An examination of City of Pasadena spending records found that city workers gave tens of thousands of dollars worth of business this year to an automotive parts supplier owned by the family of a council member, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Although the city ended a contract with the automotive business Bass & Meineke in 2017, two years after Cary Bass was elected to the council, city workers still charged $40,615.88 with the company over 10 months this fiscal year, the newspaper reported. Bass is a son of the family that founded the business.
Council member Sammy Casados first raised concerns about the use of city credit cards to make purchases with the company. The city’s purchasing manager, Karen Wallace, told him that employees were buying automotive batteries there.
“If we’re buying batteries from him, why don’t we have a contract anymore?” Casados asked at a council meeting Sept. 17, the Chronicle reported.
Council member Cody Ray Wheeler said it seemed that workers had “backdoored the system.”
Bass declined to comment to the Chronicle on the controversy.
The Chronicle’s review of the spending records raised a second issue: Although city ordinance sets a limit of $750 in charges per transaction, 25 payments made to Bass & Meineke in the 2019 fiscal year exceeded that limit.
The council plans to consider a change in that ordinance at an upcoming meeting, to allow larger credit card purchases. The Chronicle review of records found that payments exceeding $750 had been made to other businesses as well.
Mayor Jeff Wagner told the newspaper he had no issues with the city conducting business with a council member as long as that person abstained from voting on issues related to that business. He also told the Chronicle he was happy with the current system of using the credit cards and the old rules just needed updating.
“How we’re doing it now is going to be the law of the city,” he said.