Buzbee vows to end city contracts awarded to political donors

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee aimed his rhetorical cannon at Houston City Hall Friday, vowing to clean up what he called corruption in affirmative action contracts.

Buzbee, who is challenging Mayor Sylvester Turner, says his team has been researching the city's Office of Business Opportunity and found contracts that were awarded to Minority or Women Owned Business enterprises whose owners have made political donations to or raised money for Turner.

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Buzbee called the office "broken," alleging "it doesn't work for the people it was put in place for."
If elected, Buzbee said he would reform the office, telling reporters and supporters Friday afternoon, "If we can't fix this corruption, we can't fix this city."

His first move towards that goal would be to end city contracting for any political donor.

"Any person or company who's donated to a city official, whether it be a candidate for mayor, a candidate for city council, a candidate for controller, you're not going to do city business for a year," Buzbee said.

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Buzbee claimed 71% of Turner donors do business with the City of Houston.

"This program, with the help of this mayor, has been perverted and hijacked by people with political connections," Buzbee said.

In June, mayoral candidate Bill King similarly proposed a ban on city business for anyone who donates more than $500 to candidates for city office. A King supported petition drive to put it on the ballot failed. King said he would take the proposal to city council if elected.

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In response to Buzbee's charge, the mayor's office wrote, "There is no corruption in the City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity or any other city function."

A Turner campaign spokesperson said, "The city has provided the facts to thoroughly discredit Mr. Buzbee's accusations. Once again, Mr. Buzbee has shown that he will say anything to get elected, regardless of the truth."

In addition to the donation ban, Buzbee proposed Friday:

  • Strenghtening contract disclosure rules so sub-contractors paid with city funds would have to be identified and stuck to. As it is now, the subcontractors on a proposal can be switched or fired once a contract is awarded.
  • Banning changes in contract amounts for MWBE sub contractors. If a sub contractor is in for 10% of a contract at proposal, Buzbee says it should not be changed without council approval.
  • Graduating larger companies from the MWBE program. Buzbee says the city's Office of Business Opportunity should be used to grow small businesses, and that millionaires should not benefit from the program.

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