If you attended the City of Houston’s State of the City luncheon in September, you were given a copy of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s new book, A Winning Legacy – The Power of Vision, Collaboration, Resilience and Transformation. Its ninety pages narrate Turner’s life story and what a great job he has done as mayor over the last eight years.
The State of the City luncheon is sponsored by Houston First Corporation. Houston First is local government corporation that is owned and controlled by the City. It has an annual budget of approximately $150 million and operates several event venues, including the George R. Brown Convention Center. It also promotes conventions and tourism in Houston.
Turner’s book was designed and printed by Judson Design. Judson submitted an invoice for its work to the City for $123,979.98. I do not know how many copies of the book were printed but if the invoice is only for the 600 copies distributed at the luncheon, that is over $200 per book, which is absurd.
According to my sources, Turner sent the invoice to Houston First and told them to pay it. However, Houston First President & CEO Michael Heckman refused, telling the City it was not budgeted or an appropriate expense for Houston First to pay. Turner called Heckman and gave him the “Sheila Jackson Lee" treatment. Nonetheless, Heckman still refused.
Tomorrow Houston First will hold a board meeting. There are two items that appear at the end of meeting agenda. The agenda is controlled by the board chair, David Mincberg. Mincberg was the treasurer for both of Turner’s mayoral campaigns.
Item 4 on the agenda is for the board to approve the payment of Judson’s invoice. Immediately after that item, there is an executive session (those are the ones held in secret) “for the purpose of reviewing and evaluating the performance of the President & CEO of the Corporation.” I cannot say that the two items are related, but a review of Heckman’s performance seems particularly odd since he was just re-elected as President and CEO at the last board meeting in September for another year. Perhaps it is a coincidence, but perhaps not.
If the Houston First board were foolish to take any disciplinary action against Heckman for refusing to pay the invoice, he will have a compelling whistleblower claim and Turner will have, once again, drug the City into another costly lawsuit.
If you still have any doubt that there is wasteful spending at City Hall, I think you can safely lay those doubts aside.
Note 1 – The online version of Turner’s book does not have a copyright mark, so it is unclear who owns the rights to the book.