District 7 candidate took money from energy company as superintendent
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012
Updated: Monday, March 5, 2012 17:03
A candidate for District 7 of Alamo Colleges board of trustees, Yvonne Katz, former superintendent of Spring Branch ISD, northwest of Houston, resigned from her position there Aug. 30, 2004, after she failed to inform that district's board of trustees that she was a paid consultant for an energy-conservation company that she recommended to the district.
The Houston Chronicle reported in an Aug. 4, 2004, article titled "Spring Branch board scolds school chief" that Katz earned $500 for every school superintendent she convinced to meet with Energy Education Inc., which expected to make $3.7 million from its five-year contract with Spring Branch.
Spring Branch hired Katz in 2002. She suggested the district sign a contract with Energy Education Inc. but did not tell the board that she had worked for them since 1998.
Katz also served as Harlandale ISD superintendent from July 1, 1985, to Nov. 16, 1992.
In a phone interview today, Katz said she did nothing illegal and saw no conflict of interest regarding her actions.
She said her contract with Spring Branch allowed her to work with outside consultants as long as it did not interfere with the completion of district work.
Katz said the contract did not require her to disclose her relations with Energy Education Inc. to the district's board of trustees.
Katz said Mike Moses, Dallas Independent School District superintendent, engaged in similar behavior.
The Dallas Morning News reported in a May 8, 2004, article "Dallas school district superintendent's consulting work raises some red flags" that Bracewell & Patterson, a Houston law firm, paid Moses thousands of dollars in consulting fees while simultaneously billing the district for more $700,000 in legal fees.
In a phone interview Feb. 23, Blakely Fernandez, who currently serves as District 7 trustee, said she supports Katz.
Fernandez said she is not seeking another term to focus on family and Tuggey Fernandez LLP, the law practice she established in May, which prevent her from dedicating the time necessary to serve on the board.
In a phone interview today, Fernandez said she did not know enough about Katz's behavior at Spring Branch to comment.
Houston State Rep. Scott Hochberg filed H.B. 199 Dec. 9, 2004, that amended the Texas Education Code to prohibit superintendents from receiving "financial benefit for personal services performed by the superintendent for any business entity that conducts or solicits business with the district."
In a phone interview today, Hochberg said the bill did not pass on its own during the 79th session but that the language did pass in H.B. 189 during the 80th session.
Hochberg said Katz's behavior did not inspire him to author the bill. He said superintendents in other school districts around the state behaved similarly to Katz.
Hochberg said Katz did nothing illegal during her employment with Spring Branch because there was no law preventing that behavior.
He said if the language he proposed had been enacted at the time, Katz would have been in violation.
Katz is the current president of Vision Into Action Associates.
According to their website, Vision Into Action Associates provides "dynamic research based strategies to school districts eager to reform and transform in to powerful 21st century learning communities."