A federal judge ruled that a former Houston ISD trustee, who was found guilty of bribery, cannot seek respite under the Texas Education Code’s provision that limits the amount of money a school district employee can be liable for while operating on behalf of the district.

In November, Larry Marshall was convicted under the federal racketeering law. Earlier during the case, Texas Scorecard reported that HISD was saddling taxpayers with a hefty portion of the cost of his legal defense.

The claim was brought against Marshall for accepting bribes from construction contractors in exchange for awarding them district contracts while he presided over the board. The company that brought about the suit, Gil Ramirez Group, was eventually awarded nearly $5 million in damages under two separate claims.

Even though HISD used taxpayer money to defend the Marshall, they were quick to distance themselves after the judgement, saying that since they were no longer a party to the suit, they were not liable for any part of the damages. Since that time, the Houston Press has reported that the defense fees paid by HISD crept up to $1.5 million.

Under the Texas Education Code, liabilities for school employees are limited to $100,000, but the judge refused to allow that cap to be placed on this case. Although the final order has yet to be signed, Marshall is expected to appeal the case.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.