in Houston, Texas
'Blatant racism,' Houston ISD trustee Larry Marshall says of Texas Watchdog, Houston Chronicle ethics coverage
Friday, Jun 17, 2011, 05:35PM CST
By Lynn Walsh
Magnifying glass

A Houston school trustee who went on all-expenses-paid trips to Costa Rica arranged by a politico who does business with the school district says he has probably voted on school contracts involving companies owned or run by friends -- and there's nothing wrong with that. 

Larry Marshall, a four-term trustee of the Houston Independent School District, said there was nothing wrong with those votes or with the votes cast by trustees president Paula Harris, who voted to approve contracts involving a company owned by a close friend. He also labeled as "racism" the recent coverage by Texas Watchdog and the Houston Chronicle concerning ethics in HISD. 

In a brief phone interview this afternoon, Marshall said having a friend involved with a school district vendor shouldn't prompt a trustee to recuse themselves. "Number one, it's not a requirement" to do so, he said. "Number two, simply because you serve on the board, you don't end your relationships with friends. You are a volunteer on (the) board of education, and that should be an issue that should be totally separate.

"I think it would be extremely inappropriate to start removing yourself from voting on a contract simply because you have a friend. Members of your culture have done it for years -- it's never been an issue. It only becomes an issue when it happens to someone who is a part of an underrepresented group."

A retired HISD educator and administrator outside his service as a trustee, Marshall also called recent coverage of the ethics issue by Texas Watchdog and the Houston Chronicle "blatant racism." 

"It's very crystal clear. Read today's paper," Marshall said, referring to the story by Chronicle education reporter Ericka Mellon about Marshall's acceptance of free Costa Rica trips arranged by state Rep. Borris Miles. "It leads with (a) trustee or something in Ericka's column, but when you read through all of her column, they mention Harvin Moore at the very end of the article. It's blatant racism.  blatant. and I want you to understand that. It is blatant racism. ... Harvin Moore gets mentioned at the end of the story. Hell, that group that sponsors him, they are a vendor (to HISD)."

Marshall is African-American. Moore, a fellow HISD trustee, is white and told Mellon he recently went on a trip to China arranged by the College Board, the organization that sponsors programs like the SAT tests, and which has done business with HISD. The school district paid $900 for the trip, Mellon reported.
 
Texas Watchdog left a message for Moore this afternoon but it had not been returned as of press time. If he calls back, we'll update this story or post again. Same for Mellon and her editor at the Chron, whom we have e-mailed to give them the chance to respond if they wish.

Asked whether he personally had ever voted on contracts involving firms owned or run by friends, Marshall said, "I have many friends in this community from various racial and ethnic background ... and I'd have to think that I have. ... Friendship is not mentioned anywhere in the statutes. Nowhere does it say you are precluded from voting on a contract because of a friend."

Asked if he were concerned about public perception in the wake of the coverage of his Costa Rica travels, Marshall asked, "Why should I be concerned? They can vote me out. They've had that opportunity on four different occasions and they have chosen that it's not become an issue because you've chosen to make it an issue."

Marshall declined to identify anyone who attended the campaign donor dinner he held in April in Costa Rica while on one of the trips arranged by Miles, which were funded by the Costa Rican government, saying only, "they were members of the delegation that attended, and I think if that were released, that really needs to come from the sponsor."

***
Contact Lynn Walsh at lynn@texaswatchdog.org or at 713-228-2850 or on Twitter @LWalsh.
 
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Photo by flickr user nathanmac87, used under a Creative Commons license. 
Comments
e.c.v.
Saturday, 06/18/2011 - 01:00PM

Millions of Americans face terrible acts of racism everyday. It is an ugly part of American life. However, Marshall should NOT claim racism to try to distract from his poor judgment. And any elected official acting out of integrity should be called on it.

