The Houston ISD did not draft and adopt an ethics policy in 2012 out of the kindness of its heart.
HISD administrators and trustees did not look around the district, decide that all was good and say hey, we're bored, what can we do next?
No, brothers and sisters, let us remember HISD wrote up an ethics policy in 2012 because its board was under fire. And it should have been.
There was an almost continual stream of accusations about free exotic trips they were taking from vendors (yes Costa Rica has much to offer us), yearly consultant payments (ah, Larry Marshall and Community Education Partners), charges of violations of the RICO statutes (Larry Marshall again) and assorted school board members who voted on their vendor pals' contracts and saw nothing wrong with it. As Paula Harris famously said at one meeting, she was not about to give up her friend (Nicole West ) just because her friend's company (Westco) did a lot of business with the district.
Sure, some of the board wanted an ethics policy – some because they are honest folks and others to at least to get the local news media – the Houston Press, Texas Watchdog, the Houston Chronicle – off its back, but to say that this was everyone's want-to-do sacred mission is ridiculous.
They didn't all want to; they had to. They had to after YEARS of questionable dealings, which most recently includes an audit report that did not find HISD covered in glory, an audit that in fact that said the most basic of checks and balances were missing from its contract process.
And now some of them want to take it back. (Not all, trustee Anna Eastman says she can't believe it's even up for reconsideration.)
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Yes, that's what's on the agenda for tonight's meeting starting at 5 p.m. The key provision they've targeted which will effectively gut whatever they've tried to do states that a board member who accepts $500 or more in one year from particular vendor must publicly disclose that and recuse himself or herself from any discussion on contracts that vendor is vying for. The board member also cannot vote on that vendor's contract.
Trustees can still take handouts/contributions for their political campaigns. They just have to tell us all they've done so. And then, not vote on any contracts involving those firms. Or get to join in on the discussion leading up to the vote.
Simple enough but apparently far too constricting for some of the wheeler dealers on the HISD board. So show up at 5 p.m. and get ready to listen. Or maybe there won't be any talk at all. Maybe it will just pass quietly.
But not without notice. Let's not let it be without notice.