Houston Community College trustee censured after bribery conviction

Houston Community College’s board of trustees voted to censure District IX trustee Chris Oliver in a special meeting Thursday afternoon. The vote was unanimous although Oliver was absent from the meeting at HCC’s administrative building in Houston.

Oliver was initially charged with bribery of a public official concerning programs receiving federal funds in March and plead guilty in U.S. District Court on May 15. His conviction was announced Monday by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Abe Martinez’s office once the case was unsealed.

Oliver will be sentenced Aug. 28. In the meantime, HCC board Chairwoman Eva Loredo said Thursday that Oliver had been removed from all committee positions as trustee, but as an elected official, he could not be forcibly removed by the board.

Trustees are elected to staggered six-year terms and Oliver’s current term is set to expire this December. He cannot be reimbursed for any college-related travel or access funds in his trustee account for the remainder of the current school year, Loredo said.

“Trustee Oliver of District IX violated his ethical duty as a member of this board,” Loredo said before trustees headed into closed session to discuss the board's legal options.

District V trustee Robert Glaser and District III trustee Adriana Tamez said they were disappointed by Oliver’s actions and Glaser said the board would act expeditiously on the issue.

“I’m extremely disappointed in Mr. Oliver’s actions, extremely” Tamez said, adding she wished the board had the authority to remove him. “It’s not something that I personally tolerate for myself and for anyone else that I work with. There’s no excuse for it.”

District I trustee Zeph Capo said the problem came down to a matter of morality and ethics, and, ultimately, it would be up to voters to choose candidates for office wisely.

“It’s unfortunate that it takes an incident like this to bring this level of attention,” he said.

District II trustee Dave Wilson directed some of his criticisms back toward the board, saying previous reports in 2010 and 2011 of Oliver’s and some former trustees' possible violations of board policy regarding contract awards should have moved trustees to act sooner.

“As a board member, I have to tell you I’m embarrassed,” Wilson said. “Trustee Oliver’s actions were no surprise.”