Gil Ramirez Group v. Houston Independent School District
About the Case
In early 2016, CLC joined in a lawsuit alleging widespread corruption in the awarding of contracts by the Houston Independent School District (HISD). The Legal Center joined the legal team representing a Houston construction contractor, the Gil Ramirez Group, who was locked out of the school district’s construction contracts after refusing to participate in the Board of Trustees’ widespread “pay-to-play” scheme.
The scheme revolved around payments made to HISD Board Member Larry Marshall in exchange for favorable treatment during HISD’s contracting process. Contractors would pay monthly bribes to Marshall that were hidden behind consultancy ’fees’ to Marshall’s political campaign treasurer and friend, Joyce Moss-Clay. These contractors would hire Moss-Clay for consulting services that she never performed and she, in turn, would pay Marshall up to 75 percent of the fees she received. In 2009, for example, she gave Marshall $59,175. As a result, contractors and co-defendants Fort Bend Mechanical and RHJ-JOC received contracts from the HISD in 2009 and 2010 that otherwise could have gone to the Gil Ramirez Group.
On November 16, 2016—six years after filing suit—a federal jury returned a verdict in favor of the Gil Ramirez Group, awarding over $5 million dollars in damages. The jury found that all four defendants (Marshall, Moss-Clay, Fort Bend Mechanical, and RHJ-JOC) were engaged in a conspiracy and pattern of racketeering that had unlawfully interfered with the Gil Ramirez Group’s contracts before the HISD.
What’s at Stake
This case brings into the daylight the pervasive and egregious corruption within HISD. Trustee and former HISD Board President Larry Marshall was an elected public official who, along with others at HISD, regularly abused his position of trust by placing his own interests above those of the students and employees of the school district. As a member of the Board of Education, he was charged with a duty of loyalty in overseeing the expenditures of local tax dollars, bond money and federal funds for the benefit of the students and employees of the Houston Independent School District. But since at least 1999, Mr. Marshall used his position of influence to extract bribes from companies seeking to do business and contract with the district in exchange for preferable treatment and contracts. Persons or companies who dared to interfere with HISD's pay-to-play system were terminated, forced to resign or no longer awarded contracts at HISD. CLC’s client, Gil Ramirez Group, was just one such victim of this pervasive public corruption scheme.