in Houston, Texas
State Sen. Rodney Ellis responds to Texas Watchdog story about his firm's bond work for Houston Independent School District
Monday, Mar 16, 2009, 06:07PM CST
By Matt Pulle
Nearly two weeks after we first called State Sen. Rodney Ellis to ask him about his firm's lucrative bond work for the Houston Independent School District, his office has finally responded ... via the Houston Chronicle's Texas politics blog.

To be clear, we made every effort to get Sen. Ellis' side of the story, including pleading with a staffer at his legislative office to relay our interview request. We left three messages with his Senate office and two messages at his firm's office in Houston. Finally, we e-mailed him at his Senate address with a long list of questions about his work for HISD. Click here to view the e-mail as a PDF or peruse the questions, cut-and-pasted, below. (If you're reading this, Sen. Ellis, we'd still welcome an interview with you. We're at 713-980-9777 locally or toll-free at 1-800-960-9099.)

Questions for Sen. Ellis:

~ What are the duties of a co-financial adviser?

~ Does First Southwest use Apex as its co-financial adviser with any other school districts, city councils or public governing bodies?

~ How closely does you work with First Southwest? What are your duties with Apex?

~ In your role, do you have any contact with employees or trustees at HISD?

~ How long have you served as a subcontractor with HISD?

~ How was Apex selected as the co-financial adviser for HISD contract? Do you know if other minority or woman-owned firms considered?

~ Did you approach First Southwest about serving as your co-financial adviser?

~ According to First Southwest's contract with HISD, First Southwest is paid a maximum of $287,250. Does First Southwest receive the maximum payment based on the annual amount of bonds they issue? Does Apex, in turn, receive 30 percent of that?

~ In the fall of 2007, you endorsed HISD's $850 million bond proposal, which the voters ultimately approved. Do you view it as a conflict of interest for to endorse a bond campaign that could increase the amount of fees paid to your company?

~ HISD Trustee Greg Meyers says Ellis work with First Southwest "doesn't pass the smell test." Does your stature as a lawmaker and prominent position in the community give your firm an advantage in landing a contract with First Southwest?

~ In 2000, Black Enterprise wrote this about you: Rodney Ellis has contacts in municipal government through several elected and appointed positions,"the article read. "These relationships have helped Rice Financial win new derivatives business." Is that an accurate description?

~ In the 1990s you filed legislation that would revise how the state monitors and defines Historically Underutilized Businesses. (HUBs) At the time, your firm was listed with the state as an HUB, according to Texas Monthly. Did your legislation affect your business and its ability to win contracts?

~ Are there any issues you'd like to address after reading some of the questions above?
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