Workers accused of selling city property for cash

March 4, 2011 8:36:37 PM PST
City workers were supposed to be doing their jobs, but now they're accused of cashing in by using city property.

It's a case of money and metal. We're learning details of the scheme and more than two dozen city of Houston workers could be relieved of duty.

While the city needs to cut $130 million out of next year's budget, some water department workers are accused of stealing metal worth tens of thousands of dollars -- money the city needs. And 29 people are expected to be relieved of duty for it.

Some of those workers clock in at the Northwest Water Service Center near Hempstead Highway. Sources tell us Houston police are investigating the scheme.

Here's how it works -- instead of bringing back copper or brass they've repaired or replaced on things like fire hydrants and water meters, water department workers would load it up into city trucks and take it to the scrap yard to sell it for their own profit. In some instances, we're told they would sell brand new metal from the city's supply.

It's believed this has been going on for years and has cost the city tens of thousands of dollars.

"That just doesn't have an impact on the taxpayers of Houston, it has an impact on their fellow employees who have been stepping up to take furloughs and who have in fact lost their jobs," said Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

The mayor Friday night confirmed this investigation. On Thursday, she told all departments to make significant cuts.

Besides losing their jobs, these employees may also face criminal charges and stealing copper is a felony.