All eyes are on the Fort Bend County Commissioner Precinct 4 race after incumbent Ken DeMerchant was unseated from his position after getting 14 percent of the vote in the March primary. Only 148 votes led candidate Neeta Sane to a first-place standing in the race, with second place candidate Dexter McCoy close behind.
With one month left until the May 24 runoff election, both candidates must make their case to voters. Nevertheless, after questions from residents on the Fort Bend County Facebook page and a candidates forum in Richmond, many voters are questioning Sane’s true intentions in the race.
Precinct 4 covers Mission Bend, Rosenberg, Richmond, Beasley, and Kendleton — all areas Sane does not live according to the Fort Bend County appraisal district website.
Nonetheless, Sane said she has a couple of residences in the precinct despite reports showing Sane also serves as a Brightwater Homeowners Association board member, a subdivision located in Precinct 3 with leadership from Republican Commissioner Andy Meyer.
“I’ve had a couple of residences, and I’ve always served all capacities all across Fort Bend and Greater Houston,” Sane told the Signal. “I’m able to serve in every capacity. In every possible way. Which has been my focus all along. Fifteen years in public service.”
Sane also said she would continue to serve on the HOA Board if elected commissioner. While the court doesn’t have a rule requiring commissioners live in their precincts, McCoy said Precinct 4 residents deserve better.
“Fort Bend is a large, very diverse community, and the needs of Missouri City where my opponent lives are different than the needs of my community,” McCoy told The Signal. “We deserve someone who actually lives here, who knows the people here and understands the issues that we face. I and many of the other residents in Precinct 4 take offense to the notion that no one who actually lives in Precinct 4 is good enough to speak up for us. It’s this sort of arrogance from career politicians like my opponent that has left women, people of color, and young people behind.”
Before the District 4 County Commissioner’s race, Sane was defeated by Carmen Turner in a race for the Fort Bend County Tax Assessor position in 2020.
Sane’s background also includes a 12-year term as a trustee on the board of Houston Community College representing Alief and Fort Bend. Rumors of political corruption hit the board after HCC former acting Chancellor Renee Byas sued the college for wrongful termination.
According to court records, Byas said HCC trustees, including Sane, allegedly asked her to change the college’s procurement rules to give their political allies/friends contracts in a $425 million public bond project. Under the HCC Blackout policy at the time, trustees were forbidden to speak to firms seeking contracts in any way and couldn’t discuss pending contracts with school officials.
Records also show Sane, then-board chair, allegedly approached Byas numerous times, asking her to change the practices and also allegedly showed her a list of people supposed to “get” contracts. Byas said she rejected the board’s constant illegal requests, recorded all unethical interactions, and eventually became a whistleblower for the Federal Bureau of Investigation after she reported trustees were using bond money as a public slush fund.
Six months later, Byas was fired and HCC records show Sane voted in favor of firing Byas.
Despite the board citing insubordination for Byas’s removal, in 2015, HCC settled the case, and taxpayers paid Byas $500,000 and her attorneys $350,000. The back and forth legal battle cost HCC over $1 million dollars in fees resulting in a $2 million dollar taxpayer tab.
“Eight years ago, the institution as a whole had challenges; I’m very glad that the institution as a whole did conduct a thorough investigation on the whole institution, and justice prevailed. Bad actors were taken out, and we other people were given a clean bill of health,” Sane said. “Only thing I can say is hearsay, and I’m not going to focus on that at all.”
In response, McCoy said accepting offers, bribes, or kickbacks is against his morals as a progressive leader.
“Certain people believe that they are entitled to work just because they have contributed to certain leaders, and I have completely rejected that,” McCoy said. “I have been clear with folks who have supported me financially in this campaign. I’ve said to them you’re supporting me, and you’re supporting this campaign because you believe in what we’re trying to do. This doesn’t at all in any way, shape, or form guarantee you any sort of business relationship.”
The early voting day for this election is May 16, 2022.