When many of us hear the words “government corruption,” what do we typically think about? If you’re like most folks, you probably think of sleazy lawmakers in Congress or dishonest presidents. In some cases, you might actually recall instances in which state-level officials are busted while engaging in criminal or unethical activity.
But it seems rare that people discuss corruption at the local level – wrongdoing involving mayors or members of city councils. It seems even more uncommon that school boards are found to be engaging in corrupt practices. But stories like this illustrate the importance of paying attention to what our local officials are up to. It is likely that many are not quite on the up-and-up.
I recently had a conversation with Jeremy Story on my audio-only podcast. He is the leader of a non-profit that works with college students. He is also an entrepreneur and the chaplain for the Texas Republican Party.
Over the past few months, he has been in a conflict with the school board in Round Rock, which is a city located just north of Austin. The issue centers around the hiring of a new superintendent and the procedure involved in making that decision.
When a Texas school board is set to make a major decision, such as the hiring of a new superintendent, they are required by law to allow the public to vet the candidate. They are not allowed to unilaterally make these decisions, and even further, the meetings to discuss these matters are supposed to be public. To put it simply, the school board is not allowed to make decisions of this nature behind closed doors.
During our conversation, Story explained:
“When you’re hiring a new Superintendent on a school board, what you have to do is you have to give the public a little over two weeks to vet whoever becomes your final candidate. They’re just the final candidate. You’ve weeded out all the others because you do that without telling anybody so that each of the candidates don’t know about each other.”
“You get down to a final [candidate], and then the public gets to vet that person because it’s the first time they’ve ever heard about them. That’s mandated by law in Texas. And then at the end of that period, the board can vote ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ or ‘let’s investigate further whoever the Superintendent candidate is.’”
However, when you listen to Jeremy’s tale, you will find that this is precisely what the Round Rock school board did when they hired Hafedh Azaiez. It later became apparent that the board already had decided to hire him as superintendent regardless of what residents believed, and it turns out they had valid concerns. Story explained:
“One of the concerns was that we had on video that we had uncovered a restraining order that he had issued against about 68 year old woman Hispanic woman in Donna ISD a retired lady who was outspoken not against his district but against him. And as a result, she was also outspoken about some other officials. And as a result, he used the school district police force to enforce a two-year restraining order on her that basically told her she could not walk on campus.”
When Story attempted to address the issue during a school board meeting, the officials had him removed by police officers before he could point out the fact that the group had broken the law. He said:
“They literally grabbed me by either arm while I was speaking in a just normal voice. I wasn’t yelling or anything and dragged me out of the room, then dragged me down the hallway, then across the cafeteria and pushed me out the front door.”
As bad as this example of corruption is, it actually gets worse when police officers later arrested Story and another individual who has been outspoken against the school board.
When you listen to the interview, you will see exactly how sick this situation is. The battle is still ongoing and I will be keeping up with it and reporting on new developments. If you wish to listen to my interview with Jeremy Story, you can do so below.