FBI Investigating City Housing Deals

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There are major developments in the widening scandal at the Houston Housing Authority this morning.

An East End Developer has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the City of Houston from moving forward on a controversial Houston Housing Authority real estate deal along Buffalo Bayou  just east of Downtown Houston.

Developer Alan Atkinson claims that Mayor Turner lied to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) about the safety of the proposed public housing project set to be developed by Ojala Partners, LP. A court hearing has been scheduled at 2:00 PM, this afternoon in the 334th District Court. Atkinson is asking Judge Steven Kirkland to issue a temporary restraining order and accusing the City of Houston of using the coronavirus to illegally push the deal through.

“Defendants have failed to properly consider  the interests of the public at large as well as the future occupants of the planned project,” the lawsuit reads.  “Defendants hope to slam a deal through while the public’s attention is diverted by the COVID-19 Pandemic and enrich private citizens at the expense of those which it is duty-bound to protect.” The lawsuit was filed by Houston attorney Stewart Hoffer of the law firm Hicks Thomas.

You can watch the 2 PM hearing here.

The lawsuit comes as a former Houston Housing Authority Board of Commissioners member confirms that she received a visit from the FBI.  Longtime public housing resident Phillis Wilson was suddenly removed from the HHA Board of Commissioners by Mayor Turner in February, and she now says she was eliminated for asking too many questions about the safety of the bayou real estate deals.

“Making people sick, that’s not my mission” says Wilson, “I smell what you said. There was a big payday for somebody. I think the FBI should get to the bottom of this because these are federal tax dollars that  they’re playing with.”

HHA wants to spend more than $70 million on land on both sides of the bayou. Dolcefino Consulting has shown some of the money is being spent on contaminated land.  Two other HHA Board of Commissioners members who questioned the real estate deals were also removed from their positions by Mayor Turner.

Wilson says the FBI asked questions about key players in the real estate deals, including HHA Chairman Larence Snowden.

Both developers involved in the real estate deals have the same two people on their payroll – former Housing Authority Chairman Lance Gilliam and Licia Green Ellis, the wife of Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis.

A Dolcefino Consulting investigation has shown Gilliam and Ellis have profited from several recent HHA real estate deals. Phone records show Licia Green Ellis and the HHA Chairman Larence Snowden talked more than 300 times in a year.

Tune into the hearing on the temporary restraining order hearing being held in the 334th District Court at 2 PM at the following link: https://video.ibm.com/channel/xKM58ddtk3d.

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