Dallas City Council candidates received thousands from CEO tied to federal bribery investigation

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Dallas City Council

The CEO of a company tied to a federal bribery investigation and his confederates donated tens of thousands of dollars to Dallas City Council candidates between 2013 and 2016, according to a report from the Dallas Morning News.

Robert Leonard, the CEO of Force Multiplier Solutions, and a number of other individuals connected to the company, contributed at least $78,000 to 15 candidates over the three year span.

Leonard knew how to spend political funds; a review of state campaign finance records show Leonard in February 2014 gave $25,000 to incumbent state Sen. John Carona when it became clear the incumbent Carona was in danger of losing his seat. Carona was defeated in the Republican primary in March 2014 by Dallas real estate developer Don Huffines. That election spelled the beginning of the end for Dallas County Schools, and ultimately Force Multiplier.

Huffines, an advocate of limited government, felt that DCS — which had provided school bus service to area districts for decades — was not doing the job. By August 2016, Huffines was crusading to eliminate DCS.

“As far as I’m concerned, DCS’ main function is to justify its existence to taxpayers, and its chief way of doing so is by contracting with local school districts to provide school bus transportation services,” Huffines wrote in an op-ed for the Dallas Morning News shortly after he began to probe the agency. “Which it does poorly.”

A bill filed by Huffines in February sought to shutter DCS. While the measure failed, another bill put the issue to the voters. DCS was closed with 58 percent of voters signing off.

Force Multiplier is part of an FBI probe into financial malfeasance that includes money laundering and bribery. According to a federal complaint issued in December, a Texas company, widely reported to be Force Multiplier or its offshoot, BusGuard, “sold cameras and related services for school buses…entered into various contracts and a licensing agreement with a Texas state agency acting through its superintendent…Under these contracts and the licensing agreement, the state agency purchased millions of dollars of camera equipment…”

The Dallas City Council in May 2015 extended a deal that allowed Force Multiplier to continue its school bus stop arm camera program with the Dallas County Schools. Motorists who ignored the stop arm were ticketed with citations adjudicated through Dallas courts.

DCS and Force Multiplier teamed up to give the bus camera technology to school districts in the state, planning to recoup the camera costs by taking a share of the fines collected from motorists who failed to stop for the signs in violation of the law.

Rick Sorrells, former superintendent of Dallas County Schools, has retained a lawyer as has Larry Duncan, the former president of the board of trustees for DCS.

From the Morning News story: Duncan himself received $245,000 in campaign donations from Leonard, Swartwood and other Force Multiplier associates when he was president of the Dallas County Schools board of trustees.

The story also said that “at least four council candidates who received money tied to Force Multiplier Solutions told The News that Duncan rounded up the contributions and sometimes delivered them in person.”

Late Thursday, the Dallas Morning News reported that several of the city council candidates will donate the campaign contributions they received from donors connected to Force Multiplier Solutions.

Leonard donated money to several state lawmakers since 2014, including $5,000 each to state reps. Justin Rodriguez, D- San Antonio, Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and $2,000 to Alma Allen, D-Houston.

Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected]

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