Councilman Johnson part of DA's city contract probe

May 13, 2011 11:03:46 AM PDT
A Harris County grand jury has subpoenaed records from Houston City Hall. It's a story you'll see only on Eyewitness News. We've learned it's a probe of possible improper contacts between a company that helps guard city buildings and members of city council. We've learned that one of those council members is Jarvis Johnson.

[ See the full confrontation as Wayne Dolcefino approached Jarvis Johnson ]

The city has been cooperating for weeks with the DA's office in a probe of the councilman's office. A grand jury subpoena obtained by 13 Undercover reveals one of the things prosecutors are looking at.

It was 3:15am last November when the burglar alarm went off at a house on Alba Road. It's the home of Johnson.

Luckily for the Johnson family, the intruder decided not to come inside. HPD was called, but so was the private security firm Elite Protective Services.

"They wanted to know if we could dispatch an armed guard to the site; no problem," said Crystal Moody, attorney for Elite Protective Services.

The guard was hired to stand for eight hours at the Johnson house just in case the intruder came back.

"That's an emergency, and we probably charge about $25 an hour," Moody said.

But Elite says it was never paid.

"We don't do anything for free," Moody said.

"You've already called and asked me enough questions, little Wayne. I'm not answering any more questions from you," Johnson told the 13 Undercover team when he was confronted about the city contracts.

The company says it wasn't the councilman or his family who called it for help that morning.

"The call that came to us came from Harris," Moody said.

That's Michael Harris, who the councilman has described as a long time friend, personal adviser and now personal lawyer.

"Watching your show pretty much solidified the concerns that we had," Moody said.

What we didn't know was that last November, Harris was also part owner of Elite Security. In February of that year, an email from Harris to Elite's owner plotted "strategy with using our relationships to position Elite."

Harris then bought a 40-percent ownership with the company the following month. And in June 2009, Elite got its biggest contract in its short two-year history and the chance to make millions. It was the city's security contract.

The prime contractor is Wackenhut Security, paid more than $66 million over the next few years to guard city-owned buildings and parks.

Now Moody is talking with 13 Undercover. Could the security work at the councilman's house be considered a gift to a public servant?

"Maybe that's what Michael Harris' plan was, but it wasn't our plan," Moody said.

Harris and Elite's current owners are locked in a bitter breach of contract lawsuit playing out at the civil courthouse. In court documents obtained by 13 Undercover, Harris claims he's owed money in part because he was "instrumental in obtaining contracts for Elite totaling more than $4 million."

Among those contracts is the city security deal.

Elite says it got the contract without Harris' help. But the lawsuit claims Harris "continuously stated that a particular city council member would push to get Elite the subcontract with the city of Houston."

"You became convinced Michael Harris did have pull with Jarvis?" 13 Undercover asked Moody.

"Yes," she replied.

"I appreciate what you're talking about, little Wayne. I appreciate everything you're talking about, but right now, let's talk about how to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods," Johnson told 13 Undercover.

This is what we got when pressed for answers.

"Are you drunk or high right now? Because I can't answer any questions from anybody who is drunk or high," Johnson asked me.

In court papers, Moody claims that Harris wanted to offer interest in the company to political figures in return for favors.

"His exact words was he wanted to use it to get political favors," she said. "That's what he wanted."

Weeks ago, we told you that Johnson's office recommended one construction company to developers at rundown apartment complexes. That company's lawyer is Michael Harris.

Harris has not responded to our recent requests for comment.

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