HOUSTON – KPRC 2 Investigates has previously looked into the city of Houston director who pleaded guilty in a federal criminal conspiracy investigation.
William Paul Thomas, who served as the director of council relations and was often seen standing at Mayor Sylvester Turner’s side during almost every city council meeting, submitted a letter announcing his retirement for health reasons just weeks before being charged in the federal case.
Recently unsealed federal court documents show Thomas admitted to accepting a cash bribe in exchange for changing a bar’s classification to a restaurant.
“The person who ends up doing that, pleading guilty to the criminal information, there’s much evidence against them and they have no choice but to cooperate,” said Former Federal Prosecutor Michael Wynne.
Now, KPRC 2 Investigates is taking a deeper look at Thomas’ case and examining who else may be involved.
“What we learned the first day of criminal procedure is that you can’t conspire with yourself, so all of this raises the question -- who did he allegedly conspire as part of this charged offense?” asked KPRC 2 legal expert Bryan Wice.
On Wednesday, when asked if he has any concerns about the federal investigations, Turner said “I’m concerned if any employee, anyone of 22,000 employees does anything contrary to policy or to the law. That would be any of the employees, no matter who that particular person might be. But I’m not going to speculate on something I have no information on. And I think that would be unfair. It will run its course.”
Prior to the court document being unsealed, Mayor Turner said Thomas was retiring for personal reasons in relation to his health.
“The allegations that have been reported last night, quite frankly, are out of character of the person I’ve come to know,” Turner added.
But, this isn’t the first time KPRC 2 Investigates has had Thomas on our radar.
In 20202, KPRC 2 Investigates’ Mario Diaz first reported that the mayor’s former right-hand man received a $500,000 offer from a prominent Houston businessman to be donated to the city or “other charity firms the mayor wants” in exchange for the mayor’s help in a real estate deal. But, the exchange never happened and criminal charges were never filed.
“While the substance is a little different, what happened, the scheme if you will, and broad allegations, are very similar,” said Wice.
Wice added that he believes the federal government must have its eyes on bigger fish in the case.