Council drama (real and fake) plays out over The One's lucrative contract

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Today’s City Council meeting had two types of theatrics, one of which we are not accustomed to seeing under Mayor Bill White. There was the very real drama of a councilmember who dared to defy the mayor, and prevailed despite a rare council vote on the matter of upholding a tag, and the very fake drama of “change agent” Gerry Fusco (aka The One) threatening to take his gifts from God right on to the next savior-seeking client as a result of the delay in approving his lucrative contract.

Self-described change agent Gerry Fusco

Earlier reporting indicated that Mayor White had cut a deal with Fusco for $208,000 for roughly six months of consulting. $49,500 was paid on a no-bid contract that didn’t require Council approval so The One could get started right away, with the rest of the contract to be approved later by Council*. Recently, the amount was reduced, so Mayor White was hoping to have the remainder of the new contract — $135,000 over the next five months — approved at today’s meeting.

Councilmember Jolanda Jones gummed up The Houston Way, so to speak, when she put a “tag” on the matter, a prerogative of councilmembers that delays a vote until the next Council meeting. The councilmember indicated that she (like many of us!) had questions about Fusco and the contract that had not been answered satisfactorily. As Bradley Olson reported for the Chronicle, this led to some very real drama:

White, who appeared irritated in the meeting, urged council members to override the tag, saying that it would send “the wrong signal” to Fusco and many other corporate officials he’s attempted to bring into the city.

[snip]

Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck proposed that [Jones’] tag be overridden, but that vote failed to capture the required 10 votes, with several council members stating they did not want to create a precedent for overriding tags.

Fusco’s current lucrative deal will expire on Friday. Since Council is not meeting next week, that means that he won’t be paid further for at least two weeks.

And that brings us to the very fake “drama” that also played out today.

Fusco has won over some — but certainly not all**, BARC activists, who seem happy enough finally to have someone doing something for an agency that has been neglected through most of Bill White’s tenure. Some of the pro-Fusco activists were, predictably, upset at the notion that Fusco might walk away from the situation in frustration.

Indeed, The One seems to have done quite a good job spreading the word around (dare we say “leaking”) that he would walk away if certain councilmembers continued to ask tough questions about his contract and of him. KRIV-26’s Isiah Carey has posted a “resignation” letter, dated 1 September 2009, that Fusco apparently offered the media (or is that the City?), that actually chided the entity that just gave him $49,500:

After Council meeting yesterday, it was obvious to me that the City does not recognize what a Change Agent does nor is ready to commit to BARC as I originally was led to believe it was. Although my hours billed do not remotely reflect my contributions to BARC over these past 5 weeks, the focus continue to be on my Contract not on the results I have committed to over the next several months.

The undermining of the ICS Team was never more evident to me than at Council yesterday and I do not think an outside source, including a new Bureau Chief, can be successful under these circumstances. I trust you will see, Stephen, that more change and support is needed than that being provided. Without that recognition and acknowledgement, I fear BARC will not become what so many know it can.

As per our Agreement, please accept this as my official 5 day written notice of the termination of our Agreement

After Councilmember Jones called The One’s bluff today, and the White/Clutterbuck tandem was unable to override her tag, Fusco unsurprisingly noted that he would, nonetheless, stay on, while Council works through its “parliamentary procedure” and resolves his contract issue. Those details are at the bottom of Carey’s post.

Why would anyone expect anything else? After collecting nearly $50,000 for a month’s work, what kind of crazy fool would push away from another $135,000 promised by a mayor who almost always eventually gets his way? Two weeks isn’t much of a delay for THAT kind of gravy train, especially during a recession, and Mr. Fusco doesn’t strike us as a fool when it comes to promoting himself and collecting the cash.

Fusco was never walking away from this gravy train. He’ll just have to wait two weeks for his lucrative deal to be approved. So concludes the fake part of today’s “drama.”

Photo of Gerry Fusco via Gerry Fusco Consulting.

BLOGVERSATION: Hair Balls, Lose an Eye, It’s a Sport, Noah’s Ark PAC.

* How the promise of future work in excess of $50,000 doesn’t exceed the mayor’s legal authority is something that is not clear, but I’m a political scientist, not a lawyer.
** From reading the Chron’s one-sided coverage, one might think that all BARC activists are backing Fusco and this less-than-transparent deal, but that simply isn’t the case. Activists from Noah’s Ark PAC and No Kill Houston have expressed skepticism over Fusco and his contract.

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Kevin Whited
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