Prime Prep CEO accused of nepotism

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on October 16, 2013 at 10:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 16 at 10:31 PM

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NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

DALLAS — New troubles are surfacing for Deion Sanders' charter school, Prime Prep Academy.

News 8 has learned the Texas Education Agency is looking into allegations of an improper financial relationship between the head of Prime Prep Academy and his wife. Sources say he spends the money and she writes the checks, and in some cases she's writing the checks to him.

While former Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Deion Sanders may be the face of Prime Prep Academy, the man in charge of running the charter school is Damien "D.L." Wallace.

In fact, only two names appear on the Charter School application: Damien Wallace and Chazma Jones. Jones is identified on the front page of the application as a board member, the school contact, and the person who prepared the charter school application.

As of a few weeks ago, according to a former employee who wishes to remain anonymous, Jones’ role as a Prime Prep Academy administrator was extensive.

"She was in charge of human resources and has access to every single employee’s records,” said the source. “She has access to the PIEMS system, access to all students, has access to all finances of the district and — if you wanted anything purchased — it must be purchased with her approval and she approves all purchase orders."

Yet the name Chazma Jones appears nowhere on the roster of Prime Prep employees. Jones is listed as treasurer of Uplift Fort Worth, the non-profit parent organization of Prime Prep Academy.

Jones also appears to be the person with access to and the signatory associated with the Prime Prep checkbook.

According to accounting records obtained by News 8, Jones authorized one of several reimbursement checks made out to Damien Wallace. The alleged problem: Wallace and Jones are married.

According to state nepotism laws enacted September 1, 2013, "a public official" — in this case D.L. Wallace — "may not... select or appoint... an individual to a charter position in which the individual's services are under the public official's control."

The former employee who spoke to News 8 said he was not aware that Jones and Wallace were married until recently, and lodged a complaint with his immediate bosses.

"I sent an email to the superintendent and to Kevin Jefferson, the CFO, saying either: One — Wallace must resign in his capacity... or that Jones should resign in her capacity."

This same employee has also lodged a complaint with the Texas Education Agency, which issued this statement:

"We are checking into the recent allegations involving Prime Prep with due diligence. Based on what we know at this point, we do not believe it is illegal for Jones to sign checks that go to her husband. However, it raises questions about the internal financial controls this school has in place."

Last week, the man who many assumed was in charge of Prime Prep, Deion Sanders, for the first time criticized his business partner and co-founder of the charter school, calling D.L. Wallace a "snake."

In response to the nepotism allegation, Sanders told News 8:

"As co-founder of Prime Prep Academy, I take the allegations against D. L. Wallace very seriously. I will be immediately hiring an independent firm to conduct an audit and further investigate these matters. I started this school because of my commitment and passion for the future of our youth. I will continue to prepare our students to go to college and to insure their success in life.”

The TEA is still looking into the allegations and concerns over financial controls at Prime Prep.

If they find significant violations, the TEA Commissioner has the authority to suspend, sanction or withhold funds from Prime Prep until any issues are resolved.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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