Houston’s Public Works and Engineering Director Karun Sreerama, has been on paid leave for ten days and counting, following the revelation that he was the victim of a bribery scheme concocted by Houston Community College Trustee Chris Oliver.
Shortly after the story broke, Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement saying, in part, “It is against everyone’s best interest for a public servant to have to operate under a cloud, as Mr. Sreerama and I have discussed in a brief telephone call.”
“I am placing city Public Works and Engineering Director Karun Sreerama on administrative leave with pay, effective today, while I review the entire matter stemming from a federal grand jury indictment naming him as the victim of a bribery scheme.”
The only true victims in the situation are Houston taxpayers. Sreerama, appointed in March, could have spoken up or contacted public integrity divisions of any local, state, or federal law enforcement agency, and reported what was going on, but currently there is no evidence suggesting he did so.
So why are taxpayers paying his $275,000 salary when he was on the job for just four months before being placed on leave?
The fact of the matter is, Sreerama made unlawful payments to an elected official currently awaiting sentencing. Sreerama deserves the chance for his actions to be thoroughly assessed, while on leave, to determine if he remains fit to serve as the PWE director. However, taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill, at a cost of over $5,000 a week, for his paid vacation while that vetting is ongoing.