HOUSTON (FOX 26) – The City of Houston spends lots of your money, billions each year.
While much of that cash goes out in big chunks with the approval of city council, a substantial amount, around $400 million, is delivered to vendors without much scrutiny from anyone around “the Horseshoe”, except the mayor.
In February, mayoral challenger Bill King submitted a public records request to review every city contract council “never laid-eyes-on,” because each paid out less than $50,000.
“If you’ve got nothing to hide, then put it all out there,” said King.
Last week, the Turner administration responded, claiming the job would require 75 people working 155,000 hours to complete.
The city also sent King a bill for $2.8 million to cover the cost of collecting the records with a demand for half of the money up front.
“I think the cost estimate is a ruse and a ploy to not have to produce these documents,” said King.
Asked for comment, a spokesman for the city pointed FOX 26 to the city controller’s website, which lists payments sent out, but little else, with no names and scant detail regarding the goods or services paid for with tax dollars.
Rice University political analyst Mark Jones says Mayor Turner has a persistent and troubling transparency problem.
“Which leads one to believe that the Turner administration doesn’t want the public to know who it’s giving contracts to, because there are lots of friends of Sylvester there,” said Jones.
Bill King won’t go that far yet, but did make a transparency pledge, if elected.
“Every single contract that the city signs is going to be online and there is going to be a searchable data base,” said King.
Responding to FOX 26’s request for comment, a spokesman for the mayor said the price was developed in conjunction with the city controller, in accordance with state law and in response to a “voluminous” request involving more than 500,000 financial documents.