Harris County District Attorney Confirms Houston City Hall Criminal Investigation

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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – The Harris County District Attorney confirms an “ongoing criminal investigation” related to Houston City Hall. In letter obtained by 13 Investigates, DA denies access to documents related to the investigation, as in their terms “this investigation has not yet been resolved” and is “in the process of preparing a criminal case “.

13 Investigations requested documents from the city weeks ago when the former City of Houston Housing Director shocked City Hall with allegations of “charade a competitive process” to award millions of dollars in housing subsidies. According to sources and documents at this point, the DA was asking about specific payments made to specific people from 2018.

At the time, a spokesperson for Mayor Sylvester Turner denied any investigation, but said the prosecutor made an “informal request” for spending policies and procedures. The city acceded to this request.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office told 13 inquiries: “We are not aware of any criminal inquiries or what, if any, DA Ogg is investigating. In addition, the city is not aware of any criminal acts and it is the responsibility of the district attorney’s office. to explain the documents.

The documents obtained on Wednesday make it clear, the DA’s work goes beyond any informal look at how the city spends your money.

According to city documents reviewed by 13 Investigates, one of those interviewed by the prosecutor was Barry Barnes, a Houston attorney who was Mayor Turner’s longtime business partner. Barnes was a named co-manager and co-developer in the project McCasland complained about. The DA’s investigation comes at the same time, but may not be related to McCasland’s allegations. Barnes and Turner dissolved their partnership before Turner took office. Barnes hasn’t returned many calls to his office over the past four weeks. Our attempts to reach him today were also unsuccessful.

A DA spokesperson said the office would not comment on 13 investigations beyond what the documents say. It is important to note that an investigation does not mean that charges will be laid.

ORIGINAL REPORT: City of Houston Housing Manager Fired After Alleging Mayor Was ‘Financial’ Developer

The controversy began on September 21, when McCasland alleged at a city council meeting that Turner was “funding” a developer instead of putting the interests of low-income families in need of affordable housing first.

McCasland shocked City Hall by alleging that a “charade of a competitive bidding process” led Turner to support the granting of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding to a developer for Huntington at Bay Area, a housing project that will provide 148 senior apartment complexes in Clear Lake.

McCasland said he was concerned that only 88 of these units would be available to low- and moderate-income Houstonians while other proposed projects, which scored higher in the selection process, would provide more housing units. affordable.

After nearly three weeks of controversy, Turner announced on Oct. 11 that he would no longer support housing subsidies for a senior apartment complex in Clear Lake, saying it had become “too much of a distraction.”

RELATED: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Drops Support for Controversial Housing Deal

Instead, Turner said he would support two other projects that scored higher in the original rounds. New Hope Housing in Berry, a 240-unit complex north of Houston, received a recommendation of $ 10 million in grants. Turner replaced the Huntington Project with Fairways at Westwood, an affordable 120-unit apartment complex in the Alief / Westwood area. Project Fairways is recommended for the $ 15 million in grants that Project Huntington would have received.

According to city documents, the change costs the same amount but will build 32 additional affordable housing units. As Turner’s statement notes, none of the projects are in Municipal District E, which encompasses Clear Lake and Kingwood.

The mayor’s new recommendations, again, do not select the best rated projects. It hasn’t escaped the GLO, where they’re looking at housing spending in Houston. A GLO spokesperson said last week he would insist the city “prove it has gone through a federally approved competitive bidding process” to award the new $ 15 million prize. dollars.

Turner has always said that his support for the Huntington Project was framed on his desire to add subsidized housing to the community of Clear Lake. Turner and City Attorney Arturo Michel suggested last month that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development had criticized the city in the past for not distributing social housing throughout the city.

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