HISD: Political cronyism is acceptable
Okay, we don't have to wonder too hard. But the new Jason Spencer and the Chronicle have been fairly muted in reacting to what is adding up to some serious lapses. I mean, check out Spencer's response to Texas Watchdog when asked about Houston ISD trustee president Paula Harris voting on millions of dollars worth of contracts that went to a friend of hers:
“The district’s conflicts of interest policies are significantly tighter than any restrictions in state law. To our knowledge, HISD was the first school district in Texas to adopt a local policy prohibiting businesses in which trustees, or trustees’ relatives, have a financial interest from contracting with the district.”
And this from the complete text of questions submitted to HISD and HISD's response:
There is no requirement in law for a school district trustee or, to our knowledge, any other elected official in Texas, to abstain from voting on a contract that has been recommended by staff, simply because the trustee or elected official might have a personal friendship with someone who works for or owns a business. There are requirements for trustees and other elected officials to file forms disclosing businesses in which they or their relatives have financial interests, and to abstain from voting on contracts with those businesses. There is no requirement in law for a school trustee to disclose every business with which a friend of a trustee is associated. HISD regularly discusses with trustees their obligations to report business relationships as required by law and by District policy.
Hiding behind the distinction that no law has been broken doesn't excuse the behavior, nor does it make it more palatable. What it does do is reinforce the anger at those who profit through their connections to the powerful. Cronyism funded by taxpayer dollars is reprehensible.