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Must reads: Texas watchdog journalism roundup for Feb. 14, 2018

Fatal fire in San Antonio
Credit: San Antonio Express-News

Welcome to the latest installment of the Texas watchdog journalism roundup, a showcase of hard-hitting investigative stories in Texas that uncovered hidden facts, held officials accountable and demonstrated why journalism matters.

State investigation contradicts fire chief’s early claims about fatal fire | The San Antonio Express-News

A fire marshal’s investigation of the deadly blaze that killed San Antonio firefighter Scott Deem last year reached conclusions that contradicted early assertions by Chief Charles Hood, who claimed the Fire Department had followed national safety standards. State investigators disagreed. Story by John Tedesco

Anonymous web of companies controls 130 Victoria properties | The Victoria Advocate

More than 100 troubled properties in Victoria County are owned by an opaque network of nonprofit organizations that falsely claim to provide free rent for residents. The Victoria Advocate investigated the anonymous owners by digging through corporate records, lawsuits and nonprofit tax filings. Story by Marina Riker

Another Harris County building flagged for fire code violations | The Houston Chronicle

The Houston Fire Marshal has flagged at least two county-owned buildings for fire code violations. “Red warning stickers were posted on the glass entry doors to the former jail this week after the Houston Chronicle began questioning safety at the nearby Harris County Family Law Center, a building that was pressed into service after Hurricane Harvey despite not having sprinkler systems or sufficient exits.” Story by Brian Rogers

LaHood once defended clients accused of sexually assaulting children | The San Antonio Express-News

Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood accused a political opponent of seeking business from child abusers as a defense lawyer. But a review of court records shows that LaHood represented the same type of clients when he was a defense lawyer. Story by Brian Chasnoff

What does it take to get fired from the City of Houston? | KHOU 11

Houston employees rarely face severe discipline

A review of thousands of Houston personnel records reveals that few city employees are fired for goofing off or screwing up on the job. KHOU 11 found out the city’s philosophy is “discipline without punishment.” Story by Jeremy Rogalski

Authorities arrest woman accused of stealing thousands of dollars in land scam | KSAT 12

After an investigation by KSAT 12, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office arrested Amanda Manzo, who was accused of operating a land scam and duping people out of thousands of dollars. Victims claim Manzo sold them properties that were never on sale. Story by Tiffany Huertas

Houston-area officials approved a plan for handling a natural disaster — then ignored it | The Texas Tribune and ProPublica

A review of thousands of emails obtained through open records requests reveals that Harris County had adopted a “Mass Shelter Plan” before Hurricane Harvey that could have helped 10,000 displaced residents — if anyone had followed its recommendations. Story by Jessica Huseman and Decca Muldowney

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