in Houston, Texas
Houston ISD paid millions last year to outside law firms, records show
Monday, Jan 03, 2011, 06:03PM CST
By Lynn Walsh
Justice

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that law firm Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson has offices in Houston, and that the firm is paid fees from the delinquent property taxes it collects.

After a year in which it paid millions of dollars to outside law firms, the Houston school system is preparing to decide which firms it will do business with in 2011.

Last year, 28 firms made the list of those the Houston Independent School District could use, according to HISD spokesman Jason Spencer. HISD trustees were expected to see the proposed list of firms for 2011 at a board workshop Thursday morning, but that meeting has been cancelled, and trustees are expected to take up the issue later this month.

The law firm that made the most from its work with the Houston school system is one that collects delinquent property tax payments for the school district. According to the HISD online check register, the national firm Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson made more than $8.1 million from HISD tax collection services -- HISD gets the back taxes, Linebarger receives a fee for their collection, and the more back taxes the firm can collect, the more it makes, Spencer said. The firm has multiple offices in Texas, including in Houston.


The law firm has donated to HISD trustee campaigns, including the top two candidates in the District 8 trustee race last November. The law firm donated $1,000 each to both Judith Cruz and Juliet Stipeche. Stipeche won the election and is the new trustee for District 8.

Other law firms bringing in lots of cash from HISD include Texas-based Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom, which received more than $512,000 for investigation services; Rogers, Morris & Grover, which received almost $355,000 in 2010; and Bracewell & Giuliani, which received more than $302,000 for services ranging from personnel and benefits to special education legal issues.

(Using HISD’s online check register, Texas Watchdog created a spreadsheet with all of the approved law firms for 2010, their approved specialty and how much the district paid them last year.)

HISD approved law firms in 16 different categories last year: personnel, administration and benefits, immigration law, investigations, special education, construction law, real estate law, special counsel to the board, general school law, small claims, naming rights/facilities use, tort claims, workers’ compensation, bond counsel, tax collection, tax audits and hearing officers.

Contact Lynn Walsh, Lynn@TexasWatchdog.org, 713-228-2850 or on Twitter @LWalsh.

Artwork: Public domain.


Comments
facts
Tuesday, 01/04/2011 - 10:26AM

check your research. according to Linebarger's website they do in fact have an office in Houston.

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