HOUSTON – Special jobs for special people funded through public dollars inside the City of Houston is a practice KPRC 2 Investigates has exposed on multiple occasions during Mayor Sylvester Turner’s tenure.

Recently, KPRC 2 Investigator Amy Davis revealed it happening inside the city’s Department of Public Works. However, over the last five years the investigates team also has exposed the same kind of behavior inside the Houston Airport System.

In all the cases we uncovered, there is a connection to city leadership and now in the final weeks of the Turner administration, we have identified yet another example the practice with a familiar name to our previous investigations tied to it.

However, first a recap of the two most well- known cases Houstonians are aware of, Maricela Kruseman and Marvin Agumagu.

First up is Kruseman, a special friend to Airport Director Mario Diaz, “I was close to Maricel and I gave her that job because I think she could do the best job and I was right.”

The job was Director of Harmony in the Air, which is the airport system’s live music program. Diaz also recently admitted he signed off on Kruseman’s position in 2014 when the two were an item, “Yes I was in a relationship,” said Diaz.

Kruseman even kept the newly created gig after it was discovered she misled the city with false credentials.

Even though Diaz’s girlfriend suddenly had a nice new career in the airport system that he runs with public dollars, Diaz to this day asks, “Tell me how I’m being benefitted?”

Now two years after our investigation also showed Diaz approving Kruseman’s travel and signing off on her expenses, the airport director recently claimed he had prior approval to give Kruseman by Mayor Annise Parker even though they were — in Diaz’s words — “in a relationship.”

It should be noted that there was no paperwork provided by the City of Houston when they turned over Kruseman’s personnel file upon request to KPRC 2 Investigates over two years ago. A former member of Parker’s executive team also disputes Diaz’s sudden claim saying there never was any approval provided by Parker for Diaz to hire his girlfriend.

Then there is the $95,000 dollar a year intern, Marvin Agumagu.

KPRC 2 Investigates revealed his lucrative position back in 2019. We asked Mayor Sylvester Turner at the time about Agumagu and he quickly distanced himself from the intern, “I have no idea who you are talking about,” said Turner.

On two occasions, Mayor Turner denied knowing Agumagu even though he went on the record and praised the intern by name during his time in the Mayor’s office in a previous interview. Mayor Turner also signed off on the creation of Agumagu’s nearly $100K-a-year-internship. The internship came with an additional perk, after one year Agumagu could decide on his own whether or not he wanted to stay on as an employee and continue working closely along with Diaz and his leadership team.

As we clearly showed in our investigation, Agumagu’s internship all started with Diaz receiving an email from his supervisor Andy Icken asking, “Could you develop a position?”

Which now brings us to the latest chapter we uncovered and Icken’s personal interests in our city’s airports. Like previous cases this one also involves someone special, Icken’s son-in-law Roger Hebert.

Hebert is listed by HAS as a Senior Manager working for a contractor involved with the Houston Spaceport and the redevelopment of the International Terminal at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The latter experiencing massive delays and cost overruns.

The bottom line in this case, a son-in-law with a very powerful father-in-law who just happens to hold the title of Chief Development Officer for the City of Houston ended up in the city’s airport system. In his role within Mayor Turner’s inner circle, Icken not only oversees Director Diaz, but also billions in construction dollars tied to the airport system and its outside contractors.

Icken has been deeply involved in other investigations KPRC 2 Investigates has uncovered, including one where he was the recipient of a $500,000 offer emailed by an airport concessionaire to get Mayor Turner’s assistance to close a private land deal valued by one group of prospective buyers at $348 million dollars. Emails the city provided showed the offer was discussed with Icken according to another city director.

For weeks we emailed Icken multiple times about his son-in-law’s employment. He did not want to answer our specific questions until he had no option but to do so after we caught up with him following a recent political event.

When asked how long Hebert has been working inside the Houston Airport System, Icken, arms folded, quickly said, “I don’t know, you’ll have to talk to his employer about that.” When reminded that Hebert is his son-in-law and yet he wasn’t aware of when he started at the airport, Icken said “He’s changed jobs. I don’t know how it’s happened.”

Three days after our interview, Icken emailed a statement to KPRC 2 Investigates through Mayor Turner’s spokesperson admitting his son-in-law landed at the airport in 2017 with a company named Parsons. This is the same company that in 2016, Icken signed off on a $22 million dollar deal tied to the Houston Airport System.

Since then KPRC 2 Investigates has identified tens of millions more in construction contracts involving Parsons with Icken signing off on the deals, providing his own personal seal of approval.

When KPRC 2 Investigates asked Icken what he had to say to Houstonians about special individuals being hired with special jobs in the airport system with ties to high-ranking city leadership, whether it be Maricela Kruseman, Marvin Agumagu or his son-in-law Roger Hebert, Icken admitted Hebert wound up employed by Parsons after he applied with the city, “I.. I.. Mario, he earned whatever he earned, he replied for a posting position and then he ended up with a different employer than the city.”

Mayor-Elect John Whitmire already is weighing in to what KPRC 2 Investigates uncovered, “They won’t be allowed in my administration,” said Whitmire who went on to add, “It ought to end, it should have never started and it won’t happen with me. I’m not about that.”

City Hall insiders expect Whitmire to request the resignations of all current City of Houston Directors the moment he takes office. Several will be allowed to reapply with possibly only a handful holding onto their positions.

KPRC 2 Investigates plans to watch developments involving Icken and Diaz under Whitmire’s leadership closely to say if the new Mayor stays true to his word, “There is not going to be the conflicts of interests that we are witnessing.”

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