HISD trustee 'pay to play' bribery trial gaveled in

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Jurors are being selected today to hear bribery and money laundering allegations against a former Houston Independent School District trustee.

Jurors were selected Monday to hear bribery and money laundering allegations against a former Houston Independent School District trustee -- and a parade of witnesses have been called too, including a majority of the Houston school board and two former superintendents.

The civil case is taking place in Houston's federal court. The plaintiff, construction company Gil Ramirez Group, lost a contract with HISD and filed a lawsuit filed in 2010 alleging it was because they failed to pay a bribe to Larry Marshall, at the time the district's most-tenured trustee.

Monday's actions were largely procedural and arguments are expected to begin at 8:00am Tuesday. No HISD trustees were seen Monday.

Marshall has admitted in depositions that his campaign treasurer Joyce Moss Clay had business relationships with companies seeking HISD contracts. Clay, in turn, admitted she had given a Marshall-owned consulting firm some of the proceeds from those companies.

SEE ALSO: HISD is 'hide-and-seek ISD' for keeping investigation under wraps
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The embattled HISD auditor who was shown the door says he was very disappointed that he could no longer serve as a watchdog for taxpayers.



Why?

"To be my mentor, to be my friend, to be my familial brother," she said under oath in depositions. "It was my choice."

Marshall also said in depositions that he too was a consultant and the agreement was for 75 percent of her earnings.

"That was benevolence and her choice," Marshall said. "She's a remarkable woman."

HISD has declined comment, telling abc13 that they will do their talking in court. The three-week trial could lay bare many embarrassing details for the state's largest school district, but what could be more troubling is the now confirmed existence of an FBI investigation.

SEE ALSO: HISD's taxpayer watchdog booted for good by district trustees


Indeed, it's highly expected that jurors will hear about HISD's past connecting it to current issues involving the district's dismissed internal auditor, Richard Patton.

Patton was suspended in March, months after he questioned top district officials' rationale behind the HISD's massive $211 million bond shortfall and days after he spoke with the FBI, according to records and interviews. Patton was shown the door last month.

"We expect the jury to hear a lot of evidence about how the pay-to-play scheme occurred," said Kelly Prather, the lawyer suing HISD.

In court documents, Marshall has admitted he was under FBI investigation, but no criminal charges have been filed against Marshall, or anyone in connection with the case.

In 2013, the federal courts dismissed claims against HISD itself, but let them continue against Marshall, his campaign treasurer and contractors who allegedly paid Marshall or his treasurer.

The school district, however, continues to pay former Trustee Marshall's defense costs. The district may also pay any damages if Marshall loses in court later this year. It has already cost the district well over a million dollars. That amounts to the salaries of at least 19 teachers, who could be hired at $51,500, the starting rung annual pay at HISD.

The district's lawyer previously told abc13 there was never a bribery or pay-to-play scheme at HISD.

Among the court filings are accusations that a $25,000 check Marshall received in 2009 from David "Pete" Medford, who runs Fort Bend Mechanical, was a bribe.

Marshall did not report the donation as a contribution in his campaign finance forms, records show. At least $45,500 in checks from Medford to Marshall exist, according to claims in court documents. Medford is expected to be a witness.

"It's always good for the public to hear the truth," Prather said.
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newsTed Oberg InvestigatesHISDhouston isdhisd trustee bribery trial
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