The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is back and still keeping secrets about the way they spend charity money.
Dolcefino Consulting filed a criminal complaint against Houston’s sacred cow last summer after the Rodeo refused to turn over key records detailing millions in foreign investments and records detailing how some board members may be financially benefiting from the quarter of a billion-dollar charity.
The Rodeo sued us after we helped a woman who was raped during a Los Vaqueros trail ride event. That lawsuit settled, but our legal fight with the rodeo is stalled in the appeals court, after the rodeo folks didn’t like the rulings of State District Judge Steven Kirkland.
“The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo acts like a sacred cow that can simply ignore the same law every Texas charity has to live by,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “We know it’s a great party for the city but don’t be fooled. This isn’t a charity. It’s a concert business disguised as a charity benefiting from the volunteer spirit of Houstonians to get rich.”
“If they weren’t hiding anything, the rodeo should have no problem following the Texas charity law and releasing their records,” says Jeff Diamant, Attorney for Dolcefino Consulting in the rodeo fight.
The rodeo’s first event is Saturday, February 23 with the Rodeo Run. The rodeo is set to run until March 17. It is time for the Texas Appeals Court to send this case back to Judge Kirkland so we can get back to the business of holding the rodeo accountable.
“The rodeo big wigs think they are so rich and powerful they get to play by their own set of rules. They insult Houstonians who pay for their lavish lifestyle. We refuse to be bullied by their arrogance,” says Dolcefino.
The rodeo’s last publicly filed tax returns show they have almost a quarter of a billion dollars in assets.
Since when have you heard of a “charity” not wanting free advertising to promote their organization? Well, that’s because you haven’t dealt with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
C&D Scrap Metal, who has been a proud supporter of the Houston Rodeo for 40 years, posted the Rodeo’s logo on the company’s website to show their love for the annual Houston tradition.
But hold your horses, now all the sudden Rodeo officials got their bandana’s in a bunch and quickly fired back at C&D and told them to take the HLS&R logo off their website, alluding to the fact they needed to pay for the use of the rodeo logo.
But wait, aren’t they classified as a “charity?” Hmmm…something doesn’t smell right, perhaps it’s the stench of cow manure or maybe rodeo officials are just stepping in “it.”
“The Rodeo is busted. A charity would love promotion, but a business wants to make money off it. “says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.” I think the IRS should give them what they want. Take away their non- profit status so the community can benefit from taxes.”
Maybe it’s time for the Rodeo to lasso in a different tax break!
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo shows Texans everyday why they think they are a Sacred Cow.
Now they are trying to bully a State District Judge in their effort to keep you from seeing how they spend tens of millions of dollars in money given in the name of charity. Really?
State District Judge Steven Kirkland decided the rodeo’s lawsuits against Dolcefino Consulting over requests for charity records should be heard in his court, the same court as the trail ride rape case that led to all the rodeo bullying over records in the first place.
After multiple hearings, Judge Kirkland twice ruled against the rodeo’s legal attacks on Dolcefino Consulting, and their third legal action ended up in Judge Landrum’s court.
“Since Judge Kirkland has heard all the expensive lawyer arguments, we thought it made sense and saved charity money to let the Judge who already knows about the fight to keep ruling on this fight, especially since part of our legal action involves using Texas law to stop the rodeo from trying to silence free speech,” says Dolcefino Consulting President Wayne Dolcefino.
The Court of Appeals has stayed the Judge’s order until they review whether he’s right to keep the case in his court, and until then Judge Kirkland refuses to transfer the case to another court.
Unhappy with waiting for the courts to rule, the rodeo has now filed a new motion to get the Appeals Court to force Judge Kirkland to give up the case, when he was the Judge they first wanted to rule on the case.
“This is flagrant ‘forum shopping,’ and for completely unknown reasons,” says Jeff Diamant, the Houston attorney defending Dolcefino Consulting. “The Rodeo sought relief from the 334th, and now they seem to be running scared from this very court when either judge is perfectly capable of making an informed and reasonable decision. I guess they have just decided they don’t like the court in which they first tried to file their groundless action.”
The Houston Rodeo has a General Counsel Sherry Hibbert, who according to tax returns made more than $300,000 in 2016. Instead of saving money, the rodeo has at least three lawyers from Vinson and Elkins hired to keep the rodeo’s money spending a secret. That’s thousands of dollars an hour in legal fees.
