HISD trustee often met with vendors, choosy about gifts of liquor, restaurants

Ted Oberg Image
ByTed Oberg via KTRK logo
Friday, November 4, 2016
EMBED <>More Videos

New HISD trustee often met with vendors, choosy about gifts of liquor, restaurants

Long-time former HISD trustee Larry Marshall would routinely meet with vendors for the Houston Independent School District -- vendors who would hire a friend of Marshall as a consultant, who then kicked back 75 percent of the consultant fee back to Marshall, lawyers argued in Federal Court Friday.

The consultant -- Joyce Moss Clay, who Marshall described as a "special friend" -- kept a tally that was shown in court that allegedly shows as much as 75 percent from vendors that Marshall had meetings with flowing to the trustee who served from 1997 to 2013.

One year, in 2009, that kickback total came to $59,175, court exhibits show.

See that document here.

Marshall is in court in a civil case. Construction company Gil Ramirez Group filed a suit against in 2010 Marshall after the firm lost a contract with HISD, alleging it was because they failed to pay a bribe to Marshall.

Moss Clay was not in court but explained the reason for the checks cut to Marshall in a 2012 deposition played in court.

"To be my mentor, to be my friend, to be my familial brother," she said. "It was just my choice,"

Marshall's calendar shows he often met with the HISD vendor clients of Joyce Moss Clay, including Linebarger, a law firm that collects delinquent taxes, Fort Bend Mechanical, a construction firm, and Accel Building Maintenance, which performs janitorial and other work, as well as other firms.

At times he would meet at local restaurants, such as Triple A on Airline Drive, records show. Other times he would meet with vendors at spots that were a little more tony, like the Four Seasons in downtown Houston.

He would meet at his office, too, such as on August 10, 2008 with a notation showing he met with Joyce Moss Clay (JMC) and Accel, owned by Ricardo Aguirre. In the box noting the meeting he also wrote 'contract' with a check mark next to it.

See the calendar entry here.

"Does that check mark signify that you accomplished that contract between JMC and Accel," plaintiff's attorney Kelly Prather asked Marshall.

Marshall's answer was a touch surreal.

"I think I meant to write 'contact,'" Marshall answered from the stand. "That check mark signifies that Ricardo Aguirre was suffering from alienation of affection."

Regardless, Accel hired Joyce Moss Clay and some of that money flowed to Marshall, records in evidence show.

Marshall's answers weren't always so odd.

He forcefully denied any wrongdoing.

"I have never received a check from a vendor, other than a campaign contribution," he said. "I have no idea where the money came from. I was working for Joyce Moss Clay."

As far as all the checks he received from Moss Clay, Marshall said they were a "reward for services rendered."

There are no reports or detail of what the services were.

But in addition to meeting with vendors -- he would vote for them, too.

"You voted on behalf of those same clients -- Joyce Moss Clay clients -- when they had business before the board," Prather said.

Marshall's answer: "I voted the recommendation of the administration."

He also strongly denied an earlier allegation that he was given cash in a Jack Daniels gift box on a Christmas Eve by David 'Pete' Medford, owner of Fort Bend Mechanical.

Marshall acknowledged getting the liquor -- but also said it was a lesser type of Jack Daniels he didn't like and gave it away to a family member.

Also key, according to the plaintiffs, is that the arrangement between Moss Clay and Marshall accelerated after HISD approved tighter ethics rules in 2008.

Those rules banned vendors from giving gifts and items of value directly to trustees.

The trial is going into its third week and has underscored an alleged culture of cronyism and 'pay to play' often talked about but never proven in a court of law.