The Houston veteran charity Helping a Hero wants a State District Judge to help them keep their financial records secret from the public, who has donated millions to help wounded war veterans.
Tomorrow morning at 9 AM, in the 113th District Court of Judge Michael Landrum, Helping a Hero will try to gain a protective order to block review of 2014 financial records by Dolcefino Consulting.
Dolcefino Consulting, an investigative communications firm here in Houston has been probing the financial practices of Helping a Hero since 2013 at the request of disabled war heroes and their families.
In April 2014 Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson told the charity to comply with Texas non-profit laws and the charity did release years of financial records. Many of the expenditures had no accompanying receipts or explanations of what the expenditures were for.
The Dolcefino Consulting probe began after veterans and former charity board members complained about secrecy by the founder of the charity Meredith Iler. In December 2014 Dolcefino Consulting filed an updated request to examine spending after news reports last year.
Helping a Hero claimed they sought a legal opinion from the Texas Attorney General but months later Dolcefino Consulting discovered the Attorney General claimed no record of the request.
On May 13th, Helping a Hero went to court to seal records of how they spent millions in your donations.
“ I think every Texas charity should welcome people to come in and see how they spend money and that is exactly why we have the law”, says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “Helping a Hero is raising money on behalf of war heroes and they are worried what we will see. That is a giant red flag.”
Helping a Hero claims Dolcefino Consulting asked for the records on behalf of the Pinkerton Law Firm, representing a former veteran and his wife in another lawsuit against the charity.
“ I continue to work for these veterans because my family owes them gratitude for their sacrifice, says Dolcefino.” Helping a Hero wants to use these guys and their injuries to get donations, and then treat them poorly. Didn’t they suffer enough for us”.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County has confirmed that it will be “re-running the numbers” for the Post Oak dedicated bus lane ridership projections reports Roxanna Asgarian of the Houston Business Journal:
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County has confirmed that it will be “re-running the numbers” for the Post Oak dedicated bus lane ridership projections.
As Uptown Houston District prepares for the controversial project’s groundbreaking next week, which Mayor Annise Parker is slated to attend, vocal critics are taking aim at projected ridership numbers they say are out-of-date and inaccurate. read more
A major development in the controversial plan to tear up Post Oak Blvd for exclusive bus lanes.
Metro Chairman, Gilbert Garcia is announcing the transit agency will re-examine the numbers that Uptown has been using to justifying the need for the project.
Studies by an Uptown contractor claims more than 14,000 people will be using buses to Uptown by 2018, just two and a half years from now, even though that number now is now about 5 percent of that. That number is also based on the theory that by 2018 Park and Ride lots will be overflowing with cars, even though some of them are only at 10 percent capacity.
An investigation from Dolcefino Consulting has proven the numbers are just wrong.
One easy example, Uptown claims its study proves more than 1,000 people will be taking the 285 bus from Katy by then. One major problem, that bus route has now been discontinued because of low ridership.
The Uptown numbers also claim nearly half of the riders will suddenly materialize, not from Uptown workers, but from shoppers. Those shoppers already have a bus to use to get in and out of Post Oak. One bus and it’s rarely full. Now they want to spend taxpayer’s money on at least 14 buses travelling up and down Post Oak every six minutes?
Uptown has even refused to conduct a study of major employers along the street to gauge interest in the bus plan. Why?
“I will tell you why, because Uptown knows what employers have been trying to tell them, says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. Their workers don’t want to first drive to a Park and Ride lot, and then take two buses to get to work, and then do the same thing at the end of a long day.”
“This isn’t a battle between people who want mass transit and those who don’t. This is a battle to save jobs, taxpayer money and to stop projects that are unneeded and smell like self-dealing,” says Dolcefino.
Uptown Chairman, Kendall Miller has been the biggest cheerleader of the plan to tear up Post Oak and widen it to accommodate two exclusive bus lanes. That widening will force Uptown to spend more than 40 million dollars paying landowners for their right of way.
