William-Paul Thomas, a top aide to Houston Mayor, pleads guilty to conspiracy charge in federal case, officials say

Thomas served as director of council relations to Mayor Sylvester Turner

HOUSTON – A top aide to Mayor Sylvester Turner submitted a letter announcing his retirement just weeks after being charged and pleading guilty to conspiracy in a federal case.

William-Paul Thomas served as director of council relations and was often seen at the Mayor’s side or standing behind him at almost every City Council meeting.

On Wednesday, a court document from the Southern District of Texas-United States District Court was unsealed detailing the case against Thomas.

According to the document, Thomas was authorized to represent the Mayor in all aspects of dealing with the Houston City Council, including the presentation and approval of City of Houston contracts.

The document indicates Thomas conspired with a businessman who owned two Houston companies. One was a restaurant and bar. The other a bar and nightclub. The businessman allegedly would give cash payments to Thomas “in order to influence and reward him for his official acts as the Director of Council Relations for the City of Houston”.

The court filing lists the following “overt acts of conspiracy”:

  • In May 2020, Thomas is accused of using his influence to help the businessman get a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) for the restaurant - which requires an inspection by the Fire Marshal. The document states: THOMAS agreed to use his official position to exert pressure on other officials to pass COMPANY 1 at inspection and to issue COMPANY 1 at TCO, all in exchange for money.
  • In June 2020, the businessman is said to have reached out to Thomas again after the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) shut down the businessman’s second business which was a bar and nightclub. Under local COVID-19 restrictions at the time, businesses designated as bars were not permitted to operate. The businessman allegedly asked for assistance expediting a permit, so the second company could reopen as a restaurant. The document states: In exchange, BUSINESSMAN 1 told THOMAS that if THOMAS put BUSINESSMAN 1′s request “ahead of everyone,” BUSINESSMAN 1 would ”take care of” THOMAS “really good.” On July 6, 2020, the businessman is said to have offered Thomas $13,000 to have the necessary permit issued quickly. Again, Thomas reportedly agreed to use his position to pressure other officials to expedite the permit in exchange for money. The company’s permit was issued issued on July 10, 2020.

According to a criminal docket filing related to the case, the penalty Thomas may face includes not more than 5 years imprisonment, up to 3 years supervised release, up to a $250,000 fine and $100 special assessment.

Prior to the court document being unsealed, Mayor Turner on Tuesday said Thomas was retiring for personal reasons in relation to his health.

During a brief news conference on Wednesday, Turner said he couldn’t speak on the federal allegations against Thomas.

“We know nothing,” Turner said. “No one has talked to me or my executive team. No one.”

“I can not talk to you about what he’s accused of doing because I don’t know anything,” the mayor added.

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.”

Reporters at the news conference Wednesday asked Turner if he was concerned that the federal government would be looking into him specifically. His response was, “No sir. Not at all. And for you to say that would be totally unfair, OK? That would be wrong. But no sir, not at all.”

Turner said he last spoke with Thomas during the 2022 Pride Parade and had not seen him since. He added that once he came back from a recent procedure, he assumed Thomas was on vacation until he received the resignation email back on July 26.

“In the email when he said that he had chosen to retire for medical reasons, I respected that,” Turner said. “I didn’t reach out to him at that point.”

Read Thomas’ letter of resignation to Mayor Turner below:

“Mayor Turner,

It is with deep sadness and heartbreak that I advise you of my retirement from the City of Houston and the Turner Administration. Pursuant to our family physician’s directive, it is what is best at this time.

“I cannot thank you enough for all the professional and personal development opportunities that you provided me. It has been one heck of a journey!

“I have enjoyed every single moment working for your Administration and hope that I have been able to make a positive and value added contribution to the Team and the Amazing constituents of Houston!

“Again, I sincerely appreciate all the love and support that you have shown me during my phenomenal journey as part of your Administration, and for your understanding of my decision to retire.”

Additionally, the mayor said his team sent the following HR notice to all 22,000 city of Houston employees following Thomas’ resignation:

“Good morning, City of Houston Employees. As always, I want to thank each of you for your hard work and dedication as employees of the City of Houston. This is a reminder that each and every one of us is held to the highest ethical standards as civil servants to the residents of Houston. Each of you are responsible for reviewing and becoming familiar with the City’s Executive Orders (“EO”) and Administrative Procedures (collectively “Policies”), which are available at http://www.houstontx.gov/policies/. All Policies are to be adhered to and followed to the letter. Please take the time to review E.O. 1-51, Solicitation of City Employees, and E.O.1-28, Executive Order Regarding Gifts, as well as the other Policies applicable to your job duties. If you have any questions regarding policies or procedures, please contact your department’s Client Relations Manager or your department’s HR liaison.”

About the Authors:

Award-winning journalist, mother, YouTuber, social media guru, millennial, mentor, storyteller, University of Houston alumna and Houston-native.

Moriah Ballard joined the KPRC 2 digital team in the fall of 2021. Prior to becoming a digital content producer in Southeast Texas and a Houstonian, Moriah was an award-winning radio host in her hometown of Lorain, Ohio and previously worked as a producer/content creator in Cleveland. Her faith, family, and community are her top passions.