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Posted on May 4, 2014
Public records indicate that Superintendent Jackie Pons bought a vacant piece of property from Paul Byrd for $200,000 in 2008 and then, despite a decline in property values, sold it back to Mr. Byrd for the same amount in 2010.
Both transactions were deemed by the Franklin County Property Appraiser to be “unqualified sales.”
This means that the sale was not an arms length transaction and that other factors were involved in the transaction that would affect the sales price.
Paul Byrd, who was recently arrested after deputies said they found cocaine, prescription medicine, a set of digital scales and more than $1,600 during a traffic stop, was an assistant superintendent of Leon County Schools.
Tallahassee Reports was able to confirm that between 2008 and 2010 Mr. Byrd had responsibilities over maintenance and construction of school facilities.
Superintendent Pons and the Leon County School Board have come under fire for approving no-bid construction contracts to campaign donors.
According to Franklin County property records, on April 30, 2008 Superintendent Jackie Pons and his wife paid Paul Byrd and his wife $200,000 for a vacant lot located at 401 West Bayshore in Franklin County.
The Franklin County Tax collector listed the fair market value of the property as $352,000 in 2008. Superintendent Pons also listed the value of the property as worth $352,000 on his 2008 Form 6 Full and Public Disclosure of Financial Interests form filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics on January 9, 2009.
On September 23, 2010, Mr. Pons sold the property back to Mr. Byrd for $200,000. Again, the sale was listed as unqualified.
The Franklin County Tax collector listed the fair market value of the property as $160,000 in 2010.
Tallahassee Reports reached out to Mr. Pons but was unable to get any comments on a number of questions.
First, given the fact that the two sales of this property were listed as “unqualified”, what factors made this transaction something less than an arms-length transaction.
Second, what factors allowed for Mr. Pons to recover his initial investment two years later despite an estimated 50% decline in property values.
And third, is it appropriate for the Superintendent of Leon County Schools to engage in such a transaction with an employee of the School Board.
Leon County School Board policies address employee behavior that may result in conflicts of interest. One policy states:
No employee shall engage in or have a financial interest, directly or indirectly, in any activity that conflicts with the employee’s job duties and responsibilities in the school system.
Another policy on conflicting employment or contractual relationships states:
.. it is the policy of the Board that no District officer or employee, including but not limited to Board members, administrators, instructional staff members, or support staff members, shall have or hold any employment or contractual relationship that will create any conflict
Tallahassee Reports will continue to investigate.