The Texas Rangers arrested former San Marcos construction manager Jason Pence Feb. 11 following a criminal investigation sparked by allegations that Pence engaged in improper purchasing practices as a city employee.
Pence, who was fired by the city of San Marcos Jan. 27, was arrested by the Texas Rangers in Comal County on a warrant for a charge of theft up to $150,000, according to jail records. The warrant was issued by the Hays County District Court. Pence, whose bond was set at $10,000, has been released, records show.
In December, before Pence was fired, the city of San Marcos put him on paid administrative leave. Records show that at that time, the city was launching an outside investigation into his conduct as the city’s construction manager.
This document was dated just one day before Community Impact Newspaper published a special report in December which showed, based on the review of thousands of pages of documents, that the city bypassed the legally required competitive bidding process through the use of change orders. The city declined to comment for this story.
That report was based on a review of 120 contracts awarded between January 2013 and February 2019 to Boerne-based construction company The Fence Lady Inc., which is owned by contractor Rebecca Dean.
The city of San Marcos awarded The Fence Lady with $3.2 million in contracts during this time, records show. But through change orders approved by the city, The Fence Lady’s earnings increased by $922,309—or 28.85%.
During this time, Pence was responsible for managing the city’s construction projects, approving change orders, and monitoring and authorizing expenditures related to city construction projects, according to a job description provided by the city.
Internal emails obtained by Community Impact Newspaper showed that multiple city staff and some elected officials had expressed concern about this pattern since at least 2016.
Rebecca Ybarra, who has served as the director of the San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau for 21 years, told Community Impact Newspaper that she believes Pence had a “conflict of interest” when it came to his authority to administer and sign off on Dean’s construction contracts and associated change orders because of the pair’s professional and personal history.
Pence previously confirmed that he and Dean have known each other for about 15 years and worked on construction projects together in the private sector before he became a city employee in 2014. The city declined to comment on whether Pence ever disclosed his past professional relationship with Dean.
This story will be updated as more news becomes available.