in Houston, Texas
Houston ISD trustee Larry Marshall held fundraiser on Rep. Borris Miles-arranged Costa Rica trip; see photo and source documents
Friday, Jun 17, 2011, 10:50AM CST
By Lynn Walsh and Jennifer Peebles
Costa Rica trip

Houston Independent School District trustee Larry Marshall took up state Rep. Borris Miles' offer of free trips to Costa Rica and travelled to the Central American nation twice, Marshall told the Houston Chronicle yesterday

Meanwhile, campaign finance disclosures show that Marshall held a fundraising dinner for campaign donors -- in Costa Rica -- around the time he told Mellon he was in that country on a trip arranged by Miles, who does business with HISD.  

From the Chron story by Ericka Mellon:
Marshall, the longest-serving member of the board, said he didn't believe he needed to file paperwork to disclose the trips because he was there as a guest of a district vendor.

HISD's policy, which appears to reflect state law for school board members, says trustees do not have to file conflict disclosure reports if they receive food, lodging, transportation or entertainment from a vendor or potential vendor "as a guest."

"You treat it as an event," Marshall said. "I've gone to baseball games with individuals, and the lawyers have said, 'As long as the sponsor's present, there's nothing to disclose.' "

The "guest" argument perhaps explains why there's a large blue check mark next to the word "no" on Marshall's ethics form covering calendar year 2010, right after it asks this question:

During the reporting period, have you received any gift, honorarium, or other payment which was unrelated to services performed or goods furnished by you from any party who did business or who was interested in doing business with the Houston Independent School District? (You need not report food, lodging, transportation or entertainment accepted as a guest or gifts received which have a value of less than $50 each, excluding cash or a negotiable instrument.)

Marshall's campaign finance reports covering the first part of calendar year 2010 also show he "hosted courtesy dinner for major contributors" on or about April 27 at the White House Hotel Restaurante in San Jose, Costa Rica, spending $246.64 there. He also listed minor expenses for "ground transportation from hotel to airport" and a $26 bank fee at an airport, along with $300 in reimbursement to himself for "miscellaneous cash donations and gratuities in Costa Rica, 04/25-28/10."

Miles extended his offer to a majority of the Houston ISD trustees, offering to arrange an all-expenses-paid trip to Costa Rica for each of them and a guest, paid for by the Costa Rican government, according to an e-mail obtained by Texas Watchdog. Miles told Mellon that Marshall was the only trustee to take him up on the offer.
Calls by Texas Watchdog to both Miles and Marshall were not returned.

It's still not clear who else was on the trips other than Marshall and Miles. Miles declined to tell Mellon who else was on the trips, and Marshall's campaign disclosure form does not specifically name anyone giving him a donation during the time he was in Costa Rica. Marshall appears in group photographs taken on the trip that were posted on Miles’ Facebook page, but most of the other people in the photograph were not labelled.
(The photo appears on this page; if you can identify any of the others in the picture, please e-mail us at

In addition to his service in the legislature, Miles is also an insurance agent who is HISD's flood insurance vendor. He is a close friend of two HISD trustees, trustees president Paula Harris and trustee Carol Mims Galloway.

The value of an all-expenses-paid trip to Costa Rica is unclear. The e-mail obtained by Texas Watchdog was a reminder e-mail Miles sent to the trustees roughly two weeks prior to the November trip.; it's not clear when Miles sent the initial invitation e-mail. The lowest available price on this morning for a coach fare from Houston to San Juan, Costa Rica, for a trip beginning two weeks from today and returning three days later was a $674 flight on Taca Airlines -- but that’s also for a trip in June, while the trip including Marshall took place in November.

Contact Lynn Walsh at or 713-228-2850. Follow her on Twitter at @lwalsh. Contact Jennifer Peebles at or 281-656-1681.

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Friday, 06/17/2011 - 12:55PM

Larry is a cronie that should have quit long ago. But, his ego would never allow such. He believes he is above the rules and will lie and cheat but always ensure he denies such. He needs to step down. Now!

Friday, 06/17/2011 - 01:05PM

hard to enlarge the photo to see it.

In Search Of Excellence
Monday, 06/20/2011 - 05:23PM

Marshall is correct in saying htat the majority pop has been doing this ofr ages. And yes the while trustee was not mentined unil the end of the article. This does smack of racism. I wonder who i will investigate him. However, going to COsta Rica to look at the possiblity of getting health care there..come on?

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