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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kerrville Railroad Commision rams through $9M bond issue for Cailloux athletic complex

I call it the Railroad Commission because they railroaded a fraudulent ordinance through by misrepresenting the nature and legality of the contract that is would fund.
The City Council voted 3-1 last night (Bonnie White dissenting) to issue $9,000,0000 in debt obligations, supposedly to acquire an athletic field in some supposedly undetermined location. Mayor Jack Pratt struggled comically to claim that the debt has nothing to do with the contract the city signed to buy 105 acres south of Holdsworth Dr. for $9,000,000. Under the contract, the seller, Cailloux Foundation Properties, LLC, a Texas limited liability company, would construct baseball fields, buildings and so on. But Pratt claimed the bond deal was "not tied to any specific contract," and the approved funds could be used to build a a project "anywhere by anybody."

When Bonnie White moved to postpone voting on the bond until the city gets an opinion from the Attorney General on the contract's legality, Pratt shut down any debate, claiming that the bond issue had nothing to do with the Cailloux deal.

I commented on the illegality of the whole deal - the contract violates the Local Govt. Code requirements that a city obtain competitive bids for any construction contract, and obtain an independent appraisal on the land. Pratt admitted that he approved the contract without first getting an independent appraisal. When I pressed him on it, he got very defensive, about like he does when his claims to be a badass Special Forces operator who did five tours in Vietnam, when he was in fact a personnel clerk. He made these claims to get elected, which raises the possibility that he violated the Stolen Valor Act by profiting from his false claims. See Kerrville mayor accused of inflating his Vietnam service record.

He even made the wall of shame at This Ain't Hell but You Can See it From Here:

Pratt claimed that the appraisal paid for by Cailloux was an independent appraisal. When challenged, he said, "Mr. Ellison, I'm going to give you this answer. You have threatened to sue the city, and I'm not going to answer that question because of possible legal proceedings." It reminded me of a criminal suspect taking the fifth.

The silver lining, if there is one, is that the mayor and council members publicly stated on the record that they will not spend any of the money until they get the AG's opinion. Even so, they have committed the city to a huge liability, which may well limit its ability to borrow for projects that are necessary or at least beneficial to the city, something that might bring in some good jobs and increase the tax base.

One more interesting item - Councilman Gary Stork commented that before the meeting that Mike Hayes, the city attorney, had been emailing council members about the bond issue. Does this violate the  Open Meetings Act? 

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