HOUSTON — Houston Community College Trustee Dave Wilson said Thursday that he is hiring his own investigators to probe possible corruption at the college system, citing his concerns over the independence of two attorneys hired by HCC to conduct a probe.
“They have conflicts of interest, they are political insiders,” Wilson said at a press conference in front of the college system’s headquarters. “A whitewash will not help remove the stains of corruption from our image.”
Wilson’s team, which he said he is paying for out of his own pocket, consists of long-time investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino of Dolcefino Consulting, and Keith Gross who is Wilson’s attorney.
HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado last month hired former Harris County Commissioner Gene Locke and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Vidal Martinez as special counsel to examine the way the college system hires vendors and employees, and other college financial issues.
Maldonado hired the pair in the wake of a bribery scandal that has grabbed the attention of the college city. Chris Oliver, HCC’s longest-serving trustee, pleaded guilty to a bribery charge that was unsealed July 7.
Wilson said Locke and Martinez had conflicts of interest. He referenced the hundreds of thousands of dollars of work that Locke’s firm Andrews & Kurth has done for the college, as well as campaign contributions made to Oliver and others by Martinez.
Both attorneys have close ties to the college system and to HCC trustees — and are both known as politically connected insiders and are well-regarded attorneys within Texas.
HCC officials told The Texas Monitor after the press conference that they are preparing a statement about Wilson’s press conference. Locke told The Texas Monitor that he would defer to the college in connection with any statement.
Wilson’s team has already begun work.
Less than two hours after Wilson’s press conference, Dolcefino had filed requests for emails between Maldonado and his chief of staff and HCC trustees. Dolcefino has also asked for cell phone records from trustees as well as the college system’s history of vendor payments exceeding $100,000.
“We will clean up the mess at HCC,” Wilson said. “Not cover it up. That’s the purpose of this investigation.”
Wilson said he had previously asked his fellow trustees to hire its own team to investigate, but they declined. Wilson also said he would welcome the Texas Attorney General to conduct an investigation.
Dolcefino said he would follow the case anywhere, even if it leads to Wilson himself, something Wilson said he welcomed.
“There’s not going to be any sacred cows here,” Wilson said.
Dolcefino said he would present his findings to Wilson when the investigation was complete.
Neither Wilson nor Dolcefino would estimate on how long their probe might take.
“As a reporter… you go where the information goes,” Dolcefino said. “We’ve got plenty to do.”
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or 832-258-6119.