation dinner that same
evening and we will try to get everyone out before it gets
Let me get this straight. Wallace could
come and attend but he was scheduled to speak AFTER the
meeting was over? Wallace said he had a conflicting speech
that same time.
Harris County did not let the press
attend their precinct chairs meeting to interview candidates
to replace DeLay, nor did they tell very many people it was
happening, including candidates. So they have chosen to
conduct their business behind closed doors.
Then in Fort Bend, a small group are
complaining that former county chair Eric Thode spent $6,000
to poll voters and have an open process.
Somehow a small group have also decided
that the mail-in ballot was designed to help Sugar Land
Mayor David Wallace.
I don’t see it. Wallace was almost last
on the list of a whole slew of maybe runs.
Maybe he was too busy......Fort Bend
Commissioner Andy Meyers did show up for the Harris County
interview but didn’t file his personal financial statement
on time. This is a financial statement that many elected
officials must file every year. Andy is the only one who
hasn’t filed yet.
There have been many who questioned
Meyers ability to seek the nod to be on the ballot in
DeLay’s place while serving as a county commissioner. I
checked with the attorney general and found a couple of
opinions that said vying for a position on a ballot to
replace someone was not tantamount to announcing for the
position which would trigger an automatic resignation.
Hummph. Seems like a bunch of malarky to me.