Guess who gets a big chunk of that money? Guess who benefits if the construction kills the shopping centers, paving the way for more high-rise construction? Guess who benefits from all the expansion of utility lines being done for the project?
Miller and two other Uptown Board members disclosed potential financial conflicts with the project early this year, even though they lobbied for federal and state grant money, and city council approval without disclosing conflicts. Other board members in Uptown have yet to disclose their potential financial benefits from the project.
“I have heard defenders of Uptown say it is hard to avoid conflicts because they are property owners, but that is why we have disclosure,” says Dolcefino. “And now we know the Uptown Board is nothing more than a rubber stamp selection process that fits the definition of a sham.”
Miller and his mom both serve on the Uptown Board.
Dolcefino Communications got the word out about the oyster battle in Galveston Bay and the Houston media responded. Here are two stories below:
Controversy over oysters grows in Galveston Bay
You can eat oysters cooked or raw, and many consider them a delicacy. But they’re at the center of a controversy in Galveston County.
Companies fight for right to harvest oysters in Galveston Bay
A battle over who has the right to harvest oysters in Galveston Bay has reignited – this time because of recent floods.
Read more Galveston Bay oyster fight related posts.
An investigation by Dolcefino Consulting reveals appointments of Board Members to the Uptown Management District may be a virtual charade.
“Taxpayers will say a collective WTH when they hear this,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President, Dolcefino Consulting.
In 1987 the Texas legislature created the Uptown Management District and they now control the use of more than three Billion Dollars of property value in the City of Houston.
The state law required members to be appointed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), but it is now clear the TCEQ doesn’t even pick the candidates.
In response to a request for records from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the agency told Dolcefino Consulting they have no records detailing the, “Selection of members of the Uptown Board, or any review, audits, or investigations into their use of taxpayer money.”
“Now that’s oversight,” says Dolcefino, “What a joke.”
It turns out Uptown actually picks and then provides the names of candidates. It is not even multiple choice.
“The property owners in Uptown need to have real voice in deciding who will make decisions for our neighborhood,” says Jim Scarborough of the Uptown Property Owners group.
Maybe this contrived appointment process explains why so many Uptown Board Members seem to have lifetime appointments.
Uptown likes it that way.
Uptown Management District Board Chairman Kendall Miller has been appointed since 1999, 16 years. So has member Patty Bender. Board Member Martin Debrovner has been on the board since 1994, more than 20 years.
“There are thousands of people who live in Uptown,” says Dolcefino. “This discovery cries out for these people to be elected. This political process is a sham and the Mayor has to know. This isn’t just the fox guarding the henhouse. The fox is building the whole darn thing and then making sure they pick the guards.”
Uptown is ignoring calls to stop a key part of a proposed 300 million dollar bus project, even though some members have clear conflicts of interest. Other members have yet to fully disclose their potential conflicts.
Hundreds of property owners and Uptown residents have been voicing opposition to this bus project. Jim Scarborough has been one of the loudest critics. “Most property owners don’t want this bus project and Uptown knows it.”
Of course when Uptown has picked the cards in the desk, is anyone surprised at the results.
Dolcefino Consulting is an investigative communications firm headed by former 13 Undercover reporter Wayne Dolcefino.
Owners of Oyster plants along Galveston Bay are now seeking criminal charges and threatening potential new lawsuits in the increasingly combative fight over oyster reefs. Some Oyster Captains report harassment, even unsafe boating maneuvers by a company trying to claim they now control a big part of Galveston Bay.
Monday morning, June 8th, Concerned Citizens of Galveston Bay will hold a news conference.
Reporters should arrive at Endeavor Marina at 3101 NASA Road 1 in Seabrook by 9 am for a press conference and tour of the area. Seating on the boat is limited, so if you want to reserve a space please let me know as soon as possible.
