METRO's alleged violations to delay construction of rails

September 9, 2010 4:00:56 PM PDT
We have an update now to our story involving a federal investigation into METRO's dealing with an overseas company. We first reported on Wednesday the missteps by METRO that nearly put its funding at risk. Now, we've learned it will definitely push back the construction of METRO's north, southeast and east-end light rail lines.

Those are the routes that are said to be most impacted by the funding, for which METRO will probably have to reapply.

The most immediate implication may be political.

The issue is whether new light rail cars that METRO purchased violated the Buy America program. The contract was with a Spanish-based company.

METRO said a federal transit official informed them by voicemail that the arrangement was allowed. Then the FTA announced Wednesday it was a violation and that federal funding would be affected.

The action was taken by the old METRO board. Mayor Annise Parker made it her campaign issue to replace the city's appointees to the board as well as the head of METRO.

"When you clean house, you end up with a pile of debris in the middle of the floor, and FTA has gone through that pile, and there were some problems," Parker said.

It was Bill White who appointed some of the same board members who voted on the deal in question.

And that's making its way into the governor's race.

On Thursday, the Rick Perry campaign fired out this statement:

"Bill White should apologize to the people of Houston for appointing one of his largest contributors to run METRO, which has officially been found to have violated federal law. For months, White has accepted no responsibility for the illegal action of METRO, even as the new mayor has placed the blame squarely on his hand-picked leadership. When will Bill White break his silence regarding Houston's METRO gate scandal?"

In response, the White campaign released the following statement:

"Perry is desperate to distract. METRO procurement isn't the purview of the mayor. Bill believes METRO should comply with the law and the community needs to come together to move the rail project down the road as quickly as possible."

Eyewitness News' political expert Dr. Richard Murray say there's a possibility that this could play in Perry's TV ads, even some that might play in Houston.


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