Harris County State District Judge Steve Kirkland has soundly rejected attempts by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to hide financial records from the public.
The Rodeo had gone to court to try to block requests from Dolcefino Consulting for security records and any records of settlements for sexual assault or harassment, arguing a current rape lawsuit involving the rodeo protected it from state charity laws.
“Judge Kirkland delivered a clear message Friday morning that the rodeo isn’t the sacred cow it pretends to be, and that charity laws require them to follow the law”, says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
Dolcefino’s Investigative communications firm has already questioned the small ten percent of Rodeo donations going to student scholarships. Questions about payments to law enforcement personnel became an issue after both Houston Police and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office claimed they couldn’t find a single incident report of alleged crime at the rodeo for the entire two-week event.
“Given that the rodeo solicits donations and volunteers all throughout the Houston community and doesn’t want to open up its financial records, I find it concerning”, says Houston Attorney Ben Roberts of the Pinkerton law firm.
The Pinkerton law firm has sued the Rodeo in the rape case of Brie Ana Williams, the young women brutally assaulted during a warm up trail ride event put on by the Los Vaqueros trail ride group.
Los Vaqueros was not allowed to participate in this year’s rodeo parade, but the rape happened in 2012, and the Rodeo only pulled the plug after the lawsuit was filed and became headline news.
The rape lawsuit is probing what the Rodeo knew and when they knew it.
“Imagine that every year when March rolls around, all you hear about is the rodeo, and you hear about the trail ride and the parade coming through town…and one of the men that raped her is continuing to ride in this parade, smiling and waving to children as if nothing ever happened. It is a slap in the face and constantly reopening very deep wounds”, says Roberts.
Dolcefino Consulting has already filed a criminal complaint against the Rodeo and has also asked for records detailing lobbying expenses and details of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Caribbean and Central American Investments.
“Hopefully our District Attorney will take a message from the judge too and give the Rodeo an ultimatum, cough up the records or get charged with a crime,” says Dolcefino. “The legislature made this a crime for a very good reason. It is time for Ms. Ogg to act.”