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Diane Olmos Guzman

HCC Trustee sues HCC Board

Back in April, the HCC Board of Trustees censured Board member Yolanda Navarro Flores after an investigation reported that she had engaged in unethical behavior. Here’s the Chron story from the time, which I did not blog about:

The Houston Community College board on Thursday censured trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores after a yearlong investigation found she used her influence to direct work to her son’s construction company and to obtain free consulting from a vendor.

The investigation – which also found troubling behavior by Trustee Chris Oliver and former board members Abel Dávila and Diane Olmos Guzman – called into question the business practices at one of the nation’s largest community college systems.

HCC Board Chairman Richard Schechter pledged a review of the college district’s policies.

“This board has zero tolerance for this kind of conduct,” he said.

Schechter said the investigation portrayed Flores and Dávila as the most egregious offenders, with the two appearing “to have been engaged in a relentless pattern and practice of conduct designed to enrich at a minimum their family and friends.”

Flores, who was not present for the 7-0 censure vote, told trustees afterward that she was unaware her son did work for HCC.

Dávila and Guzman have denied wrongdoing, and Oliver apologized for making an “honest mistake” by voting on a contract for a company with connections to his construction cleaning firm. Oliver, the report said, had filed the required disclosure paperwork.

Trustee Navarro Flores has now filed a lawsuit against her colleagues over that report.

In court papers filed Thursday, Yolanda Navarro Flores accuses the defendants of subjecting her to “character defamation, libel and slander” under the pretext of investigating possible inappropriate actions by HCC trustees and her potential conflict of interest with an HCC contractor.

“Specifically, defendants conducted a program of attack upon plaintiff’s character, reputation and integrity through malicious action based on false information that defendants knew was false or should have known was …false had their investigation been conducted in a prudent, fair and unbiased manner,” the suit claims.


Named in the lawsuit are HCC Chancellor Mary Spangler, HCC Deputy Chancellor Arthur Tyler, HCC Board of Trustees legal counsel Jarvis Hollingsworth, HCC general counsel Renee Byas as well as trustees Oliver, Richard Schechter, Michael Williams, Bruce Austin, Mary Ann Perez, Sandie Mullins, Neeta Sane and Eva Loredo.

The suit has been filed in the 61st Civil District Court. I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me that one way or another, someone is going to be embarrassed by the outcome of this lawsuit. Beyond that, all I can say is that I’m looking forward to doing HCC candidate interviews even more now.

Recount in HCC 3

No surprise at all.

Mary Ann Perez appeared to pull off a tight victory in the Houston Community College’s District III trustee race Tuesday night. But her opponent was in no mood for a concession.

“I’m requesting a recount,” said incumbent Diane Olmos Guzman, who added that “there will be a bright future for me.”

The unofficial final result is Perez 2881, Guzman 2837. That may change a bit as provisional votes are reviewed and any outstanding overseas votes come in. In the end, I doubt it will matter. Pam Holm defeated Jeff Daily in the 2003 runoff for District G by only 27 votes in an election with 37,000 total ballots cast, but that result stood up after further review. The only election I can recall offhand that changed after a recount was the 2004 primary in which Henry Cuellar unseated Ciro Rodriguez; Rodriguez led initially, then fell behind after some 200 uncounted ballots were found that heavily favored Cuellar. Anything can happen, of course, but I don’t expect that.

Some info on the HCC Trustee District 3 race

I mentioned before that I knew nothing about the HCC District 3 Trustee race, which is the only such contested race on the ballot. In response, Sergio Davila forwarded the following press release from a group called Concerned East End Leadership for Quality in Higher Education to me:

HCC Trustee Candidate Mary Ann Perez a NO-SHOW at community organized forum

View highlights from last week’s forum here:

HOUSTON (October 27, 2009) – On Tuesday, October 20, 2009, one of Houston’s largest and most influential non-profit organizations, Tejano Center for Community Concerns (TCCC), held the last installment of its Catalyst Lecture Series. The event, free and open to the public, was organized as a candidates’ forum to discuss the role of workforce development in higher education while informing those in attendance of the importance of solid educational leadership to bolster the economic future of the East End. To that end, TCCC opened its campus to the two candidates running for the position of Houston Community College Trustee for District III: Diane Olmos Guzmán (incumbent) and Mary Ann Perez. In late September, both candidates were invited and agreed to participate in the event. Tejano Center began preparations by assembling a group of panelists and a moderator to facilitate the forum, as well as inviting families and students from its charter school along with members of the community.