“This is an absurd waste of money and court resources that could have been much better spent on putting a needy youth through school, which is supposed to be the rodeo’s main purpose,” says Jeff Diamant.
Dolcefino Consulting President Wayne Dolcefino went a step further.
“Every rodeo volunteer should say enough is enough, because it is their blood and sweat and tears that has been used to enrich the rodeo’s swollen corporate big wigs, instead of raising money for school scholarships and agriculture,” says Dolcefino. “They should ask why they work for free while the Rodeo now has a quarter of a billion dollars in asset and invests millions of dollars out of the country which could be used to send needy children to college, to our great agriculture schools.”
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s main number is 832-667-1000. Call them.
We will keep you posted.
The big, bad rodeo is afraid.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is used to getting its way. With millions to spend on expensive attorneys from some of the biggest law firms around, they usually don’t have to worry about a challenger.
We filed a motion to move our case with the rodeo over public documents into the court with the judge already familiar with the case.
The rodeo didn’t like that the judge approved our motion or that he will be hearing the arguments going forward.
So, their immediate move was to complain to the justices of the Court of Appeals. They filed a motion for temporary relief and stay.
They are trying to go above the head of the judge in the case, requesting that the appeals court hold off the order from the 14th of this month granting the motion to consolidate.
They even accuse Judge Steven Kirkland of committing “a clear abuse of discretion” because they wouldn’t be able to do anything about his decision. The rodeo says he lacks the authority to even make the decision.
The rodeo sure didn’t tell that to the judge’s face when they were arguing at the bench on Friday.
The attorneys for the rodeo say that the already granted motion “will cause delay and prejudice HLSR.”
We think that having to go through the whole history of our case again would take longer for everyone involved.
Dolcefino Consulting just wants the case to go quickly and smoothly so that the rodeo can finally get us the documents we’ve been asking for.
It sounds to us like Patrick Mizell and Cathy Smith of Vinson & Elkins just don’t like Judge Kirkland.
“I have crocodile tears in my eyes as I think about how hard the rodeo is fighting to keep people from seeing what they do with the money they receive from their hard-working customers every year,” said Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting, the Houston-based investigative communications firm. “Come on rodeo. It’s time to stop running and give up the records so we can see just how charitable you have been.”
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and their high-priced lawyers have exposed their true colors.
Just hours before they faced a critical court hearing in their fight to keep records secret from Dolcefino Consulting, they worked out an eleventh-hour deal with the victim who was raped at a trail ride event.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo even made sure they would be dismissed from the lawsuit as part of the deal. Channel 2 reports the settlement is over $500,000.
Attorneys for the rape victim call it a landmark settlement, but we know why the rodeo wanted the deal cut this morning at 7 am.
At 9 am, Dolcefino Consulting was going to ask Judge Steven Kirkland to keep our legal fight in his courtroom with the rape case.
“The Rodeo thought they could pull another fast one and argue no reason to hear this case because the rape case is gone,” said Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “Judge Kirkland saw right through it and ordered the rodeo fight with us stay in his court. Actually, it just shows the Rodeo’s true colors. They care more about keeping secrets than paying off a rape victim without promising to do a single thing to make women safer at trail ride events.”
Judge Kirkland even mentioned the rodeo hired the most expensive lawyers as soon as Dolcefino Consulting asked for records, noting our search for the sacred cow’s financial records likely inspired the sudden settlement for a woman who was sexually assaulted 6 years ago.
“The rich guys at the rodeo are probably used to bullying people to get what they want, but I hope they are beginning to understand they are not above the law, and the more they keep secrets, the more I get curious about where all their money is going,” said Wayne Dolcefino. “In fact, I think it is time to call out the big wigs on the Board of Directors who are watching rodeo executives embarrass themselves in front of a community they claim to care so much about.”
“We filed a motion saying what the Rodeo has done in the lawsuit against Wayne Dolcefino is an attempt to suppress his speech because he’s speaking out on the Rodeo’s failure to act like a charitable organization,” said Jeff Diamant, the attorney for Dolcefino Consulting in the case.
