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Former aide of Houston mayor pleads guilty to bribery charge

The mayor reiterated that no one has talked to him about the allegations against William-Paul Thomas and all he knows is what has been reported by local media.

HOUSTON — A former member of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's executive team has pleaded guilty to a bribery charge, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to court documents, Wiliam Paul Thomas took cash and used his influence to help an unidentified businessman.

In May 2020, Thomas allegedly pressured a Houston Fire Department official to pass the man’s unidentified restaurant during inspection so it could get a temporary certificate of occupancy.

Then later that summer, he allegedly pressured Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officials to fast-track a permit allowing the same man’s unidentified bar to be reclassified as a “restaurant” so it could operate during COVID restrictions.

Mayor Turner said he found out about this crime when a local newspaper reached out to his office for comment Tuesday night. 

“We know nothing. No one has talked to me or my executive team. No one,” the mayor told the media at the end of Wednesday's City Council meeting. “The only thing that I know is related to William-Paul is when William-Paul sent me an email last week letting me know that he had chosen to retire. I made that email available. I have not talked to William-Paul since the Pride Parade. I have not seen William-Paul.”

Turner said he used to meet with Thomas regularly three times a week.

"His specific job was to be the mayor’s liaison in assisting working with each one of the councilmembers and quite candidly, he did an exceptional job at that," the mayor said. “The allegations that are being reported from last night, quite frankly, are out of character for the person I have come to know."

When asked about how concerned he was about the allegations, the mayor said he could not speak to what federal investigators are doing.

“If any city employee does anything wrong, contrary to policy or contrary to the law, it would be unsettling,” the mayor said.

Turner said Thomas resigned for medical reasons in an email he sent on July 26.

“He made a decision based on his email for medical reasons," Turner said. "I respect people for that and if he wanted to talk to me personally, he could have reached out to me, but I’m going to respect and give people this time and the space. But I did not expect anything else. And quite candidly, I’m surprised about the revelation here because it is out of character.”

The mayor said he had not reached out to Thomas since his resignation, but that he had intended to. He said he was dealing with his own medical issue at the same time.

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