Uptown breaks promise to taxpayers
Uptown is spending tens of millions of your dollars to buy real estate right of way for their plan to eventually tear up and then widen Post Oak Blvd. for a controversial bus project.
Dolcefino Consulting has now filed a formal criminal complaint with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, alleging Uptown has broken Texas Open Meeting Laws and disclosure laws, violating their public promise to Houstonians.
In November of 2014, Uptown bureaucrats voted to establish real estate rules for the bus project so that Houstonians would trust the process was transparent and fair. This was after some Uptown officials finally admitted they would make lots of money if Post Oak was widened.
The vote called for establishment of a Right of Way Committee, made up of Uptown board members who did not own property on Post Oak nor are representatives of companies that own property required for the project. Special outside counsel was hired to doubly make sure each transaction was fair, to avoid potential conflicts of interests. Of course, Uptown officials had been pushing the project since 2013 and none had ever disclosed a potential conflict of interest. In January and February 2015, amidst mounting pressure from area businesses the first conflicts of interest statements were filed as required by state law. Dolcefino Consulting believes those disclosures and more that haven’t been filed were required to be disclosed before the very first vote to proceed with this project.
It gets worse. Now Uptown admits they created no records of the dates of the meetings, the agendas, or the minutes of the Right of Way Committee, the very governmental body created to ensure there were no special real estate deals. We believe that’s a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act, and have now formally asked the District Attorney to investigate.
For months, Uptown fought to keep secret the real estate right of way deals already completed.
Now they have finally released details of the only 6 right of way payments they have made. The slow pace of the right of way agreements make moot any traffic studies justifying the need for this expensive project in the first place, but the documents raise even more questions about one particular real estate deal.
On one particular right of way deal, Uptown officials agreed to ignore another promise they made to taxpayers in that November 2014 vote. Uptown agreed not to create a purchase agreement or real estate contract to protect the identity of the seller of a piece of property at the corner of San Felipe and Post Oak.
Uptown agreed to pay $606,000 thousand dollars to buy 2,189 square feet of property. Uptown admits the only document the Uptown Development Authority had in front of them was the original appraisal, not even the identity of who the property was being bought from.
“We have been arguing from the start that this process only fuels the belief that this unwanted bus project is more about a real estate deal and high rise development than relieving transit congestion,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
“Why this special deal to protect names in a government real estate deal? How can taxpayer money be paid in a secret real estate deal? It is unheard of.”