City says water repairs were never paused amid corruption scandal that could impact infrastructure

Chaz Miller Image
Tuesday, June 4, 2024
Houston Public Works remain hush after employees' alleged corruption
Issues continue to loom over Houston Public Works after an employee was charged for allegedly funneling money intended for officials to hire contract

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Another big issue looms as the City of Houston deals with the fallout from the alleged theft of millions in taxpayer dollars over a 10-month period.

What's become of the broken water lines those funds were intended to repair?

Eyewitness News asked the City of Houston Public Works Department that question and later received the following response.

"Houston Public Works (HPW) is committed to repairing every water leak. Most of the water contracts were terminated for the outside contractors. The work designated under the emergency purchase orders was completed with HPW crews or a few selected contractors that had a longer history of doing business with the city. None of the work was ever put on pause. Houston Public Works measures open work orders for repairs. Work orders can consist of more than just water leaks - they also include repairs on a water line, a damaged asset, fire hydrants and valves that aren't working. There are currently 1,032 open work orders. This is a downward trend from a high of 1,553 work orders on Feb. 25, 2024. Our team is working hard to stabilize HPW's leak repair program and improve repair response times, the water shutoff notification process and site restoration of impacted areas. We also plan to publish our leak repair dashboard to provide the public with real-time updates on repairs. Please encourage the community to report water leaks to 311 so we can track and make repairs as fast as possible and to contact 311 if anyone notices that the reported leak has worsened."

On Friday, Patrece Lee, a former Public Works employee, was charged with multiple counts of bribery, in addition to abuse of official capacity.

Lee is accused of funneling money through several businesses.

The money was supposed to hire outside contractors to repair breaks across the city's water infrastructure.

Lee is one of seven people charged in connection with this case.

Listed below are the names stated in court documents who are accused:

  • Andrew Travis Thomas, Lee's brother and registered agent of Lu's Construction and Inspection
  • Danielle Hurts, a former City of Houston contract employee
  • Joseph Nerie, owner of Nerie Construction
  • Edelmiro Castillo, owner of Omega Engineering, Inc.
  • Tiesha Coleman Houston, owner of T.J. Cole Enterprises, LLC
  • Frank Perkins, owner of CST Connections, LLC

The City of Houston approved spending up to $80 million on outside contractors to repair water main breaks in 2023.

RELATED: 'I feel your frustration': Houston city officials address long wait times for water leak repairs

ABC13 is trying to learn which projects were impacted by the alleged crime.

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