Houston Housing Authority Hit With Criminal Complaints
Four separate criminal complaints have been filed Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 against three Houston Housing Authority officials and the Houston Housing Authority legal counsel.
The sworn complaints by Dolcefino Consulting were delivered to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton alleging the city housing agency is falsely using the COVID-19 disaster to hide the release of critical public records on two controversial East End land deals.
The complaints target HHA Chair LaRence Snowden, attorney Tammye Curtis-Jones, HHA President & CEO Mark Thiele and Vice President of Finance and Business Operations Mike Rogers. Rogers is also the HHA official in charge of maintaining financial records of a number of separate non-profit corporations set up by the HHA Board of Commissioners to handle dozens of financial transactions.
“The Houston Housing Authority now epitomizes the culture of secrecy in this city hall. They are trying to hide the details of real estate deals that are making some politically connected folks rich,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
HHA has closed its lobby but claims the agency is open on their website for business. At the same time HHA has refused to provide critical public records in the days before millions in federal funds are used to complete real estate deals just east of downtown. Two developers involved in the project stand to make millions just in property tax exemptions, costing HISD alone millions of dollars a year.
State Senator Paul Bettencourt, Chair of the Senate Committee on Property Tax called on Mayor Turner to halt the real estate deals, citing the “anti-transparency” nature of the Houston Housing Authority. Members of Houston City Council and Commissioners Court have also called on HHA to stop making deals that have taken up to one billion dollars’ worth of taxable property off the tax rolls.
Mayor Turner has refused to direct the Housing Authority to stop using a public safety crisis to hide records while they cut gravy train real estate deals. What’s worse is that he has ignored the blistering attack on HHA integrity by lifelong public housing advocate Phillis Wilson.
Wilson confirms she was interviewed by FBI agents in April as part of an ongoing investigation into several real estate deals that enriched the former Housing Authority Chair Lance Gilliam and the wife of County Commissioner Rodney Ellis.
Text messages show the Mayor and his economic boss Andy Icken have been involved in pushing these same deals. Wilson and two other HHA board members were unceremoniously replaced when they began to question the 70-million-dollar real estate deals. One of the properties is partially contaminated and surrounded by contamination.
Wilson’s interview has been ignored by Houston’s largest newspaper the Houston Chronicle.
“The Houston Chronicle enables this kind of government malfeasance with their silence, when their job should be to protect the public right to know,” Dolcefino says. “I invite them to join us in protecting the public, rather than the political friends supported by like-minded opinion writers.
“We have filed previous criminal complaints for the absolute serial violations of the Texas Public Information Act by the City of Houston under Sylvester Turner and District Attorney Kim Ogg has not taken a single action to stop it. Not one. At some point this becomes a protection racket, not just a product of prosecutorial incompetence. We will continue to call it out. Hopefully, our grand juries know they don’t have to be constrained by the absolute lack of public integrity investigations under Ogg.”
Dolcefino Consulting calls on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to take legal action to stop the Houston Housing Authority from completing real estate deals when they claim they are closed when it comes to the Texas Public Information Act.
“The HHA is using Ken Paxton and it will be interesting to see whether he will stand up for Texans, especially the low-income housing residents who may have to raise their kids around contaminated land and failing schools, and the taxpayers who are getting played,” Dolcefino says.
The criminal complaints are available to the media upon request. You can see Dolcefino Consulting’s ongoing Houston Housing Authority investigation on www.dolcefino.com and Dolcefino Consulting on Facebook.