We have also filed a countersuit to the Rodeo, claiming they have violated criminal statutes by retaliating against our firm for simply wanting to see how the rodeo spends charity money.
For more information on the records fight with the rodeo click here.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) is accused of retaliating against Dolcefino Consulting for trying to expose the conduct of Houston’s charity sacred cow.
In a legal motion filed in the court of Judge Steven Kirkland, the Houston based investigative communications firm wanted to send a clear message to the Rodeo. We will not back down. We have a First Amendment right to speak out about the Rodeo’s use of charity funds and the Rodeo will not infringe upon it.
The legal action seeks protection under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, a law designed to protect communication on issues of public concern.
Dolcefino Consulting began investigating the Rodeo after first looking into the rape of a young woman at a Los Vaqueros trail ride event. In 2017, the Rodeo was sued in that case.
Just days after we asked for records under Texas charity laws, the Rodeo made two unsuccessful attempts to stop our investigation. In June, Dolcefino Consulting filed a criminal complaint with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for violations of the charity law requiring the Rodeo to provide financial records for inspection.
In response, the Rodeo filed a lawsuit seeking legal damages against Dolcefino Consulting, conduct that we believe constitutes felony criminal retaliation. The Rodeo has also tried to have the District Attorney investigate Dolcefino Consulting.
“Their ‘Whac-a-Mole’ style retaliation shows a clear pattern of attacking Dolcefino when he speaks out on these issues,” says Jeff Diamant, the Houston attorney representing our firm.
“The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has proven their arrogance and are destroying their reputation with Houstonians by hiding their use of money given to help children and promote agriculture,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting, “They have decided they get to ignore the laws and it is shameful the Board of Directors, some of Houston’s biggest names, have not stepped in to tell them to act like good citizens. I do not back down from a fight.”
The next hearing in the Rodeo’s attempts to silence Dolcefino Consulting is this Friday morning, September 14, 2018 in Judge Kirkland’s 113th District Court.
A message to the sacred cow
“Let me make this as clear as I can make it. We will not be bullied by the rodeo. They are not a sacred cow.”
That was the message delivered at a press conference on the steps of the Harris County Civil Courthouse this morning by Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
Dolcefino and his attorney, Jeff Diamant announced major legal action against the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
The legal action alleges the Rodeo is now in violation of felony criminal laws for attempting to silence our right to look at their charity records under state law. It will be followed by a motion pursuant to the Texas Citizens’ Participation Act (a/k/a the anti-SLAPP Statute), which protects free speech in Texas, seeking dismissal of the Rodeo’s lawsuit brought against Dolcefino Consulting. The legal action, filed today, will seek legal fees and punitive damages.
This fight began when Dolcefino requested charity financial records from the quarter of a billion-dollar rodeo empire, as part of an ongoing investigation into the rape of a young woman at a Los Vaqueros trail ride event. First, the rodeo tried a suit against the rape victim and Dolcefino but was not permitted to do so by the Court. Then they filed a new legal action against Dolcefino Consulting, seeking, among other things, monetary damages from Dolcefino.
“If you’re going to act as a charity, and seek the protections afforded to you under Texas and Federal law to be a charity, then you are responsible, and you have to be accountable as any other charity is,” said Jeff Diamant, Dolcefino Consulting’s counsel. “The Rodeo doesn’t seem to want to play by those rules, all we’re asking is that they play by those rules and that they have the repercussions from not playing by them.”
“I began this effort to try and help a rape victim,” says Dolcefino, “And the rodeo has come after me with everything they have. Shame on them. Houstonians, the volunteers, the donors, the people who pay a lot of money to go to this party once a year ought to send a message to the rodeo.”
The lawsuit is filed in Judge Michael Landrum’s Harris County 113th District Court.
The Houston Livestock Show goes to court Friday morning in the quest to sue a rape victim and spend charity money to hide the truth about the way they spend charity money.
Their other target. The President of Dolcefino Consulting Wayne Dolcefino.
Dolcefino Consulting was hired to investigate witnesses to the brutal rape of a young woman at a Los Vaqueros trail ride event, but after we couldn’t find a single incident of crime reported during the entire rodeo, we started independently asking questions about sex crimes at the Rodeo, payments to security, and settlement of sexual harassment claims.
