HOUSTON – An office near production lots like Warner Bros. and Paramount or a high rise in downtown Los Angeles.
This is where one might expect to find the office of a Hollywood dealmaker. However, in the case of the publicly funded Houston Film Commission, their Los Angeles office is inside this residential building near Beverly Hills.
Houston First admitted to Channel 2 Investigates that Sharon Adams, the Film Commission’s L.A. Representative, is provided a monthly allowance of “$4,400 for housing/office space/vehicle expenses,” adding “currently all of the $4,400 is applied to the office/residence expense.”
City Council member Michael Kubosh was stunned to learn Adams works out of a residential building near Beverly Hills.
During an interview with Channel 2 Investigates Kubosh asked, ”Why does she have to be in Los Angeles?"
As reported Wednesday night by Channel 2 Investigates, Adams' Houston First American Express bills revealed expensive meals at fancy restaurants and high-priced cross-country travel, Houston First said that Adams did book a first-class ticket, but the seat was “booked in error,” adding, “Shortly thereafter (35 days), Ms. Adams reimbursed Houston First $367 which represents the cost difference between economy and first-class.”
Channel 2 Investigates also reported on the purchasing of airline upgrades and a lounge pass for other travelers.
Houston First says the seat upgrades and a lounge/club access pass was a business expense incurred “as part of business development activities taking place during Super Bowl 51 weekend.”
However, it is the use of public funds to pay for Adams’ Los Angeles unit that raises eyebrows. After reading the email Channel 2 Investigates showcased Wednesday night confirming invoices being submitted for Adams' housing, Kubosh said, “Wow.”
Kubosh is not the only council member surprised by the unusual arrangement. Council Member Jack Christie says he has questions too, "I would question anyone that gets housing. I don’t think even the mayor gets housing." When reminded that Sharon Adams does according to the email, Christies said, “Well, we'll have to question that, won't we?"
Two council members sit on the board of Houston First, Dave Martin and David Robinson. Martin weighed in on our initial findings, saying, "Well, there is no doubt we need to do a much better job with our film commission."
Robinson has not provided comment. After multiple requests to speak with the council member, Channel 2 Investigates caught up with Robinson at City Hall on Thursday. Robinson did not stop to talk, only saying, “Thank you for sending me the clips, I appreciate that."
The Houston City Council approves the budget for Houston First and the more than $1 million the Film Commission receives. Kubosh says the council did not get the full picture before voting, "This scenario of having someone representing the City of Houston in L.A., that has never been presented to council."
Kubosh adds he is skeptical about Adams' arrangement in Los Angeles considering she has not brought any big-budget movies or TV projects to Houston since opening the L.A. office, "It's a lot of taxpayer public fund money being spent and what benefits have the City of Houston received from it?"
In an email Thursday evening, Houston First says since “approximately January 2016,” they have provided $4,400 for Adam’s Los Angeles office/residence.
Apply simple math, and the numbers add up to nearly $120,000 public dollars spent on a residential office/residential unit for Adams.
The State of California Film Commission Director makes approximately $42,000 less than Adams and also lives in Los Angeles. A spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development tells Channel 2 Investigate they do not pay the rent or mortgage of their film commission director.
In an email statement, Houston First says, “Despite the dramatic funding cuts to the State of Texas’ Film Incentive Program from $95 million to $10 million, the number of projects filmed and number of filming days in Houston has increased, each year, over the last three years.”
Channel 2 Investigates is slated for a sit-down interview with Houston First CEO Brenda Bazan next week.