Lorenzo Garcia, superintendent of the 62,000-student El Paso district in Texas since 2006, was arrested on charges he steered a contract to a company owned by a woman with whom he had a personal relationship.
The El Paso Times writes that the contract, for $450,000, was supposed to be for elementary school math materials and staff development. Garcia was placed in handcuffs and led out of the district headquarters in front of shocked employees. The FBI’s press release says that Garcia was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, two counts of mail fraud, and one count of aiding and abetting theft from programs receiving federal funds, according to news accounts.
Investigations are not new for the district, the newspaper notes:
El Paso ISD has been a focus of the FBI's public-corruption investigation for contracts that were awarded to Access HealthSource, a health-care administrator, and Strategic Governmental Solutions, a company that was hired to manage the School Health Related Services (SHARS) and Medicaid Administrative Claim (MAC) programs. Garcia was not the superintendent when the contracts were initially approved but was at the district when several officials were indicted. Two former school board trustees, Sal Mena and Carlos Cordova, pleaded guilty to public-corruption charges and a former employee at the district, Fernando Parra, has also pleaded guilty to charges. The district also came under fire last year when former state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh accused administrators of inappropriately moving certain students out of Bowie High in an attempt to raise the school's performance on standardized tests and avoid negative publicity. Garcia maintained that Shapleigh misinterpreted data or made incorrect assumptions that cast a negative light on Bowie. An investigation into the [cheating] allegations is pending.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.