North Texas

Dallas City Council Member Silent on His Role at Embattled School Bus Agency

When Omar Narvaez was elected last summer to the Dallas City Council, questions followed about his role as a board member for the embattled Dallas County Schools agency.

Those questions reappeared last week with the release of an internal report, written by a retired FBI agent who raised concerns about the source of past campaign contributions to Narvaez and other former board members for DCS.

"I'm sorry, I've got a meeting about to start," Narvaez said Monday at City Hall, as he rushed past NBC 5 Investigates, which was there to ask him about the report, and the huge financial losses at the school bus agency.

The report said Narvaez and other former DCS board members "may be exposed to allegations of a conspiracy," or "program fraud," because of political donations they received from Larry Duncan, once the board president for the agency.

The problem, according to the report, is that the bulk of Duncan's campaign money — almost $250,000 — came from Robert Leonard, the chief executive officer of Force Multiplier Solutions, and other Force Multiplier associates.

That company partnered with DCS on a bus camera program that lost millions of taxpayer dollars and motivated voters recently to disband the school bus agency.

Leonard's business dealings with DCS are now being investigated by the FBI.

Leonard and Duncan, the former board president, have repeatedly insisted the contributions were legal and ethical.

But the internal report, which DCS paid for by using $50,000 in taxpayer dollars, suggests the donations were timed in conjunction with the awarding of camera contracts, and "could be construed as a bribe."

Duncan, after receiving Force Multiplier contributions, donated money from his campaign fund to the campaigns of other DCS board members, including $1,500 to Narvaez.

Narvaez did not receive any money directly from Leonard, according to campaign reports.

The money he got from Duncan was relatively small, compared to what the board president gave to other members: $19,000 to C.W. Whitaker and more than $10,000 to Paul Freeman.

Whitaker and Freeman, who are no longer in office, have said they did not know that most of Duncan's funds came from Robert Leonard.

In a 2015 email obtained by NBC 5 Investigates, Duncan showed excitement when he told Leonard "WE WON," something he repeated both in the subject line and in the body of the email to the Force Multiplier CEO.

Duncan had just learned that neither he nor Narvaez had drawn election opponents in their bids to keep their seats on the DCS board.

"Omar and I are automatically re-elected …Thank you so very much for all of your support," Duncan told Leonard.

Narvaez is the only ex-DCS board member who is still in elected office.

He joined the DCS board after the camera program started, but he was on the board as the agency continued to buy cameras from Force Multiplier.

Photos from 2016 show Narvaez with Leonard and Duncan at a political fundraiser in Washington.

Last spring, Duncan stepped aside as board president, at which time Narvaez offered high praise, telling Duncan and others, "My heartfelt thanks for helping to teach us and mold us."

NBC 5 Investigates later caught up with Narvaez, questioning such praise considering that, under Duncan's leadership, the agency had become nearly insolvent — low on cash and saddled with debts totaling $100 million — mostly because of the camera program.

Narvaez, in a rare interview with NBC 5 Investigates, responded by saying, "Larry Duncan has done a really great job. I don't have anything negative to say about Larry Duncan."

Not long after that, Narvaez resigned from DCS to move to Dallas City Hall.

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