This bare-chested angel statue cost the Harris County Housing Authority more than $100,000 that should have been spent on, well, housing.
By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org
HOUSTON — A former chairman of the scandalous Harris County Housing Authority, Odysseus Lanier, has lost his position as a trustee of Alabama A&M University after reports of his role in the scandal reached the Alabama governor and state Senate.
The scandal, perhaps best symbolized by a $100,000 bare-chested angel statue commissioned by the authority’s former executive director, Guy Rankin IV, left the authority practically insolvent, and led to lawsuits, a scathing audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and an ongoing investigation by the FBI.
Worse, the HCHA will likely have to repay HUD nearly $30 million, which will be hard, as it gets almost all its money from HUD in the first place.
Lanier’s alleged role in the mismanagement of HCHA comes up often in the audit and lawsuits — the most serious accusation is that he steered an $11 million contract to his firm, McConnell, Jones, Lanier, and Murphy. Lanier resigned as chairman of the HCHA just 54 days before the contract was awarded, despite a year-long waiting period in state law.
Most of the HCHA’s misdeeds were brought to light by investigative reporter Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle in 2011 and 2012. His reports attracted the HUD audit.
That audit attracted other reports, including ours. The new leadership of the HCHA is now suing Lanier and others in an attempt to get back some of the money it squandered.
An alumnus of Alabama A&M concerned about Lanier’s performance as chairman of the university’s board of trustees saw Watchdog.org’s report and asked for a hand in gathering information. We were happy to share some official records, such as the audit and local court filings. Those materials, along with a letter from Sen. Charles Grassley that cited our report, were circulated to Alabama’s state senators and governor in January.
Lanier was told he wouldn’t be reappointed last month.
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