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Education News

Lawsuit: HCC Trustees Wanted To Steer Contracts To Friends, Family

Former HCC general counsel says she was fired for talking to FBI.



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State of the College address
In January, HCC’s acting chancellor Renee Byas gives the 2014 State of the College address.

Back in January, Houston Community College held its annual state of the college address.

Politicians, community members and business people had breakfast while they listened to speeches.

In her speech, acting chancellor and general counsel Renee Byas gave an update on the college’s bond program. At $425 million, it’s the largest in HCC’s history.

“The bond passage will provide each of HCC’s six colleges with new or renovated facilities and the technology to meet student needs,” she said.

These were her public comments.

But in private, that same month Byas says she was talking with the FBI.

She says they contacted her first. But she had her own serious concerns about the bond program, in particular how some HCC trustees wanted to award contracts.

That’s according to a new lawsuit filed this week.

In the whistle-blower lawsuit, Byas claims trustees wanted bond-related contracts to go to their friends, family and supporters.

The lawsuit alleges that she was fired in August as general counsel in retaliation for talking to the FBI.

High-profile Houston attorney Rusty Hardin is representing the ousted chancellor.

“Some of these trustees believed it was their right to hand it out to whomever they wanted, because of relationships with them, and that’s just intolerable conduct in the public, the body politic,” Hardin said.

“Somebody like Renee who brings it to both law enforcement and the public’s attention shouldn’t be fired for it, she should be saluted for it,” he added.

Byas claims she was also pressured to loosen strict procurement rules. She is seeking unspecified damages.

HCC declined to comment for this story. The FBI also declined to comment.