The Mayor hasn’t given the bullet train the right to come to town after saying it would create thousands of jobs. What’s up?
Houston City Council is set to vote Wednesday on $400 million for home repair work after Hurricane Harvey.
Nearly a third of the money, almost $137 million, will go to subcontractors.
So why is Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner fighting to keep their names secret until the vote is over?
We think that’s a violation of Texas law. We also think it is typical of a culture of secrecy this Mayor routinely gets away with.
The agenda of last week’s Houston City Council meeting included attachments, including the names of the subcontractors getting a big piece of the Hurricane Harvey repair pie under affirmative action programs. One problem – the attachment didn’t open.
At first, City Secretary Anna Russell’s office invited us to come by and take a look in person. We did.
“Then suddenly the always cooperative lawyers of the City Legal Department told us we couldn’t look at a clearly public record, that we had to submit a formal request knowing they had 10 days to respond which wouldn’t happen until after the vote,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
“Sometimes I wonder who the new Mayor should fire first, the Garbage Director or the City Attorney,” says Dolcefino. “Here’s my idea. Email them both at the same time because they help the Mayor hide public records and that cannot be the way we run this city anymore.”
A Sunday editorial in the Houston Chronicle challenged Mayor Turner to tackle ethics reform, when in fact he’s the problem. The Mayor is hiding records of his recycling deal, his phone records, his travel records, and now the details of companies getting ready to get $139 million of your money.
We already know Turner has taken $300,000 in political contributions from Hurricane Harvey contracts. Wonder how much more we will see in the new list?
The Council Housing Committee meets Tuesday morning at 10:00 AM. They should demand the names be disclosed before the final vote.
If they don’t, they are just as guilty.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner now wants to hide the use of payments to the biggest disaster contractors in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
The City of Houston Legal Department is asking the Texas Attorney General to withhold details of how money has been spent by contractors Tetra Tech and DRC, including who is on their payroll.
“This Mayor is officially a serial abuser of the public right to know,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “He hides phone records, he hides emails and now he seems to think taxpayers and hurricane victims don’t have a right to make sure this disaster money is properly spent.”
So far, the City of Houston has spent $139 million. More than half, $75 million, has gone to outside contractors. Two of the biggest recipients are Tetra Tech and DRC. Dolcefino Consulting requested documents detailing the use of the money and who was paid with the money.
“This request is based on documented history of political funny business in hurricane money. After Hurricane Ike, relatives of both the Liberty and Chambers County Judge benefited from disaster money,” says Dolcefino. “We already know Mayor Turner’s long-time law partner will be paid millions from money to help Hurricane victims. This process must be transparent now that more than a billion more dollars are being delivered to this Mayor.”
Investigations by Dolcefino Consulting already show Mayor Turner gave contracts to hurricane vendors who gave campaign money before the storm, and he is still accepting contributions from contractors benefiting from disaster funds.
The Mayor has accepted more than $100,000 from vendors benefiting from Hurricane Harvey contracts, even though only a tenth of the money has been allocated.
New campaign reports are due out this week.
“Obviously City of Houston contractors will get much of this money, and that’s the way it should be,” says Dolcefino. “Taxpayers have a right to account for every dime of it.”
Dolcefino Consulting has filed a new criminal complaint late Monday afternoon against Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and once again it is about public records the Mayor is hiding from you.
“There is a disturbing pattern with this Mayor. We cannot allow public officials to ignore state law. It is time for the Harris County District Attorney to act,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
On November 1st, 2018, the Houston-based Investigative Media Firm sought cell phone records of the Mayor. The Mayor’s office released records from a city issued phone which shows virtually no use by the Mayor. The Mayor’s office claimed they were working on getting records on the Mayor’s personal cell phone that relate to city business, but the records were never provided.
Last year Dolcefino Consulting raised questions about the Mayor’s use of his old law firm email address to conduct city business. The City fought attempts to review those communications.
This is not the first criminal complaint the company has filed against the Mayor since he took office in 2016. The Harris County District Attorney asked the Galveston County DA’s office to investigate other allegations the Mayor was withholding email communications with Maya Ford. Emails we do have show Ford was complaining about alleged corruption in the City garbage department.
“The Texas Public Information Act is useless if the District Attorney doesn’t take transparency seriously, regardless of who the public official is,” says Dolcefino. “The Mayor’s use of personal phones and emails to try and shield public business is unacceptable. My company is forced to file this complaint to initiate a real investigation.”
