A former trustee with Houston Community College has been sentenced to 70 months in federal prison for accepting bribes of more than $225,000 to steer business contracts to the school.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Houston says in a news release that Chris Oliver, 53, of Houston, received the prison term after pleading guilty last year to bribing a public official.
The Houston Chronicle reports that prosecutors presented evidence that between 2009 and 2016, Oliver received 69 bribe payments totaling $225,259 from at least four people seeking contracts with the college.
U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa Gilmore ordered Oliver to pay a $12,000 to the FBI for bribes that were paid by an informant with funds from the FBI. Oliver also will be required to serve a one-year term of supervised release after completing his prison term.
Oliver had been on the community college board for more than 20 years before resigning. He pleaded guilty last May.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Gilmore asked Oliver if his conduct was “standard procedure” for college trustees and asked if the college was a "cesspool."
“The line is definitely blurred,” he told her. “You don’t come from wealth. You’re in an elected position. Things are thrown at you.”
Houston Community College says it has put in place additional procedures to detect misconduct, including requiring that contacts between vendors, their agents, trustees or college employees and a vendor proposal evaluation committee member be reported to the college's chancellor and compliance officer.
Also, in the future, vendors who obtain contracts with the college now must annually provide updated conflict of interests disclosures, the college says.
“I am disappointed about what the former trustee has done, but actions have consequences and I believe justice has been served,” says Board Chair Eva Loredo. “Our goal is to put in place the strongest anti-corruption measures possible. We are committed to ensuring that the future is one that is worthy of our students and the community we serve."