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Houston Schools May Duck RICO Allegations

HOUSTON (CN) - A contractor must fix deficiencies in its claims that a school board member awarded construction jobs to supporters, a federal judge ruled.

The Gil Ramirez Group says it was one of a handful of contractors chosen to bid on and perform construction and repair jobs for the Houston Independent School District.

But the contractor alleges that the process changed when Lawrence Marshall became president of the district's board of trustees in January 2009.

Marshall ensured that his political donors received contracts with the school district, according to the complaint. When superintendent Dr. Abe Saavedra allegedly refused to go along with Marshall's choice of contractors, Marshall forced the official to resign, the complaint states.

David Medford, the operator of Fort Bend Mechanical, and Eva Jackson, the owner of RHJ-JOC, were two donors who contributed to Marshall's campaign and secured school district work for their respective companies, the Gil Ramirez Group says.

The contractor claims that its competitors funnel their bribe money to Marshall through his business, Marshall & Associates, and through JM Clay and Associates, a business run by Marshall's campaign treasurer, Joyce Moss Clay.

The Gil Ramirez Group and Gil Ramirez Jr. filed a federal RICO complaint against Houston ISD; Marshall; Marshall & Associates; Clay; JM Clay and Associates; Medford; Fort Bend Mechanical; FBM Management; Jackson; and RHJ-JOC.

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison dismissed several claims against Medford, Fort Bend Mechanical, and FBM Management on Thursday.

Ellison also ordered the plaintiffs to sort out which of them was suing which defendant for each cause of action.

An amended complaint is due within 20 days of the Nov. 15 order.

"In light of the fact that this case was filed in 2010, the court may not find it appropriate to grant plaintiffs additional opportunities to address defects in their pleadings," Ellison concluded.

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