A projected $132.6 million shortfall in Fort Bend ISD’s 2023 bond program has led the district to investigate who’s to blame and hire a consultant to audit the bond.

The board of trustees voted unanimously to contract with Gibson Consulting to audit the bond during the March 4 board meeting.

The board voted 6-1 to hire law firm Rogers, Morris and Grover, a current contractor for the board, for $20,000 to internally investigate allegations of whether a district employee withheld pertinent information regarding the bond—which could run 11.8% over budget.

What they’re saying

Trustee Kristen Malone was the lone dissenting vote, saying the law firm advised the board on the bond’s scope and creation, so she believed the public would see it as a conflict of interest.

“I believe an investigation should be a third-party agency that is completely outside of Fort Bend ISD and our current inner workings,” Malone said. “Not to say that they would be biased, ... but having a third party that does not have a working relationship with us would ensure that it is an unbiased relationship. And, frankly, I have concerns that there may be bias in the investigation.”

Diving deeper

Trustee Rick Garcia, the board member serving on the FBISD audit committee, said while the full scope and cost of the audit is not concrete, the amount approved by the board’s vote is not to exceed the $112,000.

FBISD offered Gibson Consulting the opportunity to do both the audit and investigation, but the group recommended instead that a law firm be used for the investigation, as that was out of the scope of their process, Garcia said.

Remember this?

Voters approved the district’s $1.26 billion bond package in May 2023, which included the $1.18 billion Proposition A to fund construction, security and other projects.

During the Feb. 5 board meeting, district officials identified factors they said led to the shortfall, including inflation and other economic factors, as previously reported.

The audit would reassess the construction cost overruns on projects, particularly the seven largest, which amount to $93.6 million. Other portions of the bond project contributed to the remaining shortfall amount of $39 million, for a total of $132.6 million as previously reported by Community Impact.

What else?

The audit and investigation will begin this month, and the two contracted entities will update the administration and board with the findings, Garcia said.

The next board meeting will be held March 25 at the district’s administration building at 16431 Lexington Blvd., Sugar Land.