Attorneys respond to ABC13's report on HISD bribery allegations

June 14, 2013 4:34:20 PM PDT
There are new developments in a civil lawsuit in which a Houston contractor accuses an HISD board member of taking bribes.

Attorneys for both sides were in court federal Friday, and they were reacting to ABC13's report Thursday night, which contained potentially damaging recordings that may show a pattern of misconduct in the district.

Friday's hearing in federal court focused on board member Larry Marshall's request to delay the trial. Marshall claims an ongoing federal criminal investigation into his activities should put the civil case on hold. And while the judge didn't rule Friday, attorneys on both sides reacted to our report Thursday night.

At Thursday night's HISD school board meeting, Marshall referred us to his attorney. We caught up with that attorney at the federal courthouse Friday as he sought to delay the civil suit against Marshall, HISD and two vendors.

The Ramirez Group, which brought the lawsuit, claims the district employed a pay-to-play scheme for vendors hoping to secure business from a nearly $2 billion dollar construction program.

They're charges the attorney and Marshall both deny. They also deny that Marshall sought or pocketed any non-campaign money from any vendor, including a man named Pete Medford. Medford appears in recorded excerpts of a conversation with former investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino, who is working as a consultant for the plaintiff's father.

The edited excerpts were filed by plaintiffs late Thursday in the court case they say is evidence of the alleged pay to play scheme:

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.

Medford told Eyewitness News that he'd had several conversations with Dolcefino, and he suggested that the tapes may have been manipulated and the plaintiff's description of them was not true.

And Marshall's attorney pointed to a sworn deposition 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 from Medford, other than campaign contributions and gifts from a friend and consultant.

But the plaintiff's attorneys say the tapes reflect the truth of what's happening at the state's largest school district.

"The evidence in this case has shown that it's a systemic problem in HISD and we're committed to continuing with this case and showing that there is a problem that needs to be cleaned up at HISD," said Kelly Greenwood, the plaintiff's attorney.

The next court hearing in the civil case will be next month. HISD has already spent close to $1 million defending it.

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