Houston Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Michael J. Wynne speaks with KPRC as Houston Mayor’s Former Aide Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Accept Bribe
Houston mayor Sylvester Turner’s former senior aide, William-Paul Thomas, pleaded guilty to federal public corruption charges last week.
Thomas admitted on July 25 to conspiracy to accept a cash bribe in exchange for changing a bar’s classification to a restaurant, thus allowing the bar to remain open when local COVID-19 restrictions forbid bars to conduct business.
On Wednesday, a court document from the Southern District of Texas-United States District Court was unsealed detailing the corruption case against Thomas.
According to the court document, Thomas conspired with a businessman who owned two Houston companies. One was a restaurant and bar and the other a bar and nightclub. The businessman allegedly gave cash bribes to William-Paul Thomas “in order to influence and reward him for his official acts as the Director of Council Relations for the City of Houston”.
The court filing lists the following “overt acts of conspiracy”:
- In May 2020, Thomas was accused of using his influence to help the businessman get a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) for the restaurant – which requires an inspection by the Fire Marshal.
- The document states: THOMAS agreed to use his official position to exert pressure on other officials to pass COMPANY 1 at inspection and to issue COMPANY 1 at TCO, all in exchange for money.
- In June 2020, the businessman is alleged to have reached out once again to Thomas after the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) shut down his second business which was a bar and nightclub. Under local COVID-19 restrictions at the time, businesses designated as bars were not permitted to operate. The businessman allegedly asked for Thomas’s assistance in securing a permit, so the second company could reopen as a restaurant
- The document states: BUSINESSMAN 1 told THOMAS that if THOMAS put BUSINESSMAN 1′s request “ahead of everyone,” BUSINESSMAN 1 would ”take care of” THOMAS “really good.”
- On July 6, 2020, the businessman is said to have offered Thomas $13,000 to have the permit issued quickly. Thomas reportedly agreed to use his official position to pressure other officials to expedite the permit in exchange for money. The company’s permit was issued just four days later on July 10, 2020.
This incident is not the first time William-Paul Thomas has been investigated for corruption. In 2017, Thomas exchanged emails with a businessman who was offering payment of $500,000 in exchange for Thomas’s help with a business deal. According to Houston federal crimes lawyer Michael J. Wynne Thomas should have immediately called the FBI upon receipt of the email. He did not.
KPRC Channel 2 spoke with former federal prosecutor Michael J. Wynne about the current and previous corruption charges against Thomas. Follow the link below to see the full story.