Friday, July 14, 2017

Starring Sylvester Turner as Donald Trump

And several of the Democrats on city council as Republicans (you pick which ones) in Congress.

Karun Sreerama (l), Chris Oliver (r)

Houston's public works director will vacate his post temporarily following revelations that he made unlawful payments to a Houston Community College trustee now awaiting sentencing on a federal bribery charge.

Karun Sreerama paid $77,143 to longtime HCC trustee Chris Oliver in three installments between late 2010 and mid-2013, when Sreerama owned a private engineering firm. Federal authorities say Oliver was leveraging his power to influence the awarding of HCC business contracts.

Wait for it ...

Mayor Sylvester Turner said (on July 12) he was unaware of the criminal case or Sreerama's involvement prior to this week. Turner added that he spoke with the public works director during a "brief telephone call" before placing him on paid administrative leave.

"I am taking this action so that I may thoroughly review the information to make sure there are no further related implications for the city and him," Turner said in a written statement. "It is against everyone's best interest for a public servant to have to operate under a cloud."

The mayor, who is traveling in Europe on city business, added, "I continue to have confidence in Karun and look forward to his return."

Wait for it ...

City Council members widely praised the mayor's decision to place Sreerama on leave, but largely were reticent to say whether they thought he ought to remain as director of the city's largest department, with a $2.1 billion budget.

"At this time, I can't say one way or the other," said Councilman Larry Green, who chairs the council committee that reviews public works issues.

Wait ... for ... it ...

Over the years, Sreerama has been a prolific political donor, predominantly to Democrats, and was a key supporter of Turner's 2015 mayoral bid. His family contributed a combined $20,000 to Turner's runoff campaign. He also has contributed to the campaigns of seven of the 16 sitting council members: Green, Ellen Cohen, Amanda Edwards, Brenda Stardig (a Republican), David Robinson, Jack Christie (also a Republican), and Jerry Davis.

Oliver has been reprimanded (!!!) by his colleagues on the community college board, but further action such as removal from office awaits ... something more serious and external than his pleading guilty to felony bribery charges, I suppose.  Sentencing, perhaps?  Sreerama awaits Turner's return from Europe for additional judgement, if any.  The mayor pro tem doesn't think it's a big deal.

Cohen said she could see Sreerama resuming his leadership role with the city.

"As far as I'm concerned with the information I have to date, I believe that he's in a position, once everything is discussed, to continue to do a credible job," Cohen said.

No.  Just no.  Even Marc Campos gets it, and he can't find his asshole without using a mirror.  Oliver should have been gone long ago, and Sreerama should follow him right out the door, along with his firm being barred from receiving further municipal contracts for an extended period of time.

It's almost as if these people know they're not going to be standing for re-election for a long time -- if ever again -- and are grabbing all the money they can, with both hands, while the grabbing's good.

Now do you understand why Houston's Democrats strike me as the kind of thing we used to refer to as moderate Republicans?


Gadfly said...

Maybe Turner has a couple of sticky fingers himself ... and more legally sticky than just campaign contributions?

Gadfly said...

Otherwise, damn. Is there no mechanism for impeaching Oliver, as he's been convicted? And, if he's too sleazy to resign, what's that say about Sreerama? In turn, what's that say about Turner?

Especially since the feds decided not to retry JWP on the hung jury tax charges, Houston's ethics ain't Dallas' either!

Gadfly said...

OK, to update my 2nd comment, I'd never checked state law on this. Shock me, now that I clicked the link. However, nothing is preventing the board from asking a state district judge to remove Oliver, which said judges can do.

It's also a bad story to the degree that the reporter didn't ask anybody on the board; "Er, why haven't you voted to ask a judge to do this?"