The dispute has taken a dangerous turn in recent weeks, in part because oyster boats are trying to rescue oysters from parts of the Bay where flood waters have changed salinity. Those oyster reefs are in now disputed waters. The state has been leasing reefs to companies for decades, but now the Chambers Liberty County Navigation District has given a sweetheart lease to a company called STORM, and they now claim they now own all the reefs, even the ones set aside for the public to collect oysters on. State game wardens have been asked to increase patrols, but some oyster companies now want criminal charges.
Oyster Boats report being videotaped in close range, and even forced into shallow waters by STORM Boats. Some oystermen now say they afraid to go out in the bay.
“The state needs to step in and stop this harassment,” says Lisa Halili, owner of Prestige Oysters in San Leon. “I do not want one of my oyster captains to get shot, and I fear this is where this is heading.”
New documents obtained by Dolcefino Consulting prove ridership numbers for a controversial $300 million dollar bus project leading through the heart of Uptown are grossly inflated.
More troubling, Uptown hasn’t told taxpayers.
Documents released by Uptown claim ridership by 2018 will be up to 18,400. That is the justification for tearing up Post Oak, spending tens of millions of dollars to widen the streets to accommodate two bus lanes operating every few minutes.
Here is what they haven’t told you.
First, the numbers are based on transit ridership from five years ago.
Second, the 18,400 figure is based on an elevated busway from the Northwest Transit Center down Post Oak.
Under current plans, that elevated busway won’t even be built until at least 2018.
“This isn’t field of dreams,” says Wayne Dolcefino of Dolcefino Consulting. “The only part of this project that is supposed to make it quicker to get to Uptown is that part.” If those numbers are bogus, the whole thing falls apart.”
Third, the Uptown claims are based on staggering increases in park and ride usage to Uptown just three years from now.
This was no independent study. The report justifying the numbers was prepared by contractors being paid by Uptown. The Uptown claims were made in June 2013 in a report by HDR Engineering to the Uptown Management District. The report was released to Dolcefino Consulting under the Texas Public Information Act.
One obvious red flag. The 2013 report is based on even older numbers from 2010. You don’t have to be a transit expert to prove they aren’t true anymore. You can count fares.
Here’s an easy one.
The report claims more than 1,150 people will be taking a bus to Uptown in 2018 on the Metro 285 Commuter bus. Uptown knows that won’t happen. The 285 Metro bus was cancelled months ago because of low ridership.
It doesn’t exist anymore.
Uptown knows this. They also know proposed ridership down Post Oak to the Bellaire Transit Center is likely wrong.
In April of 2014 the same Uptown contractor told that very thing to Metro.
“The increase in ridership resulted from Dedicated Bus Lane Extension to the Bellaire Transit Center is most likely to be half of what the model projects. This is why we are warning taxpayers,” says Wayne Dolcefino of Dolcefino Consulting. “There are already buses running down Post Oak that are three quarters empty. This isn’t about being against transit. It is about
wasting tax-payers money and tearing up a beautiful street and killing businesses on what sure looks like intentionally exaggerated promises.”
These documents come out amidst growing questions about blatant conflicts of interest by the people who are pushing this project in Uptown.
“Some of these perpetually appointed board members have this huge taxpayer piggy bank to pay for utility improvements for their properties, selling the right of way, and then cashing in further on redevelopment when stores in retail shopping centers go belly up,” says Jim Scarborough of the Post Oak Property Owners Association. “This is a real estate deal, not a needed transit project.”
The Chambers Liberty Counties Navigation District met May 19th, 2015 in open session, a public meeting as required by the State of Texas Open Meetings Act.
Hope you were there, because now the folks who spend your tax dollars refuse to let anyone hear what was said. No, I am not kidding.
The Navigation District has asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to allow them to keep an audio tape of the public meeting secret because they are being sued for past violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
“Even in Anahuac this has to be a first,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “If I had been at the meeting with a camera they couldn’t stop me from videotaping the whole darn thing, but now they want to make something members of the public already heard a secret. Amazing. Attorney General Paxton should send these fools a bill for wasting the people’s time.”
