HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner fired his director of housing and community development Tuesday after he accused the mayor of a “charade” bidding process to funnel city money to a particular developer.
“Unfortunately I’ve reached a point where I can no longer do the bidding of this administration as a relates to this development,” Tom McCasland said during a committee meeting Tuesday morning.
At one point during McCasland’s explosive remarks, there was an audio and video disruption of the city’s public feed of the meeting.
A spokesperson for the mayor said it was the issue was a technical difficulty and not intentional.
McCasland questioned why Mayor Turner rejected his department’s warnings and recommendations against moving forward with MGroup, the developer of a proposed affordable housing project in Clear Lake, Huntington at Bay Area.
In a series of memos and other documents released by McCasland to city councilmembers, he says his office recommended the mayor move forward with four projects with a combined cost of $16.2 million in city dollars and provide 362 affordable units. But he says the mayor chose to go with the single Huntington project at a cost of $15 million and 88 affordable units.
“This administration is bankrolling a certain developer, to the detriment of working families who need affordable homes,” McCasland said.
McCasland was careful to make clear he was not alleging fraud had occurred.
“But even if there is no fraud in this instance, it is something that you should care about because of the way it damages the way the city does business,” he told councilmembers.
In a statement, Mayor Turner said: “There is no charade. Comments made by the former Director of the City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department are puzzling, inflated, and wrong.”
The mayor made additional remarks during an impromptu press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s no fraud, it’s no illegality, there’s nothing wrong here. The only criticism that Tom is making is that I didn’t go with his choice,” Turner said.
In response to questions about his former law partner having a stake in the MGroup Huntington project, Mayor Turner said he was unaware of the connection until today.
The Texas General Land Office issued the following statement, saying they would investigate McCasland’s claims:
“We will re-review all requests for funding draws allocated to the City of Houston by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The GLO will coordinate with HUD and other investigative entities to determine what actions should follow regarding these allegations. Fraud has no place in helping Texans recover from disaster.”