Houston Community College Trustee Dave Wilson has filed a lawsuit seeking answers about fellow trustees who he believes violated HCC bylaws by privately communicating with a vendor.
The lawsuit alleges that trustees Zeph Capo and Chris Oliver communicated with the Bracewell law firm about securing a contract during a space of time called a “blackout period” in which trustees are not allowed to talk to vendors while the vendor is seeking a contract with the college.
Capo called the lawsuit “bogus” and a waste of taxpayer money. He also strongly denied violating any HCC bylaws.
“He’s full of crap,” Capo said of Wilson.
Wilson stood by his lawsuit.
“Two trustees violated the blackout period as outlined in the board bylaws and illegally steered a contract to one of their friends,” Wilson said. “And one of those trustees is in federal prison.”
Oliver pleaded guilty to bribery last year after admitting to prosecutors he pocketed a quarter of a million dollars in bribes to steer contracts to select HCC vendors. He was sentenced in January to nearly six years in prison and is no longer a trustee. His bribery charges appear to be unrelated to Wilson’s lawsuit.
Wilson said the issue boils down to his right to free speech.
“Free speech is not a bogus issue, it is an issue,” he said.
The HCC Board Chair declined comment.
“This matter is in litigation, and therefore, I am not at liberty to discuss the subject matter of this lawsuit,” Carolyn Evans-Shabazz said in an email.
Wilson has filed suits against the college before.
One lawsuit filed in September claimed that the board held an illegal meeting because one trustee voted via teleconferencing, something the HCC bylaws forbade at the time. Wilson has since dropped that lawsuit.
Wilson has also filed lawsuits about him being excluded from a closed session and in connection with him being censured by his fellow trustees. Those suits have been combined into one and are still ongoing.
Wilson has long been at loggerheads with many of the trustees, some of whom have described him as an obstructionist.
Indeed, in one recent email exchange with Wilson, Evans-Shabazz was critical of another question that Wilson asked about enrollment. She spoke of “demands placed on the administration and staff by countless questions.”
Wilson responded by suggesting that she was covering up the real numbers.
Capo said that Wilson’s lawsuits were chipping away at the college’s reputation. For example, Capo noted that the school’s bond rating has vastly improved from where it was just a few years ago.
He also said he believes that Wilson files his lawsuits simply for the media attention.
Wilson also recently filed an ethics complaint alleging HCC broke its bylaws by providing trustees with board agendas three days before a meeting — rather than five.
“Lawsuits would not be necessary if board members would adhere to the bylaws,” Wilson said. “No one is above the law.”
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.