FBI investigation of HCC

Any time the FBI comes to town to investigate possible corruption in your business, it’s not a good thing.

The FBI is investigating possible corruption at Houston Community College, an inquiry that appears to involve its former chief financial officer and a construction company founded by a friend.

The college has cited an ongoing law enforcement investigation as a reason it cannot release numerous records related to its former vice chancellor of finance, Gloria Walker, and the Houston construction firm RHJ-JOC, which did business with HCC.

The company was picked for a multimillion-dollar campus renovation project that later drew questions because the college did not solicit competitive bids specifically for the deal.

Walker and Eva Jackson, founder and chairwoman of RHJ-JOC, have denied wrongdoing and say they are not aware of a criminal investigation. The Houston Chronicle confirmed the FBI’s involvement with a source who has knowledge of the probe, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Texas Southern University, where Walker worked after leaving HCC in early 2008, also said it cannot release documents about Walker and RHJ, in part because of a law enforcement investigation.

FBI special agent and spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap said that under agency policy she could not confirm or deny an investigation.

Generally speaking, she said, “We take all allegations of public corruption very seriously. So if anyone has any knowledge or information regarding allegations of public corruption, we ask they come to us. Public corruption is our No. 1 criminal priority.”

I haven’t been following a lot of this stuff closely. Texas Watchdog has been all over it; see their report on interconnected ethics issues for a start. When this all breaks – it’s nearly impossible to imagine there won’t be a bunch of indictments to follow – it’s going to get ugly.

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