Education groups supporting Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s challenger in the Republican primary may want to think twice about their endorsement. Not only is the campaign floundering, but the candidate is a posterchild for cronyism, having been fired from multiple jobs due to his firm’s connections with criminals.
Scott Milder, a former city councilman from Rockwall, launched a long-shot campaign against Patrick in November. On his website, Milder calls himself a “businessman and civic leader,” but fails to mention that his employer, Stanec Architecture, is in the business of designing and building public school buildings… at taxpayers’ expense.
Not only does Milder work for Stanec, he serves as “chief elections campaign strategist” for the group, where he advises the firm on how to win local bond elections so they can swoop in and profit from local debt.
Milder is a direct cause of Texas having the second highest local debt per capita in the nation as more and more education dollars are siphoned away from the classroom and toward unnecessary and extravagant construction projects.
For example, in 2007 when Rockwall ISD put a $198 million school bond on the ballot, it was Milder’s firm (previously known as the SHW Group) that was the top contributor to a PAC supporting the local bond measure. Milder and SHW stood to profit heavily from the construction project.
Some deals have fallen through, however, due to Milder’s connections with crooks.
For example, SHW Group lost a contract with Northwest ISD after it was revealed they had hired Jim Lancaster, a felon, to oversee the project. Lancaster had pled guilty to four felonies related to a fraud scandal after he managed construction at DFW Airport in the 1980s.
Likewise, SHW was terminated from a contract in New Braunfels after Comal ISD Superintendent Marc Walker was indicted on felony theft and money laundering charges related to a $263 million bond package for school construction that Milder helped pass.
Milder has naturally made sure to scratch the backs of the superintendents who have hired (and kept) his firm. In a 2015 open letter, Milder defended administrative bloat in Texas public schools, saying that superintendent salaries aren’t too high.
Despite advising Stanec on elections, Milder hasn’t been very successful at politics himself. While Texas print media billed him as a “two-term city councilman” when he launched his campaign, they failed to mention that Milder was unopposed in either election. When he did have to run against an opponent, voters in Rockwall kicked him off the city council.
In a November interview with the Austin American-Statesman, Milder blamed his loss on his “vocal opposition” to a bathroom ordinance pushed by Rockwall’s mayor. The ordinance would have ensured that citizens in Rockwall use the bathroom in city buildings associated with their biological gender.
Although Milder’s firm profits from multi-million-dollar government contracts, Milder has not managed his own money well—filing for personal bankruptcy in 2009.
Likewise, his campaign is failing to gain traction. Recent campaign finance reports show Milder brought in just $39,577.09 for his statewide campaign. That’s less than Democrat lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier raised.
With such paltry fundraising, it’s clear that Milder’s campaign is not a bona fide statewide effort. Could it be that he’s simply trying to ingratiate himself to the education establishment in order to cash-in at a later date with his architecture firm?
Regardless, cronies like Milder are the ones who are driving tax dollars out of the classroom and into the pockets of administrators and vendors. Teachers should unite with taxpayers and reject Milder’s cronyism in Texas public schools.
Editors Note: This article was updated after publication to correct a reference to a 2007 Rockwall ISD school bond. The bond was issued by Rockwall ISD, and not the City of Rockwall.