HOUSTON (Covering Katy News)— Houston Community College Trustee Dave Wilson has filed suit against the Houston Community College System, alleging it illegally acquired property for a future Katy campus.
Wilson’s lawsuit, filed Thursday, also alleges the district will use bond money to pay for the project, which falls outside district taxation boundaries.
Trustees last month approved a plan to purchase 24 acres of land near the University of Houston Katy campus that is currently under construction at the northeast corner of I-10 and the Grand Parkway. Trustees also approved a three-year purchase option to acquire an adjoining 30 acres.
The property that will be purchased is at 228 Colonial Parkway, just north of the intersection of Grand Parkway and Colonial Parkway.
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Five of the nine trustees voted for the plan. Wilson and Robert Glaser voted against it. Dr. Pretta VanDible Stallworth and Neeta Sane abstained. Wilson said an illegal “rolling quorum” was used to build support and ensure passage of the plan. A rolling quorum is when trustees discuss policy outside of public meetings, even though not all members of the quorum are present.
“We’re going to be looking for e-mails, text messages,” Wilson said of the forthcoming discovery phase. “We’re going to have an opportunity to do a little research and that’s where we’ll find the incriminating e-mails.”
Wilson’s lawsuit said if the board proposes to enter into a contract to acquire property, it must publish notice of intent to enter into a contract no less than 60 days before the date set to approve contract execution. Such notice must appear in a newspaper with general circulation in the area. The notice is necessary so citizens if desired, can circulate a petition requiring a referendum on whether the proposed contract can be approved.
Keith Alexander Gross, Wilson’s attorney, said that he and Wilson last week provided a draft of the lawsuit to system officials and requested proof that such notice appeared. Gross and Wilson said they received no response.
“It was obvious they didn’t do it,” Wilson said.
The lawsuit alleges that approximately $35 million, or 64%, of the $55 million for the plan will come through bonds. Wilson said the system would charge students using the Katy building a $19/credit hour building use fee to offset costs. If this were implemented, he said, HCC tuition would be higher than Lone Star College tuition.
In describing his lawsuit, Wilson used the analogy of Texas state taxes being used for building roads in Arkansas.
“I don’t want to spend Houston Community College taxpayer money for a facility that’s not within the district,” Wilson said. “It’s not only unfair but immoral, taking taxpayer money from one jurisdiction and spending it elsewhere.”
This is not the first time that Wilson has filed suit against the district. Harris County District Clerk records show that Wilson has filed suit five times since 2011.
Wilson was elected a trustee, a non-paying position, in 2014. His district comprises much of northwest and northeast Houston.
Wilson’s seat is up for election in November. He said he’s seeking another term and joked that it would be the most expensive race for a community college trustee seat. Still, Wilson said, he would win his race.
Efforts to reach a spokesperson for HCC for reaction to Wilson’s claims were unsuccessful.
NOTE: Houston Community College is a Covering Katy sponsor.