Over the past month, lawyers for Houston Community College, a taxpayer-funded institution, have twice asked a judge to seal certain internal emails, memos, or other communications if they're filed in court, arguing they fall under attorney-client privilege. At issue here is what will or won't become public in the college's legal fight against the HCC's former general counsel, Renee Byas. HCC sued Byas last summer, hoping to invalidate her contract. The college claims it fired Byas because of insubordination and problems with her contract extension (for instance, she turned in her signed copy of said contract extension to HR five days late...right), while Byas on the other hand alleges she was fired because she wouldn't play ball when trustees begged her to bend the rules for doling out contracts for the college's record $425 million bond project.
Byas' counterclaim against the college contained a number of other stunning allegations, including that she was cooperating with an ongoing FBI investigation into the college and that she even wore a wire to secretly record conversations in which trustees pressured her to "break the law." While still with the college, Byas opened an investigation into whether one particular trustee tried to improperly shuffle a $1.4 million contract to a close friend's business. Byas claims trustees regularly asked her to kill that investigation and fire the outside law firm conducting it. In fact, the day Byas was fired, HCC's board appointed another attorney to keep watch over that investigation, which ultimately concluded that there was no evidence the trustee in question did anything wrong.
The subject of that investigation was trustee Carroll Robinson (who's now running for Houston City Controller). Which is why it's so...well, interesting, that Robinson has been asking HCC to make everything related to Byas' firing public. Particularly interesting since, according to court records, Byas' attorneys plan to depose Robinson very soon.More »