The Houston Chronicle and Ted Oberg, ABC13’s investigative reporter, both filed new stories Tuesday about the controversy surrounding Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the City’s troubled Housing and Community Development Department. The story blew up on September 22 and immediately triggered a fraud investigation by the Texas General Land Office and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to today’s stories, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has also opened an investigation into the multi-family housing deal at the heart of the controversy.
Mayor Recommends Deal with 4X Less Bang for Bucknbg
Tom McCasland, the former department head, accused the Mayor in an open City Council Meeting of unduly trying to influence the outcome of a grant. The Mayor promptly fired McCasland. The deal favored by the Mayor would have sent millions of dollars in business to the Mayor’s former law partners although McCasland explicitly said he was not accusing the Mayor of fraud.
In the “what was he thinking department,” the Mayor also asserted that it was his right to award the project to the firm of his choice and overrule McCasland’s recommendation even though four times more affordable housing units could have been built for the same amount of money had Turner followed the recommendations of McCasland’s department.
Turner Unleashes Firestorm
The Chronicle reported today that an investigator from Ogg’s office was seen knocking at the door of McCasland’s home. When there was no answer, he left a business card with a neighbor. The headline read: “Harris County DA Investigating deal at center of allegations that Turner steered money to developer.”
Oberg’s segment on the evening news led off with, “Harris Co. DA asks for documents on City Hall spending, payments to Mayor’s former law partner.” Oberg said he had obtained a copy of Ogg’s request, though he did not post the document.
Ogg Investigation Reportedly Looks Back into Old Deals Too
Allegedly, the investigation is widening. Oberg’s story said, “13 Investigates has also learned the District Attorney is asking for more – and this time far more detailed information – about contracts, agreements, invoices and all available payment information related to payments to Barry Barnes and Associates in 2018 and 2019.”
Mayor Turner’s office said in a statement, “The City has received no notice of an investigation. The DA asked through an informal request for all city policies and procedures related to procurement and the letting on contracts.” The mayor denies having done anything wrong.
McCasland declined to comment, as did Ogg. “Out of fairness to all involved, we neither confirm nor deny potential investigations into any matter until and if a charge is filed,” said Dane Schiller, Ogg’s spokesperson.
In separate news, the City’s Housing Committee will reportedly hold a hearing Thursday, October 7, at 2 pm on this matter and broadcast the meeting on its internet site. The Mayor is expected to tell his side of the story at that time.
More news to follow.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/5/2021
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