in Houston, Texas
Video: HISD Trustee Larry Marshall defends prior consulting gig with Community Education Partners, an HISD vendor
Friday, Jul 23, 2010, 11:35AM CST
By Lynn Walsh

Houston Independent School District Trustee Larry Marshall recently defended a consulting gig with a district contractor, and said it was not a conflict of interest to have earned income from a private group that will be paid $13.7 million this year to run an alternative school for HISD.

Marshall was a “consultant in Atlanta assisting them with business development and helped them to have a presence in Atlanta,” he said at a board meeting last month.

In an interview with Texas Watchdog Tuesday, Marshall said he made sure his contract with Community Education Partners, or CEP, only allowed him to consult “outside the state of Texas.”

The decision to only consult outside Texas “was a personal one,” Marshall said. “At the time there was not a policy that stopped me from working for CEP and serving on the board.”

Marshall said he did not vote on issues relating to HISD while he was a consultant for them -- something that would have violated board policy.

In September 2004, HISD trustees adopted a new trustee conflict of interest disclosure policy. The new policy said the district could not “contract with a business entity in which a trustee or anyone related to the trustee...has any pecuniary interest” --- in other words, a monetary or financial interest.

Prior to the adoption of the new policy, HISD could do business with a company that employed a trustee, but the trustee involved could not vote or discuss matters related to the company that came before the Board of Education.

The policy also says that “all such contracts executed prior to the effective
date of this policy shall continue to be in full force and effect.”

Marshall said it was after HISD trustees approved the new conflict of interest policy in 2004 that he quit his consulting position with CEP.

“The board voted on the new policy at 10 am and I quit at 10:05,” Marshall said.

According to Marshall, when HISD was discussing the renewal of the CEP contract last month, the trustee’s relationship with CEP had been brought to Superintendent Terry Grier’s attention.  

“I think it may have started in closed session,” Marshall said. “The superintendent was updating us on CEP and then it happened, it was a ‘by-the-way’ thing -- never a planned conversation, kind of vicarious.”

Marshall said that Grier never called the trustee’s relationship with CEP a conflict of interest.

After the closed session at the June HISD board meeting, Marshall decided to address his relationship with CEP.
 
Marshall’s employment at CEP was in the news back in 2006, when the Houston Press reported that Marshall earns “$72,000 a year for four days of work each month ($1,500 a day).”

“That is inaccurate,” Marshall said when Texas Watchdog referenced the above article and $72,000 salary. “The checks stopped, and I resigned that same day,” referring to the day in September 2004 when the new conflict of interest policy was adopted by HISD trustees.

Marshall in June joined five of his colleagues on the nine-member board in approving a contract with CEP, 6-1. Trustee Anna Eastman voted against the contract renewal, and Trustees Paula Harris and Diana Davila were not present.

The contract is more than $4 million less than the the 2009-10 cost of $18 million, a savings administrators attribute to more accurate numbers on how many students will be sent to CEP. Students are referred to CEP by principals for a variety of reasons ranging from acts of violence to drug abuse.

Contact Lynn Walsh at lynn@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850. Follow news about the Houston Independent School District on Twitter, #hisd.
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