in Houston, Texas

Texas Watchdog examines how politics and cronyism seep into big-dollar Houston schools contracts

Tuesday, Dec 20, 2011, 07:43AM CST
By Trent Seibert

Today, Texas Watchdog takes its most comprehensive look yet at the influence that Houston Independent School District trustees wield over the school district's business practices.

Why is this a problem?

HISD has repeatedly done business worth millions of dollars with buddies and associates of district trustees, and it’s a problem that HISD’s own leaders have acknowledged but been unable to nip in the bud over the last few years.
This raises serious questions of cronyism and contract steering.

Meanwhile, scores of Houston teachers were laid off and four schools were closed this year. Some HISD leaders have talked about a property tax increase and a request to the voters for more spending authority next year.

Our series of stories publishing today includes these:

Rash of improper influence over high-dollar contracts at Houston ISD -- while teachers are cut and schools are closed

Houston school trustees have been accused in at least seven cases in the last two years of using their influence to affect what companies the school district does business with, public records show.

In all but one of those cases, trustees are accused of using their influence to give school district work to favored vendors -- even if those vendors weren't the best-suited or the lowest bidders for the job.

Read the full story here.

Former Houston ISD procurement chief reveals problems in the agency, talks about his dismissal

The former head of HISD's procurement department discusses the problems in HISD and why he feels he was unfairly fired last summer.

Read the full story here.

The Houston school board launched two external audits of the district’s procurement practices during the last three months to address questions about possible favoritism and trustee influence in the awarding of contracts. But some question whether the two audits will help.

Read the full story here.

Contact Trent Seibert at or 832-316-4994 or on Twitter at @trentseibert  or @texaswatchdog.

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Photo of HISD trustee board meeting by Flickr user mikemcguff, used under the Creative Commons license.
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