Questions about Jerry Eversole's house

September 5, 2008 8:41:24 AM PDT
We've been focusing for weeks on Jerry Eversole's work habits and use of campaign money. The DA's office says it's reviewing the commissioner's campaign expenses to see if a criminal investigation should be launched as our investigation takes a new turn.For Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, going home means a trip in his county car to his custom house in the Heights.

Eversole's 3,700 square foot house is valued on the tax rolls at $639,000. It was designed in 2003. We know because we have the plans for the custom house. Look at the architects seal. It says Leroy Hermes.

You know where you can see some of Hermes biggest work? The county owned Reliant Stadium complex.

The Hermes architecture firm made millions and was involved in the Reliant project from the beginning.

In 1998 the county hired Hermes to design a new exhibition building on what was then known as the Astrodomain Complex. It's a contract worth more than $9,228,000. You know who made the motion to give them the deal? Jerry Eversole. We found other Precinct 4 contracts with Hermes architects and in Harris County. Nothing gets designed for a precinct unless the commissioner who writes it, ok's it.

"It's very strange for a firm that does jails and stadiums, tremendous projects to be messing with a residential house," said campaign finance watchdog Fred Lewis.

We don't know if the Hermes firm was involved or just Hermes himself. His office told us the firm doesn't do residential work. All we have is his stamp on Jerry Eversole's house plans.

That's why we've been trying to get answers about the house Jerry Eversole built.

"When you're a public official and you're overseeing millions in contracts, you have to answer the press and public, that's part of the deal," Lewis said.

But Jerry Eversole is not talking.

"The concern is he refuses to answer your questions as to what deal he had with his house," Lewis said.

Three months after the house design, we find more purchase orders for Hermes' company from Precinct 4. A $25,000 building assessment study on Precinct Four's regional office and it's not the last. This year Hermes was awarded the job designing a new minimum security facility on Atascosita Road. Millions more in government contracts.

"When you deal with public's money, whether you're a commissioner or architecture firm or engineer firm you have to answer questions or you shouldn't get contracts and you shouldn't be in office," Lewis said.

The Jerry Eversole and Leroy Hermes connection goes deeper than just county contracts or the architecture on his Heights home.

We found a January quail hunting trip on the commissioner's calendar. The trip included two rounds of golf in San Antonio. County employees helped arrange the trip and Leroy Hermes played.

We found this government email from April about the commissioner's 12:50pm tee time at Augusta Pines. Leroy Hermes was listed in the foursome.

We didn't do surveillance on the week of July 23, but you can read Eversole's official calendar for yourself.

On Monday and Wednesday the final scheduled event was that 1pm workout at Affordable Nutrition.

On Thursday you see a 2:12pm practice tee time on his handwritten calendar. You see who he was supposed to practice with, Hermes.

"We're talking about people who get multimillion dollar contracts that are decided by one commissioner," Lewis said.

Our review of the Eversole house plans led us to Sunland Engineering. Sunland did work at Reliant, Toyota Center and in Jerry Eversole's precinct. They also did the survey work on Eversole's home in the Heights. Look at the project number 9999.

"This gets more and more problematic," Lewis said.

Orlando Teran ran Sunland back then until he was plead guilty in 2004 for trying to rip off the state. But Eversole's calendar still shows him meeting with Teran's new company.

Sunland has new owners. They say they've found no records of a project 9999 in their records, but that's what it says on the plans for Jerry Eversole's house.

"If he didn't pay fair market value of services provided for him from someone who has business in county, there needs to be grand jury empaneled," Lewis said.

The big question, did Jerry Eversole pay for the design and engineering work done on his house by county contractors, and if so, how much? It makes a huge difference if he paid what you would, it could be perfectly legal under Texas law. But if he didn't pay full value, it can be a crime in Texas for a public official to accept a gift from a company getting county contractors.

Thursday, Jerry Eversole isn't talking to us, but some of his constituents are speaking out.

Tell Wayne what you think of the story on his blog.


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