A 28-year-old nonprofit workforce training organization is teetering on the brink of extinction after four years under the leadership of Houston City Councilman Larry Green.
Green left HoustonWorks USA in May by what he and board president Howard Lederer called a mutual agreement so Green could dedicate himself to his $55,770-a-year job as a city councilman. Green was elected to his first term last November. He was paid $179,369 by HoustonWorks in 2010, according to the organization’s most recent available tax forms.
Audits of the organization have revealed $1.7 million in unpaid bills, including repayment of a $665,000 cash advance due next month to a grantor, a $490,000 bank loan due this month and $629,000 in other bills that include overdue rent on its corporate headquarters. The Houston-Galveston Area Council, a regional planning agency that funnels federal money to HoustonWorks for job training, decided early this month to discontinue the $16.7 million annual allotment to the organization. That represents more than 90 percent of HoustonWorks’ total budget.
HoustonWorks was in fiscal distress before Green came aboard. The organization’s financial problems have their roots in an $800,000 loss on a failed ice cream store on Main Street downtown. Lederer said he continues to think highly of Green.
Nonetheless, Lederer said, “If somebody gives you a job and you’re the top guy and you’re there for four years, it’s pretty hard to say you don’t have anything to do with the net result.”
Green said he is proud of the job he did at HoustonWorks, and that he brought in $7 million in new revenue.
“I was the guy that brought fundraising to the organization,” he said.
This largely appears to boil down to a business dispute, and the facts laid out in the story don’t make either side look particularly good. Hard to say if there’s anything more to it than that. Perhaps if there’s a lawsuit we’ll learn something interesting in the discovery process. Should CM Green face more serious opposition in his subsequent elections, I’m sure this will come up again.