We have a big thank you for Mayor Turner. When Dolcefino Consulting President Wayne Dolcefino was the investigative reporter at Channel 13, he just hated him. Now it seems Sly has moved on to a new journalistic target. He now hates the station’s current investigative reporter, Ted Oberg.
At least he’s consistent.
We can’t imagine why he’s mad at Ted. At a City Hall news conference that is must-see TV, Turner accused Oberg of being some sort of biased political operative. Actually Mayor, Ted is only calling you out because your political deals stink.
Mayor Turner wanted a Virginia company to get a $35 million Hurricane Harvey victim housing contract even though the company has been sued by the State of Louisiana for messing up the Hurricane Katrina cleanup. Louisiana politicians call them the “crème de crème” of awful. Can he be mad about that?
Oh, we know why he’s sore. Channel 13 dared to question the familiar folks riding the political gravy train on hurricane relief, especially the lawyer the out of town folks are going to use.
It’s Barry Barnes, the Mayor’s former law partner – and get this:
When the contract proposal was reviewed by a City Council committee, Barnes’ firm stood to make about $2 million. Suddenly, in the few weeks before City Council acted, somebody decided they needed a bunch more legal work than they had originally thought. The new sticker price? $7 million.
Turner points out that his buddy Barry got contracts from government before he was Mayor. He’s absolutely right. Remember that Barry Barnes’ partner was then State Representative Sylvester Turner and their law firm got paid millions of your tax dollars. We are sure it was just qualifications and not buying political influence.
The Mayor tells us he doesn’t tell contractors who to choose to help on city hall contracts, so maybe this Virginia based disaster relief company just got lucky. I bet they had no idea who Barry Barnes was – maybe they just liked his firm website.
Have you noticed the Mayor gets really cranky when you question the way he’s spending our money?
We are going to ask for all the records that explain how the Barry Barnes piece of the pie exploded in recent weeks.
We will bet you Mayor Turner will fight it. He will try to hide the records. Use City of Houston lawyers to fight it in court. That’s what he does.
Maybe now we know why he seems to hate firefighters so much. They dared to question.
Mayor – don’t blame Ted. Look in the mirror.
Mayor Turner and his anti-firefighter folks owe Houston’s heroes an apology!
The Protect Houston PAC, that’s funded by the mayors cronies, put up a campaign sign right in front of the Southwest Inn that says, “Vote Against Prop B.”
Can we stay stupid? This is the motel where a blaze took five Houston firefighters lives.
What a slap in the face to Houston firefighters and their families. The mayor owes the families of these fallen heroes an apology. He owes an apology to Houstonians for attacking people who save lives every darn day.
The mayor addressed the issue at the end of city council meeting Wednesday. All the mayor said was the sign was taken down and we need to be respectful.
There was no apology from Sly. That speaks volumes.
“Who is getting fired for this? Be respectful is not good enough, especially for the families of these dead firefighters. Someone needs to be held accountable for this.” Said Wayne Dolcefino, president of Dolcefino Consulting. “The mayor has crossed the line. He can’t even say he’s sorry? What a guy.”
The mayor seems to think the anti-firefighter sign wasn’t anything really different than the pro Prop B sign placed near the crosses to mark their sacrifice.
“Hey mayor, I got a hunch these dead firefighters would be on the front lines fighting for fair pay. Trying to find some moral equivalence tells Houstonians all they need to know”, says Dolcefino.
Maybe Houstonians will send a message to Sly on November 6th.
Houston lobbyist Cindy Clifford thinks Sylvester Turner is the best Mayor in the land. At least that’s what she claims on Instagram all the time.
No accounting for taste, but here is a chance for the “Best Mayor in the Land” to prove ethics matters. A chance for him to prove my suspicions wrong.
Order an investigation into Cindy Clifford today to see if she’s breaking the law on lobbying reporting. We are waiting.
Houston City Hall lobbyists have to register and account for the money they spend trying to influence our public officials. Cindy Clifford is a lobbyist for some big players, including Republic Waste, Yellow Cab, Kelsey Seybold, Comcast, Cigna, Andrews Kurth, RPS Klotz Associates, HOK, and SP Plus Corporation to name a few.
When we were investigating that plum hand-picked government job the Mayor’s daughter Ashley Turner got from Lone Star College a few months ago, we noticed on Instagram Cindy Clifford had hosted a party, along with CenterPoint Lobbyist Elizabeth Brock, to celebrate the cool $85,000 a year job Ashley got without having to go through the trouble the rest of us do competing with anyone else.
