Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Commissioner Conley had gone on record at the November 23 Commissioners Court meeting as saying that he would not change the deal to give a tax write off to the sellers
Note: This is the second story in an exclusive RoundUp series called Big Money Environmentalism in Hays County: What You Should Know by citizen journalist Lenee Lovejoy of San Marcos. Scroll down several stories to read the first report. Lovejoy has spent considerable time scouring county public records and otherwise covering her reporting bases. Here, she examines contracts and other official records to reveal more of a complex purchasing arrangement of those famous 50 acres adjacent to Jacob's Well for $1.7 million than what the tax paying public has been led to believe. It takes a fair amount of hutzpah to try to pull some of the apparent end runs we're seeing revealed in this tangled deal – and some familiar names are involved. Why are we not surprised. The taxpayers deserve more transparency and honesty in how their money is being handled, always, and especially when accompanying an iconic and revered natural water feature as Jacob's Well.
Send your comments and news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, to Ms. Lovejoy at LeneeL@centurytel.net or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story
By Lenee Lovejoy
Problems seem to have arisen with the County’s controversial deal to purchase 50 more acres for conservation near Jacob’s Well. Those close to the court say that the terms for the deal were changed after County Commissioner’s Court approved the contracts last year.
Any changes would have to be presented to Commissioners’ Court at a public meeting, and approved by at least 3 votes. If that did not occur, the deal that took place on December 20 may have been executed without the proper authorizations required to conduct County business.
The contracts that Commissioners’ Court approved last November 23, among other things, called for Hays County to buy 50.199 acres for $1,700,000 from Westridge Joint Venture, LLC, and Robert L. Haug and Vinson J. Wood.
It appears that what may have taken place, however, was the purchase of roughly 30 acres for $1,700,000. This transaction was apparently used to set a per acre value of $56,666 on the remaining 20 acres. These 20 acres would have been gifted to Hays County in a second transaction that would show up on paper as a gift worth $1,133,320.
It appears that Westridge Joint Venture, LLC has asked the county to sign an IRS document acknowledging this gift.
Other than the County Judge, very few (if any) are authorized to sign the contracts required to buy and sell land on behalf of the County. Former County Judge Liz Sumter reportedly refused to sign the contracts for the modified deal.
Final verification of all of this has not been received, but it is true that the “Assignment and Assumption Agreement” that was signed on December 16, and the various deed transfer documents signed on December 17, show the signature of County Attorney Mark Kennedy, rather than that of Judge Sumter.
The option agreement for the deal identifies Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley as the county’s designated representative. Commissioner Conley had gone on record at the November 23 Commissioners Court meeting as saying that he would not change the deal to give a tax write-off to the sellers.
Former County Judge Liz Sumter had voted against the Jacob’s Well deal last November, citing that it would use public money for private use, which was wrong; that due diligence had not been done to ensure the County’s best interests were protected, and that it involved too much liability for the County.
Judge Bert Cobb, who took office earlier this month, had gone on record as opposing the deal because the contracts did not meet the desired objective, which was to ensure the land around Jacob’s Well would be conserved. County Commissioners who voted for the deal were Mr. Conley, Debbie Ingalsbe, and former Commissioners Karen Ford and Jeff Barton.
Further controversy has arisen since certain residents of Hays County analyzed the contracts on this and previous land buys at Jacob’s Well.
More on this in the next installment.
Lenee Lovejoy is a 15 year resident of San Marcos. After 20 years working in global corporations and public education as a systems analyst and web programmer/consultant, she decided to make a change. Today she runs a ranch with her husband and has her own web design/consulting business.
Posted by RoundUp Editor at 6:07 PM