In 2010 the WVWA spent $48,317 on legal fees, but just $29,741 on environmental education
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When all is said and done, it appears the Solyndra environmental scandal will cost every single resident of Hays County around $1.69. The Wimberley Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) led by Executive Director David Baker has cost every resident of Hays County $29.91.
While most Americans have struggled the last several years, Mr. Baker has enjoyed a 68% pay increase from 2007 to 2010.
Brief catch-up for those who have not followed this:
One of the last acts of the lame duck commissioners court in late 2010 was to spend $1.7 million of our tax dollars to buy 50 acres to stop development of a condo project near Jacob's Well. They then appointed the WVWA to be the manager for three years. WVWA then agreed to "give" the County 31 acres where the well is located.
Wow this sounds great!! But once you look a little deeper the deal is rotten.
First off, we already paid for the "donated" 31 acres – in 2008 the same commissioners court voted to give the WVWA $3 million dollars (Feb. 26, 2008 Court minutes) $2.6 million went directly to the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association to retire debt and $400,000 for future management. The $2.6 million was to bail WVWA out after they could not repay a private $2 million dollar loan on 46 acres (31 acres included in this amount) that included Jacob's Well and Baker's hotel, Dancing Waters Inn.
WVWA did give the land with the well on it to the County but kept access easements for guests of Dancing Waters Inn. The 15 acres that the County already paid for in 2008 they kept. Does this seem strange to anyone? WVWA gave up all the liability and maintenance of the well property, but kept the Inn where rooms rent for $200 to $225 per night. Dancing Waters Inn is considered a nonprofit and does not pay property tax.
The Wimberley Valley Watershed Association is a non profit, seems like someone forgot to tell David Baker. In 2010 the WVWA reported paying him $77,962. David Baker lists his residence as 1405 Mount Sharp road (according to 2010 voting records), which according to County records is owned by the WVWA. WVWA also pays electric service, trash service, and water and sewer service. I know this because WVWA submitted bills to the County to try and be reimbursed for these expenses.
There is also $10,027 for insurance, employee benefits $6,980 and travel expenses to the tune of $4,684, which is funny because he (Baker) claimed to live at the well site.
Before Baker discovered the "Non Profit" route to riches, he tried the above-mentioned Inn and at one point filed paper work to bottle and sell Jacob's Well spring water.
The reason the County had to step in and buy the 50 acres was because David Baker was once again in danger of losing the well property, for making commitments he could not honor. Tax records show in 2010 WVWA paid $50,500 to the plantiffs (Condo developers) and $35,962.00 to lawyer Malcom Harris. Malcom Harris also sits on the board of WVWA.
Of particular concern is that while David Baker was making money as an employee of WVWA he was also vice president of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD). He consistently voted against projects that would compete with his employer.
By far the most controversial decision was when David voted against Wimberley Spring Partners (WSP) re-opening an existing golf course in Wood Creek. It was learned during the HTGCD meeting that WSP had been seeking a permit for 6 years and David was the one who killed it. After a majority of the HTGCD board approved the WSP permit, WVWA filed a petition to protest. When the HTGCD denied that petition for not filing in a timely manner according to district rules, Baker and Jack Hollon (WVWA board president and long time HTGCD director) decided to sue the Groundwater district (HTGCD).
Folks, I kid you not, they are suing the district because they could not follow rules they helped write.
The $1.7 million dollar land purchase isn't the first time the County has come to the rescue. The County had to help mediate another lawsuit in July of 2008 by providing special counsel Mark Kennedy, a member of (county) Environmental Health Department, Commissioner Will Conley and County Judge Liz Sumter. This was done in Executive Session and I could find no results of the mediation.
In 2010 the WVWA spent $48,317 on legal fees, but just $29,741 on environmental education.
Why, you ask, does Baker and the WVWA protest so many things and seem so eager to sue? Simple: donations. When they are not receiving millions from the County, they solicit donations. When things are going great people don't donate, but when they create an "enemy" or a "crisis" they are able to raise more money.
Here is the truly sad part of this whole story. As has been shown, WVWA has gotten a lot of tax payer money, HTGCD also receives tax payer money, $125,000 from Commissioners Court last year.
So....The people of Hays County are paying to sue themselves.
Ladies and gentlemen, please call or write your County Commissioner and ask them not to give another penny to the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, and to remove them from managing Jacob's Well.