Clear Lake area State Representative Dennis Paul (R – Harris County) is in a bit of a pickle. On April 19, 2018, a concerned El Lago residents group in District 129 discovered that the state representative may have recommended a local mayor to a state commission in exchange for Paul’s engineering company receiving no-bid construction contracts with the city. Sounds like a quid pro quo, bro.
In late 2017, El Lago Mayor Mark Briggs was seeking a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) appointment to a commission on waste disposal. After an apparent lack of movement on the appointment, Mayor Briggs emailed his local state representative, Dennis Paul. (Page .43) According to Texas Ethics Commission campaign finance reports, Mark Briggs is a donor to Dennis Paul’s Campaign. And Paul’s firm had previously received a no-bid contract from the City of El Lago. Briggs asked Paul to push for his commission appointment. Two days later, Mayor Briggs received that appointment.
It turns out there is a paper trail on this arrangement. Via email, Rep. Paul and Mayor Briggs discussed potential projects in the city that would net positive returns for Paul Engineering — Paul, as in State Representative Dennis — Paul’s company.
City council transcripts reveal that the Mayor pushed (“Mayor comments” section 7.1.15) for contracts that would go directly to Paul Engineering and was in regular communication (P. 357) with Paul and his company Staff about the contracts.
Though Paul was able to secure the work, job performance was another matter. In February of 2018, the city liaison, Councilwoman Ann Vernon voiced (“New business” section 13.3) doubt about the efficiency of Paul Engineering’s work on McNair Park and was blatantly threatened over her questioning by the Mayor.
In April of 2018, the city council voted to terminate the contracts in place with Paul Engineering, citing the Mayor’s conflict of interest (“New business” section 13.3) with Dennis Paul. The city opted to pay for what work had been done, though no projects were completed. Paul submitted his invoices and went back to campaigning for the general election.
Dennis Paul needs to explain why he gave a local mayor a board appointment in exchange for a no-bid contract, and why his firm was later terminated from the contract. What do you say, representative? Better call Paul.