Legend
Saturday, 06/18/2011 - 01:51PM

Mr.Marshall I agree you should have been voted out years ago. This year Ithink we will clear house anytime we have an unpaid board such as HISD it leaves too much room for corruption. I'm black too and how dare you call this racism .I call it as a sellout being called out by the people. I think the whole board should be investigated as well as Miles,Ellis,Coleman, all supporters of those multimillion dollar bonds. Alot of contracts means a lot of money . I think the DA should be involved and the ethics commission.

Sean
Saturday, 06/18/2011 - 03:12PM

Mr. Marshall I am minority who has lived and worked in 3rd Ward Houston for the last 25 years. I find it quite cowardly that you would hide your shady dealings and theft behind a claim of “racism”. Having lived in 3rd Ward as long as I have I am very familiar with Boris Miles. If you and Paola share him as a friend you definitely have a problem! Boris is the same man who shot a man minutes after leaving church after catching the man stealing copper pipes from his MASIVE MANSION on Scott St. Boris is the same man who crashed a Christmas party screaming he was a thug and gangster waving a pistol and forcing another man’s wife to kiss him! The same man you and Paola gave $900,000 for the districts “flood insurance”. This is the “friend” you and Paola Harris have chosen? This is the “friend” Paola Harris took family trips with? I ask because I wouldn’t allow Boris Miles within 500 feet of my family! You have a problem and “racism” isn’t it. As to you claim about the voters. We have been asleep at the wheel. We will be working day and night for whomever runs against you, Paola and Boris Miles also. Your time is up. We have too many problems in the Hood to have to worry about you black corporate thieves pilling on from the top.

toiling in the trenches
Sunday, 06/19/2011 - 04:05PM

A donation to you all beats all the payments HFT and Gayle Fallon has taken from me. You would think from a regime whose nationwide mantra is "no excuses" they would attempt to live it!

Cay
Monday, 06/20/2011 - 08:01PM

Okay, do you all not want people to have friends at all? These people have people they have known for quite some time. Are you supposed to turn your back when you get on a board or get a job just because you know them. There were 8 other adults voting. Her vote did not make one difference. Also, did she hold any type of weapon on any of the other trustees for them to vote either way? NO! You just want to complain about the successful black women who have it going on and can think for themselves. Okay look around, in the past we say 15 years, what have previous board members done for district 4? Let's compare it to Juneteenth. District 4 found out we were free 4 years ago. We are getting so many things for our children that we did not have before because of Ms. Harris. Have you polled the schools? Many of the schools were treated like they were from a 3rd World Country. Focus on what is important instead of this pettiness. Preach to the parents about supporting their children's schools in the 3rd Ward instead of 1 vote or a Costa Rican trip. Have you thought about people voting for things or getting contracts, they are related to one another, but have a different surname? Wake Up! Also, playing like they do not know one another. She was honest and told you about the friendship. Think about what is more important, our children who will run this country in the very near future who need a college degree and be able to think own their own, solve problems, earn a living for themselves and their family, work with someone on a team, and know what it is to be a true friend no matter what. Maybe there would be less fighting, killing, shooting, and stabbing in the world especially in our neighborhoods. Have you checked the jails lately? Now think on that and worry about ALL our children..

legend
Tuesday, 06/21/2011 - 02:39PM

IT'S TIME FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

Guest
Wednesday, 06/22/2011 - 09:28AM

Hey everybody, look over there. Cay, your ranting and raving does not distract from the simple fact that friends of the board president are being enriched at the expense of kids. If Nicole West was paid the going rate for tutoring at $25 per hour instead of ten times that amount think about how many more children could have been helped and how many more could be saved. It is clear as day that friends come first and the children and community you say Ms. Harris cares about comes last - however you want to

justify it. By the way, how are things going at Yates, Attucks, and Ryan given Ms. Harris has been in charge for four years? Will Ms. Harris" daughter be going to Ryan next year or is she transferring OUT of the community she was elected to serve?

