Thursday, May 17, 2012

HCDE Trustee Roy Morales: Mis-statements or bad memory????

It would be so much easier if politicians would just tell the whole truth – all the time. Don’t they know that in the information age, someone will dig up the truth sooner or later?

Roy Morales is a current Harris County School Trustee, and a former Republican candidate for Houston Mayor, City Council, US Congress, etc , etc, etc…

A few weeks ago I published a story about the Harris County School Trustees’ plan to hold a retreat dinner at Brennan’s - a famous 4 star restaurant in Houston, well known for its outstanding cuisine and service. It is also pricey $$$ ($30-60/person on average) plus valet parking.

Many  taxpayers got very upset when they found out that their education tax dollars were being spent by their elected officials, not on students, but on the Trustees dining out at a restaurant that most taxpayers couldn’t afford.  So taxpayers complained – and the retreat and dinner were canceled. (Perhaps to save face, the Trustees said it was canceled because the Board President was ill.)

After the complaints started coming in, Trustee Roy Morales, who claims to be a fiscal conservative Tea Party supporter, tried to make himself out to be the people’s hero. He posted two comments to the story.

His first comment came the day after the story was posted:

“Just for the record, in five years as a Trustee, the taxpayers have never paid for my dinner. I agree with you that the taxpayers should not pay for this dinner.”

          Roy Morales       April 26, 2012 5:51 PM

Then, less than an hour later, Roy Morales posted another comment:
Just called the Board President. The dinner is canceled.”

           Roy Morales       April 26, 2012 6:31 PM

At first it appears that Roy Morales is such a good guy. He doesn’t waste the people’s money. After all, he said that not only have the taxpayers NEVER PAID FOR HIS DINNER, he agreed that taxpayers should not be paying for this type of meal. He also implied that he is so powerful, that a single call from him and poof – the whole mess goes away.

But that is not what I had been told by very reliable sources.

To get the facts, I filed an Open Records Request for the minutes of all HCDE meetings: board, committee, training and retreat meetings from 2007 to 2012. That would make it very easy to see exactly which board members were present at each meeting where dinner was included.

I know, all that should be online already – like every legitimate government institution. But that is not how it works at HCDE.  They claim to be transparent – they get awards for transparency – but in my personal experience, opaque would be a better description. Anyone who wants any real information has to pry it out of them.

So, as usual with HCDE, getting something as simple as meeting minutes wasn’t easy. My first receipt of minutes from my Open Records Request had 57 missing meeting minutes. And it just so happened, the missing minutes included Board Training Sessions and Retreats  that had been held off campus at high priced establishments. WHAT A COINCIDENCE !!!  Some of those missing were just the ones I was looking for.

So, I filed a second Open Records Request for the 57 missing meeting minutes. Below is the reply I received from HCDE:

hcdeopenrecords2

So I filed a new Open Records Request. This time for:
“…copies of all receipts and invoices received, and all checks and credit card payments made for any and all expenditures/reimbursements incurred or generated by HCDE itself, HCDE board members, guests, consultants and/or employees - including but not limited to: Facilities, Decorations, Food/Beverages, Travel, Parking, Presenters/Presentations, Recreational and/or Leisure Activities, Materials/Supplies, Gifts & Amenities, Overtime/Stipend, Per diem - Associated with the following HCDE Board functions:
1. 04/02/11 + 04/03/11 Board Retreat and Training Session
2. 09/28/10 Board Operating Procedures Meeting
3. 10/30/09 Board Retreat
4. 10/31/08 Board Retreat
5. 08/30/07 Board Training

And the receipts show that 

Roy Morales was apparently

 NOT TELLING THE TRUTH,

or not remembering correctly,

when he said the taxpayers

have never paid for his dinner.



#1 August 30, 2007
Board meeting minutes show Roy Morales was present from 7:01pm – 9:13pm at a special session board meeting at the Houston Center Club, 1100 Caroline Street.


rm015

And for extra confirmation he was there,
Roy Morales even filed for mileage that night.

rm016

And just how much did
taxpayers pay for
7 School Trustees,
1 administrator, and
1 consultant 
to eat dinner
on August 30, 2007?

 (Are you sitting down?)

rm017

9 dinners totaled $929.55


That means taxpayers apparently paid

 $103.28  for Roy Morales

to eat dinner on 8/30/2007.



Taxpayers can see exactly what they paid for below:


rm018


Maybe Roy Morales is like Bill Clinton. He needs us to “define dinner”. Maybe he calls his evening meal “supper”, and therefore  he can say that the taxpayers have never paid for his “dinner.”   Or maybe he’ll argue that taxpayers didn’t pay for his meal because, like other politicians who didn’t “inhale”, Roy Morales didn’t “swallow”.


#2  - April 2, 2011

Will he use those same excuses for the HCDE
 Board Retreat held April 2-3, 2011?

Travel records show that Roy Morales
 claimed mileage both days.



rm019
rm020


The name “Roy Morales” is even hand written on the
Jason’s Deli receipt as being part of the order.


rm021 

Records show two receipts that day. One from Jason’s Deli and the other from Brennan’s. In this case, Roy Morales may argue that Richard Griffin, an HCDE   “consultant” picked up the tab at dinner, so Roy Morales didn’t know that Mr. Griffin would simply file for reimbursement from the taxpayers. But as the board member who chairs the budget committee that would be a pretty lame excuse.

rm023
rm022

For 7 Trustees to meet on Day #1 of this event,
how much did taxpayers spend just on meals?

 $213.92 + $497.00 = $710.92     

     $101.56  per Trustee ! 


(HCDE has conveniently  “misplaced” or “purged” the minutes of the meetings in question from 2008-2011. It will take time to go through the Texas Attorney General’s Office to acquire those records. So I can’t yet show exactly which Trustees were eating expensive meals at the taxpayer’s expense those other years.)



I don’t really care what new explanations Roy Morales might give for these documented dinners/supper/snacks at taxpayer expense. I am sick and tired of politicians who twist the truth in order to mislead taxpayers. If he won’t talk openly and honestly about something as simple as dinner, where else does he “spin” reality? Where else might he “spin” the truth to mislead  voters?

And what about his April 26, 2012 statement, “I agree with you that the taxpayers should not pay for this dinner”? If he really believes this, why has he been present at events where he feels taxpayer money should not have been used? Why is  there no record of him questioning these expenses at board meetings? And as Chairman of the HCDE Budget Committee, why is there no record of him trying to remove this type of expense from the budget? None of this adds up – at all.

All I know for sure is that the lesson I learned from our current President applies here. Don’t ever take any politician’s word as the whole truth until you have checked out his past – checked out his record. Because it is not what a politician says that matters, it is what he has actually done (not just what he remembers doing) that counts.

0 comments :

Post a Comment