Houston Independent School District Trustee Larry Marshall made at least $72,000 over two years from a company that will be paid $13.7 million this year to run an alternative school for HISD, documents show.
Contracts obtained from Community Education Partners show that Marshall worked for Community Education Partners, or CEP, as a consultant earning $3,000 per month from 2001-2003. Marshall’s work was performed under the auspices of his firm M Associates of Houston.
According to Randle Richardson, chief executive officer for CEP, Marshall was also working for the alternative school company in 2000 under similar terms, but he could not locate that document. With three one-year contracts, Marshall would have earned $108,000 from CEP from 2000 to 2003.
The figures conflict with the salary of $72,000 annually reported by the Houston Press in 2006 based on court documents, but Marshall has said the higher figure is incorrect.
The contract documents support Marshall’s earlier statement that he didn’t work on the Nashville, Tenn.-based company’s behalf in Texas, and that he resigned in 2004 when a policy was put in place to bar trustees from earning income from district contractors. In fact, Richardson said Marshall performed no work after the contract term was up in June 2003.
According to the contracts:
“The responsibility of the Consultant shall be to initiate contacts and perform duties requested in the normal course of the Company’s business development efforts. This responsibility only includes efforts outside of the state of Texas.”
Richardson said both Marshall and CEP wanted to make sure that Marshall “didn’t do anything in Texas.”
“At the time everyone patted it on the back for going above and beyond what was necessary,” Richardson said. “Lately when I have been contacted people act like this was a deep dark secret. It was not, we did not go behind closed doors, we disclosed everything to the board and did this in public.”
Marshall has acknowledged working for CEP as a consultant many times. At a board meeting in June, Marshall said he was a “consultant in Atlanta assisting them with business development and helped them to have a presence in Atlanta.” You can view his entire comments in the video clip below.
According to Marshall and Richardson, before Marshall signed a contract to be a consultant for CEP, it was discussed with HISD lawyers, the district and trustees “in order to avoid a conflict.”
Richardson said HISD lawyers allowed the arrangement as long as “the contract was disclosed openly, Marshall did not vote on anything dealing with CEP and Marshall did not enter into any discussions involving CEP or lobby district staff on behalf of CEP.” The standards are listed in the contracts.
Individuals associated with the alternative school provider -- which Superintendent Terry Grier in March said should be cut loose, then a few months later said should be retained -- have also donated to Marshall’s campaign. Marshall’s most recent campaign finance reports show that his campaign received $2,500 from individuals associated with CEP during the months of debate over whether to renew the contract. HISD trustees approved the contract in June, 6-1, with Marshall voting in favor. Trustee Anna Eastman voted against the contract renewal, and Trustees Paula Harris and Diana Dávila, who resigned earlier this month, were not present.
“If someone sends us a solicitation, we will send something. If there is a golf tournament and someone asks us to buy a ticket, we will,” Richardson said.
Marshall has said the donations did not create a conflict of interest because it was not the first time CEP had donated to trustee campaigns. Richardson and another executive at CEP gave $1,000 total to HISD Trustee Mike Lunceford, who voted to renew the contract.
Contact Lynn Walsh at email@example.com or 713-228-2850. Follow @lwalsh or search #HISD on Twitter for news about the Houston Independent School District.