The city of Houston created a shell company to pay Houston First employees, keeping the public from knowing how many people were on the payroll and from knowing how large the payroll was.
Houston First Corporation, created in 2011, is the quasi-governmental agency to spin off the city’s tourism department into a separate entity.
While formed as a corporation, it still serves a government function and is considered a public agency.
At the time it was created, Houston First also created at least two other companies, the Houston First Foundation and Convention and Cultural Services Inc. (CCSI), according to ABC13, who uncovered the story.
ABC13 requested pay information for Houston First employees, including overtime and bonus amounts for each employee. A representative responded and told ABC13 no information existed because the tourism company employed no one.
Upon further investigation, ABC13 uncovered CCSI and asked it for the same pay information. There is no mention of CCSI in Houston First budget documents this year or its annual outside audit.
The same representative from Houston First, but this time on CCSI letterhead, told ABC13 that the information was not public and the company would appeal to the Attorney General to keep the pay information secret, claiming the employees did not work for the city of Houston. Those employees sit in government-owned chairs, at government-owned desks, doing government jobs, despite CCSI’s claim they are not government employees
CCSI employs 232 people, ABC13 ultimately found. Sixty of them make more than $100,000 a year. Ten make more than $200,000.
The city is also fighting at the Texas Supreme Court to keep those employees off the city payroll.
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6116.