HOUSTON - The Mayor of Houston has announced an investigation of himself.
"I have no question with anybody vetting, scrutinizing any of these deals," said Sylvester Turner attempting to fend off allegations of wrongdoing lodged against him by Tom McCasland, the now-former Housing Director, who stunned City Council Tuesday by accusing his boss of authorizing a "charade of competitive bidding" only to award a $15 million affordable housing deal to a development group, which included the Mayor's former law partner.
Disturbed that the project pushed through by Turner provides four times fewer housing units than other proposals, Council Member Michael Kubosh is speaking out.
"Saying that he didn't know his business partner had any part of this. That just doesn't pass the smell test," said Kubosh.
Kubosh spoke to FOX 26 not long after the Mayor instructed City Attorney Arturo Michel to "review the allegations from top to bottom to determine whether there were any illegalities, fraud, conflicts of interest, violations of procedures, practices. and policies."
Kubosh says Council and the citizens they represent should demand much more.
"You can't have somebody who is working for you investigate you. It's just not appropriate. To have the City Attorney investigate something he has already signed off on is just not credible. We have to have an outside, third-party investigation done to do it right," said Kubosh.
Given McCasland's reputation for integrity, Council Member Mike Knox believes an independent investigation is essential.
"The Mayor often said, if you see something, say something, that's important. Well, Tom McCasland saw something and he said something and he got fired. I think it's important that we have some third party investigate this, someone that the Mayor doesn't actually control their job or their paycheck," said Knox.
FOX 26 has also heard from the City's "financial watchdog" Controller Dog Chris Brown who says, "While Arturo Michel is a reputable lawyer, the City Attorney reports directly to the Mayor. There should be a third-party investigation."
In a city starved for affordable housing, the Mayor is having difficulty defending the numbers associated with the controversial deal. At roughly the same cost, the proposal Turner rejected would have produced 362 units, while the proposal he's pushing through in Clear Lake, will generate only 88.