Maybe Clifford and Brock think Ashley is the best Mayor’s daughter in the land.
We also found this invitation to Ashley’s 30th birthday party in January 2017, hosted again by guess who? Cindy Clifford and Elizabeth Brock.
On July 4th, 2018, Cindy Clifford hosted a fireworks party the Mayor attended, and after Christmas there’s yet another Clifford hosted party where the Mayor and the Police Chief both came. Food and Drink count in lobbyist reporting by the way, but Cindy probably knows that.
“I love parties, and I know the Mayor is itchin’ to come to my next bash,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “Oh, wait a minute, I am not trying to influence him to give me and my clients contracts. Think he’ll say no?”
Cindy Clifford also hosted a luncheon on May 8th, 2017 for someone who isn’t related to the Mayor but is clearly an important public official in her own right.
Marvalette Hunter became Mayor Turner’s Chief of Staff on April 3, 2017, and Cindy, who already thinks Sylvester is the “best Mayor in the land” must have been all exuberant that Marvalette was now working for him.
Today we asked to see all the documents showing any expenditures by Cindy Clifford since January 1, 2017. There aren’t any.
“So maybe the City Secretary, the City Attorney and the Mayor haven’t read up on ethics laws recently, but did you know it’s a crime to not properly disclose expenditures made to influence city officials and their families,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “Oh, I know, Cindy Clifford isn’t a lobbyist when she’s entertaining the Mayor and his daughter, she’s just a buddy who thinks he is the best Mayor in the land and loves the first daughter too. Paleeze. If that’s a loophole there isn’t a lobbyist in town who wouldn’t become convinced this is the “best Mayor in the land.”
Maybe in between attacking Houston firefighters who risk their butts for his family and mine, the Mayor could order an immediate review of all City Hall lobbyists to see who is reporting the money they spend on public officials and their families.
He could direct the Houston City Attorney Ron Lewis to fight for transparency. Oh, wait a minute, Lewis is the City Attorney who has let the Mayor get away with illegally withholding public records.
To be fair, Cindy Clifford is not just a lobbyist. The best Mayor in the land appointed her as a member of the powerful Harris County-Houston Sports Authority and she got a piece of the lucrative Houston airport food concessions contract. Clifford runs a PR firm that must have some expertise in airport food too.
Maybe Dolcefino Consulting should offer to throw a lunch for Sylvester or Ashley or Marvalette. We could post it on social media. Cindy likes to talk about her political entertaining.
“Maybe I could even get appointed to lead the effort to find all the waste, fraud and abuse in city contracts, so we can pay the firefighters what they deserve,” says Dolcefino. “We can start by cutting out any contracts which may be going to his law partner, his college pals, or his friends.”
La Griglia on West Gray is where a lot of important people go to have lunch. It’s where Sylvester Turner’s buddy Cindy Clifford threw a luncheon a few weeks back for Ashley Turner, the Mayor’s daughter.
A celebration of her new job with Lonestar Community College.
Clifford is the chair for the Mayor’s inaugural committee.
Ever heard of the term, “Quid Pro Quo?” – it means, to give so that you will give. In other words, I scratch your back and you’ll scratch mine.
News of Ashley Turner’s appointed job for the community college is raising lots of eyebrows on social media. Let’s see, ya think the Lone Star Folks are buying some connections with the gig for the Mayor’s daughter?
But, back to the food…
Also in attendance at Turner’s back scratching luncheon was Houston First CEO, David Mincberg, and Elizabeth Brock, a lobbyist for CenterPoint Energy. Even Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena was there to congratulate Ashley on her new “job” appointment. Pena was there scratching Sly’s back before he had to turn on his own firefighters on the pay parity fight.
Let’s also not forget about Clifford lobby’s for Republic Waste. Maybe the next time you see the Mayor you can ask why all the hurricane debris, no matter where it was, all seemed to end up in Republic landfills… But, we digress.
You got it – so the Mayor and all his buddies held a fancy celebration for Ashley getting a $84,000 a year government job, a job that no one else even got to apply for, because she was appointed by the Special Assistant to the Chancellor.
So, what’s the next stop on the City Hall “Quid Pro Quo” train?
Guess who got the $84,000 a year job? Ashley Turner, the Mayor’s daughter
The Lone Star College System gets an awful lot of your tax money. $161 million dollars in property taxes and another $77 million dollars from State Funds, just in the next year. Much of the rest of their money comes from tuition.
