Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner placed the city’s public works director on leave after his alleged involvement with a Houston Community College trustee indicted for bribery came to light in court records.
“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,” Turner said in an e-mailed statement.
Sreerama gave HCC trustee Chris Oliver payments of more than $77,000, court records allege. Sreerama made the payments thinking his company wouldn’t get contracts with HCC without it, his lawyer said.
According to Sreerama’s attorney, Chip Lewis, Trustee Oliver approached Sreerama three times asking for money. At the first meeting, Oliver allegedly told Sreerama he was going through a divorce and could not pay expenses for two households. Sreerama allegedly loaned Oliver thousands of dollars after that meeting. It was never paid back.
“Because I was not aware of the federal case until this week, which is when the indictment was revealed, I am taking this action so that I may thoroughly review the information to make sure there are no further related implications for the city and him,” Turner said. “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 continue to have confidence in Karun and look forward to his return.”
At a second meeting, Lewis told ABC13 Investigates that Oliver explained he was adopting a child and needed to have a particular balance in his bank accounts. Lewis says Sreerama again gave Oliver thousands of dollars.
The third time, Sreerama agreed to hire Oliver’s construction site clean-up company to sweep a strip mall for Sreerama.