As the mayoral race heats up in America's 4th largest city, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is calling attention to billions of dollars worth of missing money. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's fingerprints are all over this new scandal.
The fight over $4 billion in federal flood mitigation funds is getting personal between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
13 Investigates first broke the news Friday about Abbott's announcement to give the Texas General Land Office full control of how that money is used, despite Houston hoping to receive some of it directly.
Although the city will likely receive additional help with projects to mitigate against future hurricanes or natural disasters, how much is spent and what contractors are chosen will now be done in Austin - not here.
In a tweet Monday night, Turner called the decision a "money grab by the state to spend it in places outside Houston and Harris County."
From his personal account, Abbott fired back, calling the city out for its slow progress in a separate recovery housing program aimed at helping Harvey storm victims. Despite giving Houston the ability to run its own $1.3 billion Harvey housing program on its town, it's only helped a handful of residents.
Now, the governor's spokesperson is calling for an audit of the Houston's current $1.3 billion Harvey housing recovery program.
In a statement to Oberg on Tuesday, Abbott spokesman John Wittman said Turner has a "history of misrepresenting the facts about the Harvey response."
For example, Wittman said in September 2017, Turner "demanded immediate financial assistance for Houston, predicting that the City would face dire financial consequences if it did not receive an immediate advance of funds."
Wittman says Abbott delivered $105 million in checks to Turner in advanced federal funding.
"Despite the mayor's urgent pleas two years ago, to date the city has only provided documentation for approximately $68 million which will likely result in FEMA demanding a return of the unspent money," Wittman said.
He also said Turner's office asserted the need for $2 billion in funding to rebuild damaged roads after Harvey, but reduced its estimate to $1 million after being pressed to verify the details of that request.
The GLO also told 13 Investigates on Tuesday, "It's not a money grab," adding that there are many different entities eligible for funding specifically for large-scale, high impact projects that will benefit the most people, including projects that cross county lines, not just in Houston.
The GLO has final approval over all applications. Abbott's office says the city has only submitted 107 Harvey housing applications and to date, has only reported four rehabbed homes and one home construction. The GLO, which is operating a program in 48 counties across the state, has completed construction on 176 homes and has more than 1,355 homes that are underway, according to its latest report.