NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas - A high-ranking school administrator is allowed to quietly resign from a local district, despite a cloud of suspicion surrounding his use of school property.
Instead of informing parents and taxpayers about what happened, the district has kept the whole thing secret. News 4 Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila investigates the cover-up at Comal ISD.
Thomas Bloxham was an assistant superintendent at Comal ISD. This past October, Bloxham was put on administrative leave and ordered to stay away from the campuses, while the district investigated what it called "alleged misconduct".
Later that month Bloxham abruptly resigned to, in his words, "try some different business activities".
District employees were puzzled but Bloxham's boss, Superintendent Andrew Kim, went on the radio and assured them it was all routine.
“He (Bloxham) officially resigned to pursue some other career interests he has after spending all these years in the school business, so we wish him all the best and all the luck for that,” Kim said.
What were those "different business activities" Bloxham left to pursue? He went right to work at Hutto ISD near Austin, taking a similar position.
It all seemed odd, so we requested the results of the Comal district's investigation into Bloxham. It’s information most school districts routinely give out.
For example, in December Northeast ISD fired one of its principals for theft, and quickly released its investigation.
However, in Bloxham's case, Comal ISD refused. We were told an attorney for the district investigated Bloxham, and Comal ISD wouldn't release the findings because they're protected by attorney client privilege.
At a recent school board meeting parents told us they'd like to know what the district is hiding.
“Absolutely, I think the parents and the taxpayers have a right to know about the conclusions of that type of thing,” said a parent named Lori Cole.
Another parent named David McVicker added, “That's the only way you're going to know whether something's going on, is if they release the information. Otherwise it will go by the wayside and we'll have no idea that it's happening.”
The Trouble Shooters finally got the district to turn over some records, but they were vague, and only provide clues as to what Thomas Bloxham was investigated for.
In 2010 Bloxham supervised a project to tear down a metal building at Smithson Valley High School. The contractor claims Bloxham paid him $1,250 cash for the used metal, which was estimated to be worth ten times that amount. District policy requires used materials be auctioned off.
An attorney for the district told us the metal building was "reconstructed" on Bloxham's property. When we went there, the only metal structure we saw was this guest house, but we don't know if it contains the metal taken from the high school.
Documents show the district was also suspicious of a big purchase of more than $76,000 worth of John Deere equipment that Bloxham signed for. As well as an expensive air conditioning system he had installed at a district storage building used primarily for housing lawn mowers.
We hoped Thomas Bloxham himself would help us make sense of the records, so we dropped in on him at his new job.
Jaie Avila asked Bloxham, “What happened to the materials from the metal building you had torn down at Smithson Valley High School?”
“I have no comment on this, this is a matter between me and Comal ISD,” Bloxham replied.
When Avila tried to ask about the John Deere equipment, Bloxham said he had no comment and had to leave immediately to attend a meeting.
After we started asking questions about Bloxham, Comal ISD turned the case over to the Comal County Sheriff's Office, which has now started an investigation.
The question remains though, why did Comal Superintendent Andrew Kim initially go along with Bloxham's story?
Avila asked Kim that question before a recent school board meeting.
“Why have you said publically that Thomas Bloxham resigned for personal reasons? Isn't that misleading when you knew he was being investigated?”
Kim responded, “I've got to go ahead and take care of this meeting actually, we've got a lot of parents and children here.”
Kim said he would talk to us later, but when we contacted the district we were told he would be out of town.
School board members aren't talking either, although they've changed the reason for their silence.
At the same board meeting Avila asked School Board President David Drastata why the district isn’t telling the truth about Thomas Bloxham’s departure.
“Because this is an ongoing investigation with the Comal County Sheriff's Office, and we're cooperating fully with them, I'm going to have to refer all your questions in regard to this matter to the Comal County Sheriff's Office,” Drastata replied.
When we tried to ask Drastata about the district’s policy on investigating its administrators the board president repeated the same statement several times.
Now that this has become a criminal investigation, we'll let you know what the sheriff's office turns up. As for Comal ISD’s policy of keeping investigations of its administrators secret, our open records request is now going to the attorney general's office for a decision.