I am sure taxpayers all agree Lone Star should look for the best people to compete for some of these high paid government jobs.
So, is this your definition of competition?
The Special Assistant to the Chancellor at Lone Star College decided they needed to hire a new Executive Director of Community Relations to help manage “external relationships” for the proposed new Lone Star College-North Houston campus. That’s “government speak” for someone to help lobby other politicians.”
The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019 pending approval from state and regional government agencies.
Lone Star College even created a fancy job description, but that was a waste of paper, because this wasn’t a job that anyone could apparently apply for, a job where the best person could win.
In Early April, the Special Assistant Quentin Wright sent a memo to the Chancellor that he wanted to “direct appoint” a candidate for the job, even before Human Resources was told a new post was needed. That’s code for let’s ignore the concept of seeing who wants the job.
Guess who got the $84,000 a year job? Ashley Turner, the Mayor’s daughter. Her last job was running a wellness center.
“This isn’t fair to taxpayers and it’s not even fair to the Mayor’s daughter”, says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.” Cynical taxpayers will think she got the job because the school wants to buy the Mayor’s political help in getting their Aldine area campus approved.”
This is one of the things people don’t like about government. Instead of seeking out the best possible candidates for jobs you pay for, jobs sometimes go to folks who know politicians, or are related to them. It is a horrible practice because it smacks of favoritism.
Turner’s new role will also make her the person who deals with the media in crisis situations at Lone Star College. The school ignored our questions about this new gig.
“Ashley Turner may not have any experience in the media, but hopefully she won’t get advice from her father about public information. Sylvester has made a mockery out of the Texas Public Information Act while Houston Mayor, hiding public records, even ignoring judges orders to produce public records,” says Dolcefino.
The Harris County District Attorney has filed a sealed court motion to recuse her office from further investigation into a Dolcefino Consulting criminal complaint filed against Mayor Turner for hiding e-mails.
Judge David Mendoza, the ethics counsel for Kim Ogg informed us of the decision Thursday.
The reason: Dolcefino Consulting served as Communications Advisors to Ogg in her campaign for District Attorney.
“One of the reasons I wanted to help Ms. Ogg become District Attorney was because of her promise to me to be aggressive on issues of public integrity. If I had known then she would seek to recuse herself from investigations involving my firm I would have told her no,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “I find it odd that when my office complained on a powerful Democratic politician our Democratic DA got a sudden case of conflict of interest.”
Dolcefino Consulting accused Turner of hiding e-mails with Maya Ford, a virtual goddaughter to Turner, and the beneficiary of consulting contracts since Turner took office. Ogg’s office has been sitting on the complaint for 5 months, and there is no evidence they’ve even asked City Hall to show them the e-mails.
“In my view, the District Attorney is already in violation of the law too, since it required them to respond within a month to our complaint,” says Dolcefino. “Houstonians should be asking some tough questions about public integrity in this town.”
Judge Mendoza says the Turner case also became intertwined with the prosecution of Cypress Creek EMS for violating state charity laws. The Northwest Harris County Ambulance company faces criminal charges stemming from a complaint from Dolcefino Consulting after refusing to turn over payroll records for 911 employees. Ogg has now asked for a special prosecutor to take over that case, even though it has been ongoing since she became District Attorney fifteen months ago.
The FBI is probing possible fraud in the 911 service in ESD #11 and employees of CCEMS recently testified in front of a grand jury.
“It is no secret my office has been highly critical of Ms. Ogg’s alleged office of Public Integrity,” says Dolcefino. “Kim Ogg has now been District Attorney for fifteen months.”
Records obtained by Dolcefino Consulting show Ogg’s office waited five months to tell the Houston Independent School District after we formally complained some Democratic school board members were hiding phone records. By the time HISD turned over the records, the phone records we wanted had been discarded. The DA let them get away with it.
Early this year Ogg’s office falsely claimed our complaint about Democratic HCC Board Member Adriana Tamez was unfounded. Dolcefino Consulting turned over hours of video surveillance and utility records proving Tamez did not live in the District she was elected to represent. The Public Integrity Unit claimed they did a thorough investigation, but refused to turn over records showing the public what they did or didn’t do.
“Our District Attorney has the authority to initiate investigations without a formal complaint, but those are their rules. Now, when my Investigative Communications Firm complains, they play games, and now want to hand off the hot potatoes,” says Dolcefino. “In this town, a growing number of people are hiring us to help get them justice. Ms. Ogg could have chosen to help us clean up the town, but she isn’t.”