Public works director steps down after being tangled in bribery case

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Public works director steps down after being tangled in bribery case (KTRK)

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has dismissed the city's public works director weeks after his involvement with HCC trustee Chris Oliver was made public.

In a Friday evening news conference, Karun Sreerama strongly denied giving Oliver bribes but insisted he was the victim, working in conjunction with the FBI.

"I am paying the price for a good deed," Sreerama said.

"I never made any unlawful payments," he said. "What I did do was I assisted the FBI catch a criminal, catch a crooked official and bring him to jail."

The news comes hours after Sreerama's lawyer confirmed his role. New details in the case were released late Thursday that outlined the nearly ten meetings between the two, often ending with Sreerama handing over cash in envelopes and gift cards.

In one of those encounters, Oliver told Sreerama he could make him a millionaire, according to the federal prosecutor.

"I am not a bad person. I didn't do anything wrong," Sreerama said. "The FBI will tell you, if it was not for me, this person would still be out there."

Sreerama sold his business in 2012. The last contract he got with the company was before that, he said.

Sreerama and Turner met Friday afternoon, a spokesman said.

"Karun Sreerama has accomplished much in Houston as a businessman and involved citizen," Turner said in a written statement. "I am sure he will continue to be an asset to our community. However, he and I have agreed that it would be best for the city for him to step down as director of the city Public Works and Engineering Department.

"Carol Haddock will continue to serve as acting director until I choose a new director."

Oliver pleaded guilty to one federal count of bribery in the spring, but the case wasn't unsealed until July 7.

Karun Sreerama was named in the case as a victim of Oliver's and his attorney maintains Sreerama fully cooperated with law enforcement.

When Sreerama paid $12,000 in bribes in 2015, he was a cooperating witness with the FBI, according to Chip Lewis, Sreerama's attorney.

Turner named him the director of the city's largest department in the spring. Sreerama was told at the time by law enforcement not to talk about the pending case against Oliver.

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