Special to the NEWS
The San Benito Consolidated Independent School District is under investigation as a result of the firing of former after school program director Jack Garcia and a purchase of $17,214 for airline tickets to take students to a chess competition last March in Houston.
Garcia was fired in March and is currently appealing that decision with the school district.
In a letter to Edward “Tony” Conners, an Austin-based lawyer representing Garcia, vice-president of Chubb North American Claims David F. McCreary, states the company is investigating allegations of former after school director Jack Garcia that the district misled the Visa credit card company regarding the $17,214 non-refundable purchase of airline tickets.
“They knew there wasn’t a refund, but they still tried,” said Tony Conners. “They still tried getting a refund or a credit from Southwest Airlines.”
The airline company denied the refund and then the school district tried the bank to reverse the charges.
After the bank also denied the refund, school officials submitted an affidavit requesting the charges be waived under a Visa waiver program.
Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Hilda G. Rendon signed and submitted the affidavit, apparently under the direction of the superintendent, and the refund was approved.
According to Conners, in order to qualify for the refund under the conditions of the Visa waiver program, the company has to meet four conditions: it has to prove that the purchase in question was of no benefit to the company; that the purchase had to be done without authority; that the purchase was not a customary purchase; and that the employee in question had to be fired.
In Mr. Conners’ opinion, he believes the district failed to meet the first three requirements and that the affidavit submitted misrepresented that the district complied with the first three requirements. He said the only condition met by the district was Garcia’s firing.
In previous statements, school officials claimed that Garcia made the purchase without an approved purchase order. Garcia alleges that he has done it before without any problems, which could be considered customary.
In correspondence with the district, Conners has requested that the district come clean by paying the $17,000 owed to the Visa waiver program, but after the district refused, Conners, on behalf of Garcia, reported the alleged fraud to the program and related entities.
In the Aug. 19 letter to Conners, McCreary states that Chubb North American Claims is investigating Garcia’s allegations.
“At Chubb, we take the allegations of fraud seriously and appreciate your correspondence regarding the facts surrounding the claim in question for $17,000,” McCreary states. “At this time I am in the process of gathering all of the claim information and will be working with our internal Special Investigative Unit to review and properly investigate these allegations.”
Conners said the school district is wrong because the purchase of the airline tickets was indeed for the benefit of the students who were going to a chess competition in Houston. After his firing, Garcia began to receive letters and calls from debt collectors trying to get the money back.
“(It was) like Jack was a thief,” Conners said.
With the investigation underway, McCreary said the company stopped trying to collect the money from Garcia.
The NEWS sent an email on Aug. 20 to SBCISD Public Relations Director Isabel Gonzalez asking whether the district is being investigated in relation to the $17,000 ticket purchase and who made the claim on behalf of the district, and whether anyone, in particular, is being investigated.
In relation to said questions, Gonzalez replied, “San Benito CISD has not, to date, filed any criminal report regarding unauthorized use of the District’s credit card.”