HOUSTON – Questions persist after a KPRC 2 Investigation revealed Wednesday that there are hundreds of pieces of African art, with no paperwork, stashed in a maintenance shed owned by Harris County.
The seemingly uninteresting shed is located in Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis’ precinct, but Ellis wasn’t forthright about who owned the art or why it was in a shed owned by the county when KPRC 2 asked multiple times.
However, earlier this week, Ellis was forced to provide information in a Commissioners Court meeting. He admitted to his fellow commissioners that the artwork lacked documentation.
Before Tuesday’s meeting but after KPRC 2 began probing the ownership of the artwork, there was a flurry of activity at the shed, after normal business hours. Several people were seen coming and going on the weekends.
Days later, Ellis informed the court he was looking for legal guidance from Harris County.
“We have not done the proper paperwork, so I want to refer that item to the County Attorney’s Office," he said. "They are working with me to clean it up and then put it back on the agenda once it’s cleaned up.”
Ellis’s new agenda item for consideration is a new deal between the county and “African Art Global,” the company that seemingly owns the artwork. However as KPRC 2 reported previously, that company doesn’t legally exist, according to the State of Texas.
State records show the company has been out of business for more than a year. KPRC 2 visited the address listed for the company, owned by Sam Njunuri, but it’s an empty office.
There are more than a dozen defunct companies affiliated with Njunuri and attorney Joe Walker has been trying to collect $279,944 after a court ruled against Njunuri in a separate case.
“Why would Harris County even entertain a contract with a company that is in forfeiture,” Walker wondered.
Walker told KPRC 2 the artwork in the shed now provides him with an avenue to collect his client’s judgment. Walker saying he plans to subpoena everyone connected to the art, including Ellis.