HOUSTON (KTRK) -- When a contractor who wanted more school construction work decided to send former long-time HISD trustee Larry Marshall what the contractor described as a "campaign contribution," he slipped the cash under a Jack Daniels gift case and presented it to the powerful trustee.
And that wasn't all, according Thursday testimony in Federal District Court.
Fort Bend Mechanical construction company owner David 'Pete' Medford also handed Marshall envelopes of cash behind closed doors, according to testimony.
And it was for legitimate access, he said.
"Campaign contributions are for access to... a lot of times getting on a list so that other trustees, council members, members of stuff like that put you on a list so you can have access to them at their fundraisers," Medford said from the stand.
"If you're not contributing anything to them, you're not going to get access to come and mingle and network at these fundraisers. And knowing a trustee a little bit more helps you get access to individual communities within their district, which is important for a contractor to be known and liked by the schools that you have been doing work in and that you want to do work in."
This marked the fourth day of the civil trial and the second where Medford -- the key witness so far -- was on the stand.
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 Marshall, who has not been charged and has denied any illegality. HISD is not a defendant.
Other findings from court:
- Marshall reported zero of Medford's money on campaign finance reports.
- Medford and initially said on a 2013 tape that he gave as much as $150,000 to Marshall. He has since backed away from saying he gave so much. Medford is also saying that all the money he gave Marshall were legitimate campaign contributions. In the 2013 tape he described some under-the-table money funnelled to Marshall.
- Medford had hired Larry Marshall's grandson. Medford said he was a good worker and never was paid more than $10 per hour.
- Medford's company fixed Larry Marshall's ex-wife's house. Medford said that the house's roof was caving in, the electricity was off and she desperately needed help.
- 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. He denies any illegality as well as the bribery charges.
Medford made other changes to his story since he was recorded in 2013.
He now says he only said he made many of the claims in that recording because he was angry as HISD.
"I'm not here to hurt Larry Marshall," Medford said Thursday. He also agreed with an attorney that many of the claims on the recording were "fanciful stories."
There are more chances that this trial will uncover more about a culture of coziness between trustees and contractors at the nation's fourth-largest school district.
For example, it's 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.
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.
The trial will begin Friday at 8am at the United States Courthouse on Rusk.