DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver Public Schools administrator suspended for allegedly accepting kickbacks had been engaged in unethical behavior “for a long time,” according to a former DPS employee.
The school district is investigating the activities of Bud Bullard, the district’s $122,972.68 deputy chief information officer, after accusations surfaced that Bullard was steering lucrative contracts to companies that were rewarding him with gifts and free vacations.
The district placed Bullard on paid administrative leave Feb. 7 and now says it will publicize the results of its internal investigation.
On Thursday, Michael Vaughn, a district spokesman, said, “We are very concerned about the issues that have been raised and are conducting a thorough investigation. We are hiring an outside independent investigator to look carefully at all the issues that have been raised, and the results of that independent investigation will be made public. It’s also important to note that at this point these are allegations, and there will be a public release of the facts following a complete and thorough investigation.”
Meanwhile, former DPS employees said they were not surprised by the revelations.
“A lot of people knew things like this were going on for a long time,” said Mark Jones, who worked under Bullard for several years, but was fired for unreliability and excessive absenteeism.
Jones filed a lawsuit against DPS claiming he was wrongfully terminated, but he lost in court. However, the 48-year-old telecommunications worker told CBS4 he once overheard Bullard boasting at work about accepting freebies.
“He was given a week’s vacation on a houseboat on Lake Powell and he came in and said he was going to enjoy this trip on (the contractor’s) dime,” said Jones. “I assumed that meant that contractor was paying for the trip or gave them access to the houseboat. He seemed proud of it that he could finagle this vacation out of them.”
Another former employee in the DPS telecommunications department told CBS4 he too heard Bud Bullard talk about accepting the free trip from a contractor.
“I remember him talking about how he was going to enjoy his trip, he was telling us where he was going and how he wasn’t having to pay for it because it was being paid for by one of our vendors,” said James Amador. “We were using all their products in all the schools at that time. He just seemed like he really wanted us to know how much he was going to enjoy himself.”
Bullard has not responded to repeated calls and emails from CBS4 to inquire about the alleged bribes and kickbacks. There was no answer at his home in Golden when a reporter traveled there Wednesday morning.
As the district proceeds, school board members are furious at the way the story was revealed.
“I am rather appalled at the whole unfolding of this story,” wrote DPS school board member Jeannie Kaplan in a scathing, late night email to the DPS chief of staff Jennifer Walmer and other board members. It was sent less than an hour after CBS4 broke the story Tuesday night.
“Channel 4 says (Bullard) has been on leave since Feb. 7. But more importantly, we all sat together for several hours (Tuesday night) and not one word was mentioned to the elected board of directors that this story was coming out. What will it take for you to realize this is unacceptable behavior?” wrote Kaplan.
Kaplan said she and other board members had not been informed of the ongoing investigation, and only found out about it via a brief internal email Tuesday night, warning of the coming CBS4 Investigation.
School board member Andrea Merida told CBS4, “this has serious implications for community trust. This is a mid-level manager. Why didn’t his supervisor know about all this? Or did he?”
Board members may be unhappy to also learn that the district employed Bud Bullard’s father, Vern Bullard, from April 2, 2001 until Feb. 28, 2003. The elder Bullard was working in the Department of Technology Services, apparently working for his son.
But when he left DPS, Vern Bullard was hired by a telecommunications company that had received millions of dollars in contract work from DPS. Records obtained by CBS4 show that after Vern Bullard joined the company, it continued to receive millions of dollars in DPS work to furnish and install wire and cable at numerous Denver public schools. One of the former owners of the company refused to discuss the hiring of Vern Bullard with CBS4 and refused to answer questions.
Vern Bullard did not return a phone message left at his home.
DPS has numerous policies prohibiting employees from accepting gifts from vendors and showing favoritism to vendors. The district also has a policy against nepotism, which says no employee can “hire, supervise or appraise any employee that is an immediate family member.”
“I didn’t think it was real ethical,” Mark Jones said of what he saw and heard.
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com