New allegations of corruption made against more HISD officials

June 14, 2013 9:22:21 AM PDT
A civil lawsuit in which a Houston contractor accuses an HISD board member of taking bribes has taken a potentially explosive turn. In a new court filing, that contractor claims a tape recording provides evidence of a "pay to play scheme" at HISD.

Until now, the civil lawsuit in federal court has focused on just one HISD trustee, Larry Marshall. But now others at the top of the state's largest school district, including the superintendent himself, are having to answer questions about the district's bid process.

An audio recording was submitted late Thursday as part of a federal court filing in an ongoing civil suit against HISD, board member Marshall and two outside vendors.

The Ramirez Group, which brought the lawsuit, claims the recordings contain excerpts of a conversation between another HISD contractor, Pete Medford of Fort Bend Mechanical, and former investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino, who is working as a consultant for the plaintiff's father.

Medford told Eyewitness News that he'd had several conversations with Dolcefino, but the he is concerned the information distributed is tainted and not true. He suggested that the tapes may have been manipulated.

In those recordings, the voice identified as Medford appears to allege that Darryl Carter, a local attorney and lobbyist, approached Medford saying that Superintendent Terry Grier was asking for donations to a political action committee supporting a bond election campaign in exchange for a possible piece of nearly $2 billion in new construction contracts.

"Darrell sit here and said - - he pulled that chair all the way up to the edge of my desk. He said, 'I'm here, Terry has got me going around to contractors like you, Pete, and, you know, Terry expects contractors like you to give anywhere in the neighborhood of $20K to $25K. If you give that 25 to -- $20K to $25K, Pete, you will be on the list to get work in the bond,'" Medford says on the tape.

Grier is not a defendant in the case. Through a district spokesman, Grier adamantly denies allegations he calls flat out lies. Attempts to reach Carter were not successful.

The recording also mentions Marshall, who's not just a defendant in the suit, but also the subject of a federal investigation into HISD contracts.

Below is a transcript of an audio recording from a conversation between Dolcefino and Medford:

Mr. Dolcefino: So how much -- so how much would you say you gave Larry -- let's take the campaign money out of it -- over the years, since 2008?
Mr. Medford: Oh.
Mr. Dolcefino: 25?
Mr. Medford: Since 2008?
Mr. Dolcefino: Yeah. A hundred?
Mr. Medford: Probably $140 maybe, $150.
Mr. Dolcefino: Really?
Mr. Medford: Uh-huh.
Mr. Dolcefino: $150,000?
Mr. Medford: Uh-huh.
Mr. Dolcefino: Shoot.
Mr. Medford: You know, Wayne, it's just, it's just the way they do this business; the way they're always going to do business around public works.

This appears to contradict a sworn deposition from last year in which Medford denied making any non-campaign related payments to HISD board members. Marshall, in his deposition, also denied receiving anything of value directly from Medford, other than campaign contributions and gifts from a friend and consultant.

At Thursday night's board meeting, Marshall referred us to his legal counsel. Calls to his counsel were not returned.

The filing also mentions other board members.

Listen as the voice appears to refer to trustee Greg Myers.

Mr. Dolcefino: Well how much have you paid him?
Mr. Medford: Oh man, over the last couple of years, probably $10,000.
Mr. Dolcefino: All in cash?
Mr. Medford: Not all in cash.
Mr. Dolcefino: Well, how do you do it?
Mr. Medford: Well, $2,500 in a check and maybe another $1,000 in cash, another $1,500 in cash.
Mr. Dolcefino: The -- was that -- the checks all show up as campaign money?
Mr. Medford: They show up as campaign, but you know, here's the...
Mr. Dolcefino: It's the cash that doesn't?
Mr. Medford: Here's the strange thing: I can go back and pull the checks, like for Paul and stuff
Mr. Dolcefino: Yeah.
Mr. Medford: Me and Eric, my son, verified this. Half of those don't how up on her campaign registers, even though they're checks. They still don't show up on her campaign register.

The filing claims that Paula is trustee Paula Harris. Both she and Myers deny taking any money that wasn't reported as a campaign contribution.

"Those allegations are unequivocally false. I've been very meticulous as far as how I handle any of my campaign contributions and they're fully documented on the reports that I file at the appropriate time," Myers said.

"Did he ever pay you in cash?" we asked.

"Not at all. As a matter of fact, I don't even take cash for that reason, because it's not able to be documented," he said.

"So everything he gave you was in a check and it was documented in your campaign reports?"

"Yes sir."

The civil case next goes before a judge Friday afternoon for a motion hearing and we'll be there.

After our broadcast, we received the following statement from Darryl Carter.
=============================================
Mr. Abrahams,

I deny the accusations stated in your broadcast aired 06/13/2013. I never told Pete Medford or anyone else that giving to the campaign fund would guarantee them work. Dr. Terry Grier did not send me to see Mr. Medford, I volunteered based on the fact that he was a former client. Our meeting focused on the complaints about the work that his firm was doing at Worthing High School not on campaign contributions.

My policy is to only take questions from the media in writing. I will respond with 24 hours of receiving any questions.

Darryl Carter

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