HOUSTON – Outside of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office on the steps of Houston City Hall, two dozen individuals stood with a clear message on shirts across their chests, “End Corruption in Houston.”
“This is a problem. This is a widespread problem,” said Towana Bryant, a shipping business owner, regarding the mistreatment of small business owners who are a part of city contracts.
One owner summed it up simply as follows, “Being a minority, woman, or a small certified business in this city puts you in shark infested waters,” said the Vietnamese business owner.
Chyna Gragg, who owns a roofing business, claims many minority business owners are not being treated fairly by prime general contractors.
As a result, according to Gragg and others, they are not being paid what they are owed. The reason, according to one business owner, “They know we do not have the power to fight back.”
Gragg said she has one case pending in federal court.
Councilmember Michael Kubosh isn’t waiting on a trial to render his judgment.
“When you have a minority contractor who is on a contract and they are not being paid by the primes or they are being mistreated by the primes and the city does nothing, that is wrong,” said Kubosh.
Friday’s news conference comes roughly a month before a federal judge will sentence William Paul Thomas in his public corruption case. The former city of Houston director, who was routinely seen at Mayor Turner’s side, was convicted in July for conspiracy tied to bribes.
Activist Quanel X highlighted the Thomas case during Friday’s news conference.
“I’m accusing those who worked with William Paul Thomas closely,” said X.
X went on to add that this is just another example of what many have claimed has been part of the Turner administration for some time.
“We are here to address the culture of corruption. The pay-to-play scheme has been put into play. There is a serious problem and it needs to be dealt with,” X said.
Late Friday, the Mayor’s office issued the following Statement:
“The Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA) section of the City of Houston Housing and Community Development (HCD) department’s Compliance Division assessed an underpayment of workers on the 900 Winston development by Brazoria Construction, a lower-tier subcontractor to Rise Construction. The assessment found Brazoria Construction failed to pay workers the prevailing wage as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor. As a result, the prime contractor, Royal American Construction, was made aware of the issue and asked to make restitution checks to the affected Brazoria Construction employees, as is the procedure when a prime contractor’s subcontractor fails to meet DBRA standards. Rise Construction, the subcontractor who hired Brazoria Construction as a lower-tier contractor, paid restitution checks to the affected Brazoria Construction workers; thus, HCD found the Brazoria Construction underpayment issue was addressed and cleared. The City of Houston is actively reviewing this matter and to date has not found information that it refused to release documents in violation of the TPIA and nor is it aware of any such complaints.”