As students, parents, panelists and Tejano Center staff assembled on the day of the event, a call was received that Mary Ann Perez would not attend due to dental issues. This call was placed by her husband around 4:45 p.m., less than two hours before the event was scheduled to start. Many were confused by this, since she had been seen earlier in the day, busily working at the HCC Southeast campus early voting location. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that nowhere on her campaign website or her Facebook group page did she even mention the event, whereas other events she had attended or held in the past were listed. Even more surprising, Perez’s campaign manager, Ruben Landa, stated that Perez and her husband were planning block walking Precinct 218 that evening.

Other than a couple of supporters, no one was present from Perez’s camp. Despite her absence, the forum was still well-attended, with standing-room only. Trustee Diane Olmos Guzmán stated her position on important issues such as the role of trustee in the community, educational opportunities for immigrants, and the importance of the community college, and was well-received by students, parents and community stakeholders.

In response to Perez’s apparent indifference and disinterest, a group of East End residents has formed the Concerned East End Leadership for Quality in Higher Education. This Ad Hoc group consists of community stakeholders, leaders and businessmen, led by Ms. Jesse Goins, Precinct 27 election judge. She said, “How will our community move forward when the challenging candidate for such an important position no-shows at a major forum that was held for the community? How can residents of District III make an informed decision about which candidate is best for the job when one of them doesn’t even bother to introduce herself to the people? Attendees at that event expected Mary Ann Perez to be there and she let them down.”

As if her absence at the event wasn’t enough of a disappointment to those who attended, Mary Ann Perez’s campaign Facebook group page is now populated by numerous photos of her at a campaign fundraiser at Doneraki Restaurant held the following day. Shot after shot captures a healthy, smiling Perez. Goins remarked, “Clearly, partying with her supporters is more important than answering the concerns of the community, the same community she is hoping to represent.”

Yeah, that doesn’t seem like a good way to impress voters. Here’s a scan of a pro-Olmos mailer – side one, side 2 – if you want to know more about her.

Now having said that, it must be noted that Perez has some strong support as well. Here’s an excerpt from an email sent out by State Sen. Mario Gallegos:

Education has always been a priority of mine both personally, and as your state senator. The Houston Community College System has several trustee positions on the ballot this election season. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you a little more about two candidates I am supporting for HCC Trustee positions.

Sherriff Adrian Garcia recently endorsed Mary Ann Perez for HCC District III, stating “Mary Ann Perez will work hard to move HCC in a positive direction, creating vocational and technical programs that address our high dropout rate and increasing early college programs, giving more students a head start on their college education.”

Mary Ann Perez is a candidate for the Houston Community College System Board of Trustees, District III. Mary Ann was born in East L.A. and moved to Houston at the age of 3. She learned early on that the secret to success was through education, hard work and perseverance. With that in mind, she earned an associates degreee from the Houston Community College, and went on to graduate from the University of Houston with a degree in Business Administration, cum laude. Mary Ann owns a successful Farmers Insurance and Financial Services agency located in the East End of Houston. She is currently the President of Meadow Creek Village Civic Club and Chair for Precinct 221. Mary Ann is a member of the National Hispanic Professionals Organization (NHPO), and is a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Farmers Employees and Agents Political Action Committee.

Mary Ann has a clear vision for the advancement of the Houston Community College, and she understands what today’s students need to be successful. As a board member, she will work to keep tuition and taxes affordable for everyone, and work with area employers to ensure that students recieve training for the jobs of today and tomorrow. I hope you will join me in electing Mary Ann as one of the newest board members for the Houston Community College System!

Like I say, I don’t know much about this race. For those of you in District 3, I hope this helps you decide whom to support. Thanks to Sergio for forwarding the press release.