According to reports, the City of Houston's Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation into the bribery case that could implicate Houston Fire Department or city permitting employees.
This comes after William Paul Thomas, a top aide to Mayor Sylvester Turner, pleaded guilty in a federal criminal conspiracy investigation. Thomas announced he was retiring for health reasons just weeks before being charged in the federal case.
Recently unsealed court documents show Thomas admitted to accepting a cash bribe in exchange for changing a bar’s classification to a restaurant during the COVID lockdowns.
These developments led to a tense exchange between the Mayor and local television reporter. Turner was asked if he questioned Thomas about why he was suddenly retiring.
"No, I did not. He expressed retiring for medical reasons, and quite frankly, I can relate to that because your medical situation can change on a dime. I can personally attest to that," the mayor replied.
Turner was then asked if anyone at all on his team reached out to Thomas, who had worked for the city for 15 years.
When he said he had chosen to retire for medical reasons, I respected that. I didn't reach out to him at that point. I intended to reach out but, quite frankly, I've been tending to my own medical situation. Now, if that was not the case, I probably would have reached out sooner. I did not expect anything else and quite candidly, I'm surprised in the revelation here because it is out of character," Turner said.
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That led to a question about last year's accusation of corruption by a former city official.
"That's unfair because you're dealing with something that no action has taken place. One person can make an allegation, and all of you jump to conclusions and take that person's word. Then what does that say about where we are in society, because there have been many people who have made allegations about other folk that turned out to be false," the mayor fired back. "I am not going to let you sit here and try to tie things together where there's no connection and no basis. That's poor journalism."