City of Houston

William-Paul Thomas, former Houston mayoral aide, sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy involving bribery

Thomas, 65, who worked at City Hall for more than a decade under two different mayors, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison. The details of his plea agreement remain under seal.

William-Paul Thomas (image via @wmpaulthomas)
William-Paul Thomas (image via @wmpaulthomas)

William-Paul Thomas, who worked for more than a decade as the mayor's liaison to the Houston City Council before pleading guilty to accepting a bribe from a local business owner, was sentenced to a year and one day in federal prison Monday.

The 65-year-old Thomas was given a sentence of 12 months and one day by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who also gave Thomas an additional three years of supervised release along with a $5,000 fine, according to court records. There had been multiple delays in Thomas' sentencing since he reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in July 2022 on a federal conspiracy charge.

Thomas resigned as the city's director of council relations, a role he began more than 10 years earlier during the term of former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the day after pleading guilty. According to a court document that was unsealed at the time, Thomas, in 2020, was offered thousands of dollars to use his position in city government to help a Houston business owner reclassify a bar as a restaurant so it could circumvent COVID-19 restrictions and also to help the same business owner expedite a building inspection and the issuance of an occupancy permit for a different restaurant and bar.

Thomas' defense attorney did not immediately respond to an email Monday seeking comment. Neither did the office of Mayor John Whitmire, who was elected this past December before being sworn in at City Hall at the start of this year.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which prosecuted the case, declined to comment.

Thomas' plea agreement remains under seal, as do the details surrounding a pre-sentence investigation. The names of the aforementioned business owner and companies are redacted from court records, which show that Thomas' bond conditions included refraining from contact with unnamed co-defendants or co-conspirators.

Former Mayor Sylvester Turner, who held office from 2016 through the end of 2023, said at the time of Thomas' guilty plea and resignation that had been unaware of the criminal case involving one of his top aides.

"No one on my executive team has been talked to or this subject has come up at all – literally," Turner said at the time.

According to Thomas' resignation letter, which was provided by the mayor's office, he wrote that he was retiring because of a directive from a family physician.

Prosecutors wrote in court documents that Thomas accepted things of value, including cash, in exchange for using his official position to pressure other city officials to take actions benefitting those who had offered or paid the bribe.

Thomas "was authorized to represent the mayor in all aspects of dealing with the Houston City Council, including the presentation and approval of (City of Houston) contracts, as well as the functioning and oversight of the various departments with the (City of Houston)," court documents show.