Sunday, June 4, 2017


By Juan Montoya
The first time anyone in Brownsville heard of Paragon Sports, the artificial turf company out of Ft. Worth, it was when administrators of the Brownsville Independent School District heard one of their representatives was going to make a presentation at the district's Facilities Committee.
"Who is Paragon?" they inquired from Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas.
Zendejas, instead of answering their questions directly, directed them to Lopez Early College High School Athletic Coordinator Jason Starkey.

Electronic correspondence acquired by El Rrun-Rrun, indicate that when BISD Maintenance Administrator Cesar Garza on October 19, 2015 first asked the administration who would be presenting the report on the district's soccer fields the next day before the Facilities Committee then chaired by trustee/chair Cesar Lopez, Zendejas had directed him to Starkey because she could not remember his name. Starkey is listed on the BISD directory as the Lopez Early College High School Athletic Coordinator.

(He is also said to be the top candidate to be the BISD's next Athletic Director.)

Maintenance Administrator Garza then emailed Rosario Peña, BISD's Administrator for Purchasing at 2:36 p.m. October 20, less than an hour and a half before the meeting, that Starkey had informed him that the presenter's name was William Chaffe, representing Paragon Sports which installs artificial turf on football and soccer fields and running tracks.

When Peña learned the presenter's name, she asked whether Paragon Sports was listed on the Texas Association of School Boards' vendor list. She then alerted then-CFO Lucio Mendoza, Garza, Acting Area Administrator for Maintenance and Facilities Kent Whittemore, Senior Buyer Corpus Sorola, and BISD board secretary Pat Perez that trustee Lopez, Facilities Committee Chair, was a Buy Board representative for the South, Southeast Texas and El Paso Regions (Regions 1-6, 19) and that he should abstain from discussions on the item.

In fact, Peña's concerns that Purchasing had not been involved in vetting Paragon Sports, a vendor listed on the TASB Buy Board were contained in an email she sent to the Superintendent and numerous district staff members involved in the construction of new facilities.

In that memo, she also cautioned Facilities Committee Chairman Lopez that since he was a regional director of the TASB Buy Board, he should refrain from participating in the discussion on in the eventual vote when the item came before the board.

The agenda item read: "Presentation on High School Soccer Fields." and did not mention the presenter or who had chosen the company to install the artificial turf.
"The Purchasing Department was not involved in the selection process for this vendor," she wrote.

Later, in a meeting between Mendoza, Zendejas and Peña, the purchasing administrator was chided for sending the email at all and before long she was removed from her post and exiled to BISD's Food and Nutrition Department for her indiscretions.

Notes from the meeting acquired by El Rrun-Rrun indicated that Zendejas said she had heard of Paragon from "having coffee" with her fellow superintendents and recommended at the Facilities Committee meeting that the company be the one chosen to install the artificial turf at Lopez, even though the presentation was not an action item. Nonetheless, Paragon ended up installing the turf at Lopez without competitive bidding for $ 819,146.

Since the company was on the TASB's so-called "Buy Board," there is no need to follow the bidding process. The district – and any other governmental entity that pays for membership like the city – can simply choose it without going through the procurement process as Zendejas did at BISD.

Since Lopez, Paragon has cleaned up on the BISD biz by installing the turf on at least three high schools in the district and earned upwards of $3.5 million for its troubles. 

Now it's the City of Brownsville's turn. 

On the agenda for this Tuesday's commissioners' meeting are two items dealing with the "funding for the Brownsville Sports Park Field Turf Improvements Project."
The first one (Item 14) calls for the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) to pay the estimated total project cost of $662,959, of which $112,959 will come from unspent funds from sports park personnel salaries in the 2016 Sports Park budget.

The seven staff members at the Sports Park earn only $87,040 a year – an average of $12,434 annually – leaving the $112,859 in unspent funds from the $200,000 budgeted for personnel. Two of them do not have retirement or medical insurance benefits.

The second (Item 15) deals with the city contracting with paragon for the work.

 The project will be divided into separate phases with two different RFPs. Phase I will be the synthetic turf, goals and field marking. Phase II will be the scoreboard with an integrated sound system.

The correspondence between the BCIC and the city's Purchasing Dept. indicates that Paragon was the only company which was allowed to make a presentation and that it was a member of the Buy Board Cooperative, and therefore, all bidding requirements had been met.

Who is next in Paragon's no-bid horizon? Los Fresnos? Port Isabel?


Anonymous said...

So what?!!!!! This means NOTHING to me, bro!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The big question is: What did Paragon pay members of BISD for this contract that didn't go out for bids?????? What was the payback to Coach Joe, to Ms. Zendejas or others. With the amount of money we pay in taxes to BISD, competitive bids should be required. The BISD Board of Trustees...should not be "trusted" if they waste or misuse our taxes. But, these corrupt school officials should be investigated. Obviously there is no "ethics policy" in BISD. First the soccer team rings and turf. I smell Coach Joe in all this.

Anonymous said...

Why does the board majority continue to allow purchasing and other rules/laws etc to be broken? Why do they look the other way - hostile work environments - threats - ridicule- all tolerated . Why?

Minnie pena is the only one asking questions
And standing up for the school personal and the tax payers

Nobody trusts this board any more- what a shame

Anonymous said...

Coming to a city commission near you Coach Joe, Cesar, and Espy....

jaime taxpayer said...

get the FBI now !!