Expert: Spurned HISD vendor in bribery trial could be owed $4M

The construction company suing former long-time HISD trustee Larry Marshall in a civil bribery case says it could be owed around $4 million in lost profits between 2009 and 2011, an expert for the construction firm said in federal court Monday.

The Gil Ramirez Group alleges it lost out on lucrative Houston Independent School District work because it failed to pay a consultant fee to a "special friend" of Marshall's who would kick back up to 75 percent of those consulting fees to Marshall.

Gil Ramirez Jr.'s attorneys further allege that another company who did hire the friend as a consultant -- RHJ -- started getting more of the work and the Gil Ramirez Group was ultimately shown the door.

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Ramirez has alleged he considered the payment to a consultant that his lawyers argue did no work "a bribe" with Marshall lining his pockets.

"In 2009, due to pressure applied by Mr. Marshall, that RHJ was added to the program, months after the [request for proposal] closed and that addition resulted in a loss of work for the Gil Ramirez Group," said Ramirez attorney Chad Dunn. "Do you understand that?"

"Yes I do," responded T. Ransom Cornish, an accountant for the plaintiffs who had prepared an extensive report on damages. Cornish added that he believed those allegations against Marshall appeared to be true.

Dunn also alleged that another company, Fort Bend Mechanical, who paid Marshall "directly and indirectly," also scooped up Gil Ramirez Group work.

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"Both of them are equally active in the allegations that you make in your complaint," Cornish said.

While the $4 million mark was the high point of Cornish's calculation, he presented other, lower analyses of possible damages as well.

Marshall's team, unsurprisingly, did not agree with Cornish's breakdown of Ramirez's losses and attorney Jonathan Brush pointed out a math mistake Cornish made in an initial report calculating damages -- an error caught by the defense's own expert.

"He pointed out an error I made in my report, that's correct," Cornish said from the stand.

Brush also pointed out that Cornish did not rely on any accounting studies or published methodology that Ramirez would have been awarded additional projects in the future from HISD.

Brooks Harrison, a member of the defense team, summed up what he believes is the Gil Ramirez's Group biggest problem in calculating damages.

"How can they definitely say that he would have received these contracts?" he said. "That's their problem. Just because you were getting contracts last year doesn't mean you'll get contracts next year.

"What if there's a bunch of HVAC work? Gil Ramirez Groups doesn't do HVAC work. I want Gil Ramirez to answer, I want his expert to answer how they know they would have received any contracts in the future."
FFF
Damages or no, this trial has laid bare deep-seated problems at HISD. Allegations of contract steering and cronyism have dominated this trial, now in its third week.

Proceedings ended early Monday when a juror fell ill during testimony.

The trial is scheduled to begin again Thursday.

For all the exclusive trial coverage, click to ABC13.com/briberytrial
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