An outside consultant hired to investigate accusations against District School Superintendent Jackie Pons is reiterating his assertion there’s no criminal wrongdoing. The finalized version of his report comes as the district remains under an FBI probe of school construction projects the consultant says won’t end anytime soon.
The 200-page report, compiled by Jacksonville-based attorney Hank Coxe—repeats many of the earlier findings Coxe presented to the Leon County School Board last November. The study maintains there’s no evidence Leon County Superintendent Jackie Pons broke state laws in the way several school construction projects were broken up and divvyed out among local contractors. But the report also maintains the district violated the spirit of the state’s competitive bidding process—and Coxe says no one in the district had any say in the development and final version of the examination.
“I want to be clear no party participated in the preparation of this report. That includes the superintendent and others who were discussed in this report," he told School Board members Tuesday evening during a board meeting.
Coxe’s report was requested by the School Board. It includes a timeline of the school construction controversy, which began last year when what’s called “the notebook” was distributed to local media. The documents detailed accusations Pons steered school construction projects to political donors.
“It breaks down into issues that relate to selection of construction companies and contractors for the school system/ district related to district work, and it relates to accusations against you individually," Coxe told Pons. "We never thought it appropriate to get into accusations against you individually.”
"So nobody who brought this forward had any knowledge of illegal activity?" Pons asked.
"I think its fair to say the persons who originally created the materials that triggered these events had no direct knowledge of anything, wrong, or good or bad, or anything," Coxe responded.
The crafters of the notebook, former Leon High School Principal Rocky Hanna and former Lively Technical Center Principal Woody Hildebrant, have claimed whistleblower protection for their role in compiling and distributing the documents. Hildebrant was arrested in January due to theft charges, and Hanna is considering a run for Pons’ job.