If someone called you a “one trick pony” wouldn’t you be offended?

If a city official told you to pay up if you wanted a better seat at the table wouldn’t you be offended?

An e-mail obtained by Dolcefino Consulting exposes ethnic tensions and questionable consulting contracts in Houston’s huge tourist bureaucracy, part of our ongoing investigation into Houston First.

In the e-mail obtained by Dolcefino Consulting, Houston First Board Member Katy Caldwell calls the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce a one trick pony, suggesting their sponsorships and memberships wasn’t enough to gain the Hispanic community a bigger piece of the tourist agency money pie. The Chamber official complained African-American consultants were a roadblock.

The exchange led us to investigate just how much of your tax money Houston First was spending on consultants, and why they need consultants to help a tourist agency be diverse?

One contract shows Reuben Brown is paid up to more than $10,000 a month to lead the diversity effort. Former Houston City Councilmember Wanda Adams is also a paid consultant. Adams can bill Houston taxpayers up to $1,400 per week.

Part of her job was to make sure the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Convention in Houston was successful. You would think she would want to do that for free.

Adams bio says she is active in the charity. What other conventions do we hire consultants for?!

And then there is the consulting contract that brings back memories of the scandal that altered the management for the Port of Houston. Remember the public affairs consultant given a $330,000 severance deal after she left the Port? It was so embarrassingly large, the Port attracted growing scrutiny.

Well, she’s back.

Houston First is paying Hillday Public Relations boss Argentina James $200 per hour, up to $6,000 a month and all she has to do is work less than one day a month. Plus she’s getting paid $45,000 more to develop a community relations plan for an agency that is supposed to bring out of town visitors to Houston.

Why a tourist agency needs to have high priced consultants to teach them how to be loved in the community is a good question?

Houston First President Dawn Ullrich did the deals and there’s no evidence the Houston First Board was asked to approve. E-mail suggest Board Member Katy Caldwell does not approve.

“I do not agree with who Reuben hires but have no control over that…please, he’s hired Wanda and that women from the Port. Don’t like any of them,” says Caldwell.

Fighting over diversity and your tax money.

Stay tuned.

Read the Diversity Email 3.4.14..

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