Former HISD official accused of kickback scheme

Houston Independent’s School District’s former chief operating officer took kickbacks from a landscaping contractor over a series of projects the landscaper never performed, according to court documents.

A federal civil asset forfeiture complaint filed Friday alleged that HISD COO Brian Busby conspired to pay an unidentified landscaping contractor for services at the school district that were never performed.

The news was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

According to the complaint, the contractor was tasked with providing lawn and landscaping services for HISD, such as renovating athletic playing fields. But Busby allegedly approved payments for no-show work, in exchange for secret cash payments.

The work was sometimes instead performed by HISD employees, according to the complaint.

As part of the alleged scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said the contractor wrote checks from his business account to subcontractors and other people, only to have them cash the checks and give the money write back.

During a Feb. 27 raid, federal agents seized more than $90,150 in cash from Busby’s home in Cypress and another $95,874 in cash from the contractor.

Members of the FBI and IRS were seen carrying boxes and containers from the HISD Hattie Mae White administrative building, along with a desktop computer, and it was later revealed that agents investigated Busby’s northwest Houston home.

Busby’s role at HISD included overseeing an annual operating budget of more than $260 million. He was not offered a contract for the 2020-2021 school year, but was employed through Aug. 31, according to HISD.

In an email, HISD officials said the district was not a party to the civil litigation, but that the district was cooperating with federal law enforcement.