Investigates: Emails show city council relations director, William Paul Thomas, had close communication with private businessman

Other emails appear to show Thomas negotiating on businessman’s behalf

HOUSTON – City of Houston leaders are calling for an outside investigation into the actions of a now former city director, William Paul Thomas, after KPRC 2 Investigates uncovered emails showing negotiations in favor of a private businessman.

Thomas, who pled guilty to a federal conspiracy charge tied to bribes, corresponded with city leaders seemingly in support of airport concessionaire and private businessman Jason Yoo, according to emails obtained through a public records request.

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KPRC 2 Investigates first reported Thomas worked on behalf of Yoo to help eliminate airport penalties totaling $861,000 assessed to Yoo and his partners. The total penalties were levied after contractual obligations were not met.

“The director of a department cannot negotiate the settlement of a fine or anything like that,” said council member Michael Kubosh.

In city released emails, Houston Airports System Director Mario Diaz said a settlement ultimately was reached for approximately $100,000.

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“This is completely out the realm of what he should have been doing,” said council member Letitia Plummer after seeing the emails.

In 2020, the office of Mayor Sylvester Turner responded in a statement saying Thomas “did not negotiate on behalf of the subcontractor and had no influence in this matter.”

Now a new email that KPRC 2 Investigates is disclosing has a more personal focus.

On June 12, 2019, an email Yoo sent to Thomas’ city account references a $100,000 scholarship for Thomas’ son once he wins a competition.

“If I received an email like this I would have referred it to the FBI,” said Plummer.

Other emails provided by the city do not shed any more context on what was meant concerning the scholarship and if it was ever awarded to Thomas’ son.

“I want to know what were the conversations that led to that email. I want to know what else is there except that email, because there has to be other conversations, other emails, other people involved than just the two people in that email,” said former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Ryan Patrick.

“It needs to be investigated by somebody other than the city’s Attorney’s Office,” said Kubosh.

Jason Yoo did not respond to requests for comments made via email, phone or in person.

Yoo’s attorney, Kent Schaffer, later told KPRC 2 Investigates that his client had “nothing to say.”

The City of Houston has yet to respond to direct inquiries tied to last Wednesday’s report.

Thomas announced his retirement as the city’s director of city council relations in the week before a federal judge unsealed the case.

He also has yet to respond to requests for an interview.

[@KPRC2Mario first broke this investigation on KPRC2+]

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