Colin Carney has been appointed to the vacant seat on the Humble ISD school board.

Carney, a CPA, is an asset and wealth management tax director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

He earned a bachelor of arts  in accounting and master of taxation degrees from Baylor University.. His family includes wife, Jennifer, a former Humble ISD teacher, daughter Addison, an Humble ISD elementary school student, and son Blake, a pre-schooler. The Carney family has resided in Humble ISD for the past 10 years.  Carney has volunteered as a Junior Achievement instructor, YMCA T-ball coach, and Alliance youth soccer coach.

Carney said that he first became interested in the position when he heard the board was taking applications.

The vacancy occurred when trustee Heath Rushing resigned due to a job relocation. Rushing submitted his resignation a few days after the deadline passed to add his position to the already scheduled election for board seats, held May 6.

Carney said he chose not to run in the election because the timing didn’t work well for his career. (Candidates filed  Feb. 17 for the May election.)

Colin Carney

Carney stated on his application that he has never attended a school board meeting, but has watched online since January 2017.  Carney said that he is committed to bringing energy and enthusiasm to the board, learning more about the issues impacting the current and future state of the district, and working collaboratively with fellow board members to make the best decisions for current and future generations of Humble ISD stakeholders.

Carney stated in his application that the district’s biggest challenge is “ensuring a successful bond referendum to manage the explosive growth.”

“Mr. Rushing is a good man and was a huge asset to the board," Board President Angela Conrad said. "His energy and experience will be hard to replace, but Colin should be able to hit the ground running. His experience with business, finance and education will bring a valuable perspective to the group. He also brings an open mind and desire to learn. Those are attributes that will serve the community well."

Carney said he does not know any of the board members, but has perhaps met a couple of them once or twice. Sitton said the same is true of the board’s relationship with Carney. “I may have met him once or twice here and there, but none of us knew him,” Sitton said.

“I think it speaks well of our community that we had 14 very qualified and engaged individuals who are willing to dedicate their time to serve on the board. It’s encouraging to know that Humble ISD has these leaders in our community who are looking out for the welfare of our students, teachers and community,” Conrad said.

Board chooses to appoint rather than hold election

The appointment brings to an end a very contentious period of filling the  board seats.

In June, the board decided to appoint someone to the vacancy rather than hold an election. Board member Charles Cunningham and  newly elected trustee Martina Dixon voted against the rest of the board, stating that they preferred the community fill the seat via election.

Applicants were asked to submit their names through July 31.

A special board meeting was called Aug. 1, and the board was expected to make a decision at that meeting, which began nearly 40 minutes late because the board members remained in closed session deliberations. When the meeting did convene, board president Angela Conrad stated that more time was needed to properly review the 14 applications. The board then announced that the appointee would be named and sworn in at the regular Aug. 8 meeting.

Following the Aug. 1 meeting, board members began contacting references in some cases. Candidates Lohit Datta-Barua, Chris Herron and Bob Rehak were immediately informed that they had not been selected for the position. All three ran against incumbents in the May 2017 trustee election. Corinn Price and Robert Scarfo were the only other two applicants who had prior unsuccessful bids.

Rehak stated that his references were not even called.  Herron said that he dropped off his application late in the afternoon of July 28. The next morning, a board member contacted one of his references, David Kully, a Department of Justice antitrust lawyer. “By noon, Nancy Morrison had called me to say I was not chosen.”

“I never thought I had a chance, realistically, because we (Herron, Rehak, Whitmire) ran against them strongly. We didn’t win. I applied for Rushing’s open seat anyway because I didn’t want this board to dictate my narrative. I’m still concerned that the decision was taken out of the hands of the voters in a deliberate attempt to hold on and preserve power. This board dictated everything: when the election would be, where early voting would be, where final voting would be, and whether we got to fill Rushing’s seat or they did. I now see that there is a clear pattern to preserve incumbent power. All of this was conducted behind closed doors. We should expect transparency from elected officials. This entire process should be reviewed,” Herron said.

Herron continued by saying, “School board elections used to be pretty simple. Everyone went to the gym on a Saturday,and  a couple of candidates spoke about why they’d be the best choice. Now we have elections that involve the Tea Party dropping a significant amount of money on a smear campaign against candidate Abby (Whitmire). I mean how does a little school board election in Humble, Texas, end up in Breitbart News anyway?”

“I am sure Colin Carney is a good candidate. It’s the process that was used that bothers me,” Rehak said.

“I just wish that Heath Rushing would have announced his resignation before the filing deadline to give the voters in Humble ISD the opportunity to select his replacement,” Whitmire said.

Herron said that he’s still interested in serving the district and has applied for the bond committee: “My background in comparative financial analysis, underwriting and bond markets means that I could credibly serve.

 

Transparency and prior relationships?

Colin Carney was a surprise choice for the board, since his resume is light on community and school involvement. Carney and Robert Sitton, a board member, both said at the last board meeting that they don’t know each other. Carney also said he really doesn’t know anyone on the board.
Carney was chosen Aug. 8 from a field of 14 candidates. When asked if he knew any board members, including outgoing members Brent Engelage or Heath Rushing, Carney stated that he didn’t know any of them. The same question was posed to Sitton, who initially said that he did not know Carney, then added that he may have met him once or twice before. Once The Tribune posted the story online about Carney’s appointment and quoted the two men as stating that they did not know each other, incredulous readers alerted the paper to the close proximity of Sitton’s Edward Jones storefront and Carney’s Tutoring, a business owned by Colin Carney’s wife, Jennifer. They, until recently, were located next door to each other. Carney’s Tutoring consolidated to the Kingwood location after Memorial Day.
Readers also stated their suspicions that Carney was hand picked due to his friendship with board members and former members.
“I’ve never met or spoken with Mr. Engelage. I met Mr. Rushing once at a FamilyTime gala several years ago, which I attended with my wife, who is a former Women of Achievement award recipient. I simply shook Mr. Rushing’s hand and introduced myself, and that was the extent of the interaction. As for sitting board members, the only one I had met was Mr. Sitton, in a brief interaction similar to Rushing,” said Carney. Sara Rushing, a friend of Jennifer Carney’s on Facebook who offered her congratulations via social media, was contacted about the extent of the Rushing-Carney relationship, but she declined to comment.
Sitton stated that he met Carney one time back in late May or early June at his wife’s business. “Let me be very clear, the subject of the school board did not come up,” Sitton said.
Carney said that because he had never met any of the other board members, he was very flattered to be the appointee.
Some community members continue to criticize the board for lack of both financial and public transparency. The board continues to say that events prior to and after the election are not calculated or manipulative efforts, but simply the normal steps required to enact their board duties. For example, at the Aug. 8 meeting, Sitton announced that the board had received the Texas State Comptroller’s Office financial transparency star. The board has recently done a full revamping of their financial website after multiple criticisms in board meeting public comments regarding the difficulty of locating information. The board seems to be tired of the constant challenges to their transparency, evidenced by board member Angela Conrad’s somewhat sarcastic and rhetorical question to Sitton. “So, we’re transparent?,” Conrad asked, to which Sitton responded, “We got the star.”

 

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Jacqueline Havelka
Author: Jacqueline HavelkaEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am a rocket scientist turned writer. I worked at Lockheed Martin-Johnson Space Center for many years managing experiments on the Space Station and Shuttle, and I now own my own firm, Inform Scientific, specializing in technical and medical writing and research program management. I am a contributing correspondent to The Tribune, a Kingwood resident for 12 years, and proud mom to two Aggie sons.