Dolcefino Consulting filed suit against the Navigation District months ago, alleging they violated state law by failing to properly warn the public of plans to issue a sweetheart lease to local politicos to control half the oyster production in Galveston Bay, even public reefs. On May 19th the Navigation District took more action on the oyster front, but even though they did it in public, they now want to keep it a secret.
What is more troubling is that the law firm leading this crusade for unprecedented secrecy is Lloyd Gosselink, a law firm with a bevy of government clients and active in political support in Austin.
“If you pay taxes to a MUD Board or Water District who uses this law firm, you should be worried, very worried.”
Dolcefino Consulting is an investigative communications firm in Houston, Texas run by long time investigative journalist Wayne Dolcefino.
office 713-360-6911 email@example.com
Kevin and Karen Maley have donated tens of thousands of dollars to help the students of Spring Branch School District.
So when the couple got an invitation to the Spring Branch Education Fundraiser this November they weren’t surprised.
A minute later the invitation was taken back.
The Maley’s know why they are being shunned by Spring Branch ISD, and they are disgusted.
“I cannot believe these people are so vindictive,” says Kevin Maley. “They are punishing us for protecting our own daughter. They ought to be ashamed. Aren’t they parents?”
The Maleys blew the whistle last month on the gross failure of Spring Branch Independent School District to properly punish a high school football star who solicited dirty pictures and sex from their 14 year old daughter. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office and Internet Crimes lawmen raided the home of 19 year old Jeffrey Munoz last month looking for evidence, even though Spring Branch failed to secure the evidence seven months ago.
Last month, outgoing Spring Branch Superintendent Duncan Klussman attacked the Maley family, and now the school district education foundation is uninviting to the November fundraiser.
Do you believe in coincidences? The Spring Branch fundraising event is chaired by Mano Deayala, the attorney who represents the 19 year old who has been accused by more than one girl at Spring Branch of sexual misconduct.
“The message they are sending to our young girls is to just shut up, because they are clearly more concerned with keeping these things secret then protecting our kids,” says Maley. “Spring Branch has chosen to defend indefensible conduct. My wife and I are stunned they would stoop to such juvenile behavior.”
For Information contact Wayne Dolcefino at Dolcefino Consulting.
office 713-360-6911 firstname.lastname@example.org
In March of 2013 Uptown Board Chairman Kendall Miller lobbied for federal grant money for a bus project on Post Oak Blvd. His letter did not disclose his financial stake in the project.
In Mid-2014 Miller knew right of way acquisitions by Uptown would benefit his property, yet he still did not disclose.
Miller and two other Board Members revealed their potential conflict in early 2015 amidst growing questions by opponents of a plan to tear up Post Oak.
“Houston City Council needs to delay this project until taxpayers know where all the money leads, says Wayne Dolcefino President of Dolcefino Consulting. “I have heard Uptown brag about being transparent, so let us get all the cards on the table.”
An investigation by Dolcefino Consulting details several members of the Uptown Board have potential conflicts.
Take Houston Jeweler Jonathan Zadock, appointed to the Uptown Board in 2013. In March of that year Zadock argued for the federal grant money with Miller, arguing if major improvements weren’t made to Post Oak Blvd the prestigious street would lose much of its luster. Zadock called the bus plan cost effective despite the price tag.
As part of the deal, Uptown will have to spend tens of millions of dollars buying right of way from some Uptown Businessman. Jonathan Zadock controls one of those entities. In 2012 a corporation managed by Zadock bought a shopping center on Post Oak valued at more than 7 million dollars. The name of the corporation – Post Oak Right of Way LLC.
“This exposes the huge problem with Uptown. The folks on the board weren’t elected by taxpayers, even the property owners. Even if they have the purest motives, they are investing taxpayer money on deals that are good for them. What else is out there? It is time for everyone to disclose before another penny is spent!”
Houston City Council Members and the Mayor are term limited, but some members of the Uptown Board appear to be perpetually reappointed. Miller has been on the Uptown Board since 1999, 16 years.
“Property owners deserve to elect these folks, period!”