Cay
Wednesday, 06/22/2011 - 10:06PM

Guest, what are you talking about? You need to get some facts before you say something. First, when did the board members begin hiring and firing administrators? She has not been running anything. last time I looked all I saw were or heard were people who rant and rave like you. Get your facts straight. The board's job is to make policy and the superintendents job is to carry out or ensure that the policy they have voted on is carried out. The superintendent says who runs the schools and he recommends termination. Ms. Harris has not been in charge. Abe Saavedra was and now Terry Grier is. It is very apparent that you do not know who was and is running the district. Look at all the Apollo schools. Most of them are Black. Therefore there has been lots of money poured into them to help the black students succeed or give them a hand up. But for some reason you cannot see that. So, I will ask again, is it wrong for this one intelligent sister to go out and beat the brush to assist in earning a living for her family? No, it is not. You are probably upset because you did not have forsight to sit in classes and learn how to do a sundry of things to help you get forward. Ms. Harris is one vote. Again, she did not hold a weapon to anyone's body on that board to make them vote. She did not break one law. How dod you know exactly how much Ms. West earned? Many times reporting is not factual or actual. If you want to know what school her daughter will attend, ask her yourself. You might be surprised. Again, look at the past 15 years versus now. See how much all the schools you have spoken of have received since she has been in office. The issue is the parents need to be educated on how to ensure that their child attends school, learns, have positive outcomes, and make a difference in life instead of many times causing confusion, fighting, cursing, running, stealing, skipping, smoking, or any other infraction that will lead or lend them a ticket or to jail. By the way, does your child go to any of these schools? Probably not. You are part of the problem and not the solution. Lastly, she was 1 vote not the ultimate decision maker or the only deciding vote. There was no tie. Let it go! Also, if Ms. West did not get it who might have? She probably worked hard to get it, do a good job, and get paid. You did not prove your point. Have you looked around the 3rd ward neighborhood lately? I am not ranting just proving a point.

InGodWeTrust
Thursday, 06/23/2011 - 09:56AM

Cay-Most of America agree with Guest and the rest of the comments other than yours. You may need to do more research unless you are defending a friend and don't want to know the truth. At least she will have your vote! 70% of HISD's average 1.6 billion dollar budget comes from our taxes not the state.Since 2007 to our taxes have paid 77.5 million of the 155 million in bonuses (50%). The Apollo Failure 24 million just this year alone -50% from our taxes.Much of the budget goes to salaries ,but the administrators are making 6 figures are better(Grier brought 15 with him). We have never had this many schools closures in HISD'S history. Grier suggested closures and Marshall and Harris were two most vocal in doing so. I attended to many meetings to name in total opposition of it. You mentioned 3rd Ward she help get rid of the principal over there too (Yates).She voted against her district regarding school closures. Four school closures saving not even 1% -1.6 of total 171 million dollar shortfall isn't smart. They said it was because of enrollment ,but there were 10 other schools with less enrollment. each school was 90 plus % hispanic or black. It's about the real estate and not the kids.

If Paula have inside info on the bids than she can and did inform both Borris and Mrs. West to bid lower to get the contracts.

Our schools are still like 3rd world countries but just in the Hood not all over . Do you think a few new buildings and closing other make it better. I hate to bus my daughter across down ,but in order her to continue to be successful academically I will if that where all the programs are. Remember Cay this board has considered closing Yates,Worthing,Booker T,Wheatley,and many more. The enrollment criteria is 500 elementary, 750 to 1000 middle, and 1000 to 1250 for highschool if we are under that it will be considered a small school . That will be our entire Southeast Houston area they will shut down nd she supports it 100%. Yes she is one vote but she should vote for her district.

The Apollo programs are not successful Cay have you seen the test scores on a 24 million project no significant improvements but all the schools closed rated high by TEA. I don't think selling a whole generation out is intelligent. Oh i by the way they say small chools are inferior and the kids can't be educated properly. I challege you to do more research and stop defending her because she is black.

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