Mayor disputes Controller's hesitations on recycling deal

Thursday, December 14, 2017
Mayor disputes Controller's concerns over recycing deal
(file photo)

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is calling out the city's watchdog for putting the brakes on his attempt to overhaul Houston's recycling program.

We told you earlier this week, Controller Chris Brown wouldn't certify the new contract over transparency concerns and documents lost when Hurricane Harvey flooded city hall. The mayor said he doesn't like that Brown is standing in the way.

Brown has to approve city contracts, and he's not signing off on this one.

In a memo to the mayor, Brown said his team couldn't get some of the key documents related to the proposal. The only copies were lost in flooding, and what was available had to be reviewed under an unusual level of secrecy.

At city hall Wednesday, it was easy to see some tension over a deal stalled for more than six months.

"If anyone is questioning [the integrity of the procurement team], I strongly take issue with that," Turner said.

According to Turner's plan, the city council could have approved this recycling contract in this week's meeting.

That didn't happen.

Brown wouldn't let it. He sent a letter to the mayor and council members Monday citing an "unusual" amount of secrecy surrounding Brown's review, along with "concerns pertaining to the transparency of the procurement process." In other words, concern regarding how the lucrative contract's winner was picked.

Maybe most concerning, the fact Brown was told that the city never made copies of key documents for a 15-year, $37 million contract and stored the only hard copies in a first floor room that flooded.

The mayor pushed back, saying anything Brown wanted was available or had already been seen by Brown's team before the flood destroyed them.

"What the controller's office is saying is not correct. We do have the electronic version," Turner said. "All the documents were available."

But city emails show that's not true. The city's head of procurement told the controller's team all or part of four document groups were gone. Another email showed non-disclosure agreements were required in order to see the documents.

Another email showed the procurement team's refusal to give copies of key documents to the controller's office.

"With respect to the documents that were being sought, those were addressed and seen by the controller's office before," Turner said.

Until the controller's concerns are answered, the deal is on hold. There's no timeline for the controller to act.

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