Houston First Corporation nixes vote to fund $124K printing of Mayor Sylvester Turner's book

Rosie Nguyen Image
Friday, November 17, 2023
Houston First nixes vote to fund $124K printing of Mayor Turner's book
In a follow-up to an ABC13 report, Houston First, the public entity that promotes the city, nixed a vote at the 11th hour to fund the $124,000 funding of Mayor Turner's book for the State of the City. The move comes as the mayor's office attempted to clarify what the book contains.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston First Corporation made an 11th-hour decision to remove an agenda item during its Thursday board meeting that would've addressed whether the agency would be paying for outgoing Mayor Sylvester Turner's book.

Questions arose about why the public organization that's funded by taxpayer money would be footing the bill. Houston First focuses on promoting tourism and attracting conventions to the City of Houston.

The agency was slated to vote on whether to fulfill the $124,000 invoice for Turner's book, which was given out during the State of the City luncheon. The book is called "A Winning Legacy" and was given out to all 600 guests at the event back on Sept. 27.

The book can also be downloaded for free on the City of Houston's website.

Mark Judson of Judson Design explained to ABC13 in an email Wednesday that the $124,000 cost includes more than just the printing costs. It also encompasses creative services related to the development of the book, including project management, creative direction, design, page production, copywriting, and interviews.

Records show the invoice was first billed to the City of Houston and then sent to Houston First Corporation. Government watchdog and former mayoral candidate, Bill King, raised concerns about the topic in his blog.

"If somebody gave money to Houston First, then they need to spend it on what Houston First is supposed to be doing, which is promoting tourism and trying to sell conventions to groups. They don't need to be spending it on publishing vanity books for the outgoing mayor," King said to ABC13's Jessica Willey on Wednesday.

RELATED: Will taxpayers foot the bill for $124,000 worth of books on Mayor Sylvester Turner's life?

Houston First's Chair, David Mincburg, said in Thursday's board meeting that they are reviewing the costs incurred from hosting the State of the City. If there is a shortfall, he claimed they would work with chairs and sponsors to seek additional contributions and private funds to bridge the gap.

"It has never been the intention of Houston First or anyone else involved with producing the book that it'd be paid for with anything other than private funds. Houston First will not use anything other than private funds to pay for any of the invoices we have received for the program," Mincburg said.

A budget report provided by Houston First showed $547,250 made in revenue from sponsorships, table sales, and ticket sales for State of the City. However, organizers spent $602,074 in expenses ranging from catering to advertising. The difference leaves the agency in the hole by $54,824.

In a statement to ABC13, a spokesperson for the mayor's office wrote:

"That is not a personal book (...) The Legacy book highlights the administration's accomplishments during eight years and was a fitting publication for his final State of the City luncheon. As you know, the State of the City address focuses on annual and overall challenges and accomplishments. There was an agreement from the beginning to pay for the book with the money raised, just as Houston First would pay other expenses associated with the lunch: production, flowers, entertainment, etc."

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