Forty- four thousand City of Houston employees and their families have health insurance, and it costs Houston taxpayers a fortune to provide it. In 2019, the budget for health benefits is $435 million.

That’s huge money.

Tomorrow, a Houston taxpayer named Darryl Chapman will ask a judge to stop the new contract with Cigna, calling it an illegal procurement, rigged from the start to make sure they won. The court hearing is scheduled for 1:00 pm in Judge Steven Kirkland’s court.

One of the allegations is that Cigna was given information about medical claims that another company United Healthcare wasn’t given.

But why would city hall ever play favorites? Isn’t it supposed to be what’s in the best interest of taxpayers and of city employees and their families?

It’s hard not to notice that the Mayor’s close friend Cindy Clifford was in the room during the vote. Clifford was the head of Mayor Turner’s Inaugural Committee. She’s been on the winning side of a curious number of big city contracts since then.

City records show she’s the lobbyist for Cigna. The Mayor pushed through the Cigna deal today, even after learning the legal action had been filed.

“I think everyone will agree, anyone can file a lawsuit,” said Turner during a meeting of Houston City Council. “Until a temporary restraining order is put in place and the requisite bond filed, there is nothing that precludes this body or anybody from proceeding.”

Of course, that could also mean Houston taxpayers will likely pick up another legal tab down the road to clean up the Mayor’s latest smelly business deal.

There’s a growing pattern of complaints that this Mayor is picking winners and losers, long before we are supposed to pick them in lucrative city contracts.

We’ve been raising a stink about Clifford for months, since she constantly claims in sworn lobbying reports that she hasn’t spent a penny on Mayor Turner or his family, despite photos on Facebook and Instagram that prove otherwise.

Houston City Attorney Ron Lewis has ignored our complaints. So has District Attorney Kim Ogg.

Makes you wonder who else is getting a piece of this huge financial pie?