Ex-Dallas Board Member Indicted on Bribery Counts

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A former Dallas school board member faces arraignment in federal court this week on charges that he took more than $450,000 in bribes to help a business associate win contracts with the district.

A federal grand jury last month indicted Dan Peavy on 42 counts of conspiracy, bribery, extortion, money laundering, and falsification of income-tax returns. Mr. Peavy resigned from the board last year amid controversy surrounding a separate incident in which he was recorded making racist and sexist comments.

The April 30 indictment followed a nine-month investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI. It accuses Mr. Peavy of accepting bribes to help an insurance executive win contracts with the Dallas Independent School District. The indictment charges that the businessman made more than 90 payments to Mr. Peavy from November 1993 through November 1995.

The alleged bribe money "could have been used to hire about 15 teachers for the DISD for a year," U.S. Attorney Paul E. Coggins said in a statement.

If convicted, Mr. Peavy faces a maximum of 501 years in prison and $8 million in fines. He could not be reached for comment last week, but has told local reporters that he did not accept bribes.

The Dallas public schools issued a terse statement after the indictment, noting that the district began investigating the insurance program immediately after charges of impropriety surfaced. The district said it promptly handed over its findings to the district attorney's office.

"The insurance program selected by the board members remains a solid investment of taxpayer dollars, regardless of any alleged improper conduct on behalf of a former school board member," the statement read.

Racial Scars Remain

The district provides access to various types of insurance for its employees, according to the indictment, and Mr. Peavy chaired an insurance committee to review those policies. The indictment charges the Dallas insurance executive who allegedly paid Mr. Peavy the bribes with conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering.

Mr. Peavy, who is white, resigned in October after a tape recording of a private telephone conversation during which he made racist comments about students, and sexist and anti-gay comments about fellow board members, was made public. (See Education Week, Nov. 8, 1995.)

Following the release of the tape at a board meeting, Mr. Peavy resigned, saying "my language and the thought process preceding my language should not be used or tolerated."

But the incident reignited long-simmering racial tensions in the 149,000-student district. Administrators have created an intercultural-relations department headed by an expert on race relations, and have formed a committee charged with examining racial concerns.

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