Leon School Officials Testify About Construction Policies Before Lawmakers

Feb 16, 2015

Credit Leon County Schools

The Leon County School District is explaining itself to state lawmakers months after a disastrous audit. District officials claim they’re on the road to fixing the construction funding flop.

Leon County School District Superintendent Jackie Pons is upfront about the recent audit that found serious problems with the way the district pays for construction projects.

“Obviously we didn’t like the fact this occurred, we’re disappointed," Pons told the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee."But at the same time, because of the support of the auditor general, it’s going to make our district strong, and we’ve learned a lot from it.”

This past summer an anonymous group helped spark the audit by accusing district officials of cronyism and malfeasance in the way they approved and doled out projects to local construction firms. The group specifically accused Pons of approving projects in exchange for campaign contributions.

Several investigations invalidated that particular complaint, but the district was dinged for missing paperwork and the practice of breaking up big projects into smaller components to bypass the competitive bidding process. It’s a red flag to Rep. Daniel Raulerson (R-Plant City).

“Particularly when it comes to construction contracts there’s a history of abuse in state agencies going back years. So we need to be careful about this sort of thing at the local level as well," he said.

The district is working to tighten its financial controls and reassess the way it awards construction bids. It’s established a new paperwork trail and has a new person to oversee school construction.

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