Commissioners Will Let Sunset Committee Decide On Port Issue

Harris County Commissioners decide not to discuss an investigation conducted by the county attorney's office on the operation of the Port of Houston. The agency has been accused of violating state laws on open meetings and employee compensation.

The item listed on the Commissioner's Court agenda read: Transmittal of a report concerning the County Attorney’s review of the Port of Houston Authority.

Commissioner Jack Morman asked the county attorney to investigate the Port, amid allegations it was illegally holding discussions behind closed doors, engaging in conflicts of interest and misusing funds.

At first, Assistant County Attorney Doug Ray suggested that Commissioners meet in executive session to discuss the matter.

That drew this response from Commissioner Steve Radack:

Radack: "You know, part of the problem with the report was executive sessions."

Ray: "I hear ya, Commissioner, but this would be an appropriate executive session, we're very certain of that."

County Judge Ed Emmett: "All in favor, signify by Aye."

Commissioners: "Aye."

Emmett: "Any opposed?, okay. We will take item 14-D into executive session."

Later, Ray told Judge Ed Emmett and Commissioners that the executive session  was not needed after all, and the court accepted the report that implied that the Port of Houston violated the state's open meetings law.

Judge Emmett:

"There were so few specifics in the report from the county attorney, and that's why my comment has been all along. If something was illegal it shold be noted. If it wasn't illegal, but should be, then that's something that the legislature has to decide."

Emmett says he thought the county attorney's report was conducted with a broad brush.

"But with the Port Commission going through, or the entire Port Authority going through Sunset Review at the legislature, everything will be aired fully over the course of the next two years."

While the Texas Sunset Commission is reviewing port operations, Judge Emmett hopes the all the media attention will force the Houston Port Authority to change the way it operates.

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...