Saturday, June 27, 2009

Texas Bribery Roundup

Somebody could launch a kickass blog devoted entirely to covering Texas-related bribery cases and it'd be a long time before you ran out of material. Just to mention a few recent examples:

US House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers' wife, who sits on the Detroit City Council, pled guilty yesterday to taking a bribe from a Texas-based company:
Prosecutors said Friday that Monica Conyers accepted two payments in late 2007 to support a city contract that would pay $47 million to Texas-based Synagro Technologies to recycle wastewater sludge and build a modern incinerator in Detroit. The council voted 5-4 to approve the deal, with Conyers supplying the decisive vote.
Synagro is based in Houston and one of its employees is expected to take a plea deal on Monday, but there are also a couple of ugly Dallas cases worthy of note. At the Dallas school district:

Federal authorities say the cash-strapped Dallas school district has agreed to financial penalties to settle claims that it abused a government program that provides Internet access to lower-income schools.

The settlement announced Friday requires the district to abandon more than $150 million in requests for federal funding and pay $750,000. The district faces a $30 million budget shortfall.

The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Dallas say the school district engaged in noncompetitive bidding practices and accepted improper gifts from vendors, including free use of a yacht.

Yikes! Losing $150 million in stimulus money is a damn harsh penalty for the school district. Meanwhile, it looks like the couple accused of bribing state Rep. Terri Hodge and a host of other Dallas officials may have cut a deal with prosecutors. If so, that will certainly put the squeeze on the remaining defendants in the Dallas city hall corruption case scheduled to run for the next six to eight weeks.

Employees at the San Antonio Housing Authority this month were indicted for allegedly taking kickbacks from contractors.

Finally, in El Paso the distict clerk has been indicted for bribery; prosecutors say he accepted cash and a trip to Vegas from a local attorney allegedly "to rig bid specifications on a proposed $53 million county contract." One of his employees, a county commissioner, and the former chief of staff for the county judge have already taken plea deals as a result of the FBI investigation.

Obviously those who've not pled or been convicted must continue to receive the benefit of a presumption of innocence, but there's a lot of smoke here for there not to be some fire and on its face these problems seem awfully widespread.

Seriously, this would be a great niche blog topic. I'm pretty full up with my own self-assigned beat, but I'd sure like to see some energetic blogger take up the mantle.


Suzette Watkins said...

Great idea. I would love to see that as well. Wonder when and if the Feds plan to come to Fort Worth. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there are some scandals and illegal deals w/in the Ft. Worth Housing Authority, City Council members, etc. Please someone...uncover it. Where are the millions of missing/lost tax payer dollars in Fort Worth?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You might start by checking if they have any vendors in common with the bribery cases in other counties. E.g., Fort Worth just hired an Austin firm as the collection agency for the municipal court that was part of a bribery scandal in San Antonio in 2004, for starters. As told by the Startlegram:

"Linebarger Goggan is among the nation’s biggest collection firms but has had a controversial history. A former partner in the firm pleaded guilty in 2004 to conspiracy to commit bribery in a case that involved payment to two San Antonio City Council members.

"Competitors have also sued the firm, accusing it of rigging bids to get work. The company also gives generous campaign contributions to politicians, including $6,750 to Fort Worth City Council members and candidates in the last year, records show."

Anonymous said...

what about that judge in the Hill Country who gets paid thousands of dollars from money seized from drug dealers and uses drug money to go on vacation in Hawaii? Who's really paying him? It was on Geraldo or Anderson Cooper or one of those shows a couple of weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

Thank you FBI! Now where the hell are the Texas Rangers when it comes to white collar crime and bribery in the great state of Texas? I swear the Rangers seem useless when it comes to corruption cases. :~)

dirty harry said...

As far as corruption, malfeasance, and incompetence, you would have to set up two separate blogs to cover public school districts and state agencies. One wouldn't get the job done. And, some would require a separate blog per school district or agency.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't know, dirty, I think a single "Texas Bribery Blog" would do quite well for itself. Like the topics I cover, there'd be too much to be comprehensive, but they'd be filling a huge gap and they'd never run out of material.

scott said...

The DISD is struggling with a $100million budget deficit. I wonder if that $150m. fine has any relation?

NoMoreNoloContendere said... covers a great deal of Texas bribery bloggin topics.
I'm personally looking for a site with a dedication to keeping the public at large informed about the past rogue behavior of Harris County District Attorney's Office -Assistant D.A's., Sheriff's Deputies & HPD. *The book, The Griffith Files - (1984 & Beyond)is nearing completion and now seeks filler info for the "Beyond" chapters. I discovered GFB today while searching for the above info. It is a small world isn't it? It's my hope that those mentioned above will soon discover just how small it really is when I make them famous. Those caught red handed bribing should also find their names and photos on a public list with no expiration date. Until then the rogue will continue to collect a check, retire in peace and or roam from job to job or dept. to dept.

doran said...

So many really great, neat things to do.

So little time.


Hook Em Horns said...

I have always felt that the level of corruption in Texas makes the Chicago-esque corruption of the elder Daley look like kids play. It seems as no matter where you look or dig, there is ALWAYS something crooked.

A friend of mine, from Louisiana, was discussing which state had the most corruption. Studying both, I said Texas is head and shoulders above our friends in the swamp to the east. Louisiana's corruption extends mostly to Governors who the feds eventually put in prison, like Edwin Edwards.

I wonder what would happen if the feds really started sniffing out Rick Perry or ANY of his inept appointees.

Anonymous said...

This just hit the presses. Maybe they should add a blog.