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Why the HISD Board of Trustees needed stricter ethics rules

Ladies and gentlemen, Trustee Larry Marshall.

HISD trustee Larry Marshall voted repeatedly to award taxpayer-funded contracts to companies that hired his longtime business associate – who gave him a cut of her earnings, according to court records, deposition testimony and interviews.

Marshall, the Houston Independent School District’s most senior trustee, has received tens of thousands of dollars through the arrangement with consultant Joyce Moss-Clay, who also is his political campaign treasurer, records show. The partnership dates back several years, and in 2009 alone netted the elected official more than $59,000.

The payments to Marshall are at the center of an ongoing civil lawsuit that alleges a bribery and kickback scheme tainted the bidding process in the nation’s seventh-largest school district. (Excerpts from a deposition the the case appear at the bottom of this story.)

“I think any taxpaying citizen would agree that it’s totally inappropriate for an HISD board member to receive thousands of dollars a month in income from contractors with business before the district,” said attorney Chad Dunn, representing the Gil Ramirez Group. The local construction company is suing Marshall, Moss-Clay, HISD and two competing firms after losing a bid for a contract.

Moss-Clay, who is a retired HISD facilities manager, testified in a recent deposition that she paid Marshall up to 75 percent of the fees she collected from clients because he helped with the consulting work and acted as a mentor and “familial brother.”

Marshall, first elected to the school board in 1997, has maintained in court filings that he provided legitimate consulting services. The retired HISD administrator denied that he tried to steer school district business to certain vendors.

“There is absolutely no evidence that Marshall has improperly influenced government contracts,” his attorney, Jarvis Hollingsworth, wrote in a late October filing. “From the outset of this lawsuit, it has been clear that Defendant Joyce Moss-Clay was doing nothing more than paying Marshall for the valuable consulting services that he was providing her.”

The story kind of makes my eyes glaze over due to all of the convoluted transactions. Marshall has always been surrounded by stories and allegations like these, but he’s always managed to survive them, possibly because other people’s eyes glaze over reading about them as well. As I said before, ethics and ethics reform would be easier if everyone involved would just take care not to do things that look and smell suspicious. As long as there are Larry Marshalls in office, it will never be easy.

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2 Comments

  1. Paul Havlak says:

    Why, in Texas, are members of school boards unpaid, and legislators paid something only some $16,000 per year? (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/0205.html)

    When their decisions affect millions or billions of dollars in public spending?

    It’s bad enough that these public servants have to raise money to be elected. But when they’re dependent on outside earnings just to *live*, I’m not surprised at the corruption. I’m mystified at how any honest, non-wealthy person can afford to hold such offices.

  2. Justice 4 Education says:

    See HISD’s Dr. Grier’s comments on known undue influence at HISD:
    http://www.wuaala.com/channel/texaswatchdog/35738

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