Texas charity law allows anyone to look at the financial records of most charities. The livestock show will ask Judge Steve Kirkland for permission to sue Dolcefino Consulting President Wayne Dolcefino for doing what is clearly allowed under state law.
“I think the rodeo wants to claim the sacred cow privilege.” says Dolcefino. I can imagine the legal argument” Judge, we are too important to let the public see our records and we’ve only made a quarter of a billion dollars and we have to protect the sacred cow.”
Dolcefino Consulting has engaged Houston Attorney Jeff Diamant to fight against this bullying.
“This is preposterous. In an attempt to conceal their financial records, the Rodeo is actually seeking to change the law in such a way as to virtually undo the very laws that allow the public to hold organizations claiming to be charitable accountable for their actions.” Diamant continued, “And worse, they’re trying to do this by suing Dolcefino, who is only trying to do what he has for years – expose the real truth.”
The rodeo amended their legal action this week, pointing out Dolcefino Consulting was given the chance to look at tens of thousands of documents the other day from their general ledger.
“They even put in pretty pictures of all the boxes of dead trees they wasted – records that could have been e-mailed in a few minutes – but their fancy high priced lawyers were playing the oldest trick in the book”, says Dolcefino, “Put a bunch of useless records that don’t address any of our requests in a bunch of boxes and then brag about it to the Judge to make him think you really aren’t the secretive weasels you are acting like.”
Diamant and Dolcefino will hold a brief news conference after the 9 am hearing on the steps of the Harris County Civil Courthouse following the hearing.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will be back in court tomorrow to ask Harris County Judge Steven Kirkland to keep its secrets for them.
This week, the rodeo filed a 102-page counterclaim against Dolcefino Consulting in the lawsuit filed by our client, Brie Ana Williams. Williams was the victim of a rape at a Los Vaqueros trail ride warm up event in December 2012.
Among other relief requested, the Rodeo is asking Judge Kirkland that they not be required to allow public inspection of any financial records more than 3 years old, provide any records detailing purchases or expenditures, and not be required to disclose fees paid to performers.
However, none of the information requested pertains specifically to our client or her case against the Rodeo. Our client is interested in finding out what the Rodeo knew back in 2012, when they knew it, and what if anything was done to protect other patrons or trail riders from suffering the way our client has for nearly 6 years.
“It is sad the Rodeo is going to such extreme lengths to keep financial information secret from the public,” says Chad Pinkerton, attorney for Brie Ana Williams, “Ms. Williams is a victim who is trying to find the truth.”
The hearing is scheduled for 9 am, Friday July 27, 2018 in Judge Kirkland’s 334th Civil Courtroom at 201 Caroline. Ben Roberts will be available for comment after the hearing.
Why does a charity have trade secrets? Are they competing with other charities? That’s the claim of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on the eve of a Friday court fight.
The HLSR claims it can’t show us payments to performers who play concerts at the Rodeo. Apparently, it’s a trade secret.
“I hope the IRS is listening to what the sacred cow is doing,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “The Rodeo isn’t worried about embarrassing performers who charge way too much money to play for a charity trying to help kids in school. They don’t want their for-profit competitors knowing what they pay, and that is the problem.”
The Rodeo did agree to let Dolcefino Consulting come and inspect their general ledger but wouldn’t let us see the concert payments. In fact, they didn’t show us who was on their payroll, or any of the records Houstonians deserve to see.
The Rodeo is hiding details about security, possible payments to resolve sexual harassment complaints, details of their foreign investments and payments to entertainers. We know from their website they spent $81 million producing the 2017 event, during which they raised just over $14 million for scholarships.
Friday the Rodeo will ask State District Judge Steve Kirkland for permission to sue Dolcefino Consulting for our pesky little charity records questions. They also want to sue a rape victim currently suing the Rodeo for the brutal assault she endured during a Los Vaqueros trail ride warm up event.
“I want the media at the hearing Friday so that Houstonians can see the way a charity acts,” says Dolcefino. “I never asked the Rodeo how much they paid Garth Brooks, but under Texas law I have every right to know.”
“It is becoming clear to me the Rodeo simply thinks it is a sacred cow and doesn’t have to follow the law. The question is, will Houstonians let them get away with it.”
The hearing is scheduled for 9 am, Friday July 27, 2018 in 334th District Court.