Friday, February 18, 2011
It’s more than laughable that Judge McDonald has the nerve to say that he bases his decisions on ‘community input’ when there was ZERO opportunity for the public to participate in decisions regarding the CTA.
Airport opponents lob questions
By Cyndi Wright
February 18, 2011
Opponents of the proposed Central Texas Airport project voiced their concerns in commissioners court on Monday, including one who pointed out that County Judge Ronnie McDonald accepted a campaign contribution from CTA developer Jim Carpenter and another who spoke of a 2009 lawsuit in which Carpenter and two businesses he was associated with were found guilty in a jury trial of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.
In a prepared statement, Candace “Sister” Boheme called it “funny business” that, according to campaign records, McDonald’s campaign accepted $500 from Carpenter.
“Among the list of notable contributors is the one and only Jim Carpenter, who donated $500 to the cause,” she said during citizens comments at the meeting. “The question is, whose cause? Yours or his? Or are they the same?”
She also pointed out that from January 2008 to the end of June 2009, McDonald’s campaign received $1,700 and all of 2010 brought in roughly $2,000.
“But something very strange happened in the last six months of 2009,” Boheme said. “Nearly $12,000 worth of strange. Those contributions started flowing in just weeks after the 381 agreement had been delivered to the county.”
Commissioners and the county judge cannot reply to citizens comments, but later McDonald said campaign contributions do not have any bearing on the decisions he makes as an elected official.
“During the election season, there is naturally a rise in campaign contributions to office holders and those seeking office,” McDonald said. He was last up for election in November 2010 and ran unopposed. “I receive a diversity of contributions, great and small. These contributions have no bearing on my decisions as an office holder. My goal as county judge has been and always will be to make sound decisions based on thoroughly researched facts, community input and prayer.”
McDonald’s campaign manager and treasurer, Steve Miller, said it is common for McDonald to begin fundraising early and the date of his main fundraiser was Oct. 13, 2009. That fundraiser brought in $11,940, according to Miller.
“The filing deadline was Dec. 31, 2009,” Miller said. “The campaigning starts in earnest on Jan. 1, 2010, so it’s best to prepare early.”
Boheme also pointed out that, according to the auditor’s office, the county has spent $47,000 in attorney’s fees during the ongoing CTA negotiations. County auditor Lisa Smith later confirmed the amount.
“And here you’ve been telling us that the airport wasn’t going to cost the taxpayers anything,” she said.
A Cedar Creek resident, who owns a business systems analysis business near the site of the proposed airport, asked the commissioners to consider a lawsuit that was filed against Carpenter by two business partners in a failed land transaction.
The suit, which ended in 2004, was filed against Carpenter by Sandra McBeth after she and her then-husband James Reynolds supplied earnest money to hold open a property purchase option on property in Travis County. McBeth alleged in the suit that she and her husband paid a total of $800,000 into the escrow account for the property but that Carpenter could not complete the sale and directed the escrow money to be disbursed to the owner of the property without the couple’s knowledge.
Later, according to the suit, Carpenter entered into negotiations with other potential investors, excluding McBeth and Reynolds, and eventually purchased the property, along with additional acreage and then sold it for a profit of $140,000.
At trial, a jury awarded McBeth and Reynolds compensatory and lost-profit damages of $4,215,800. After an appeal, the district court upheld out-of-pocket damages of $875,000. The district court upheld the jury’s verdict of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty against Carpenter and two businesses he had an interest in.
“Is this really the type of person you want to do business with?” Dimitri Thomann asked the commissioners.
Later, Thomann said he doesn’t want to sensationalize the civil court case, but wants the county to have all the facts.
“These are the facts as they stand,” Thomann said. “There was a trial and a conviction of fraud. It was an obvious intent to defraud people out of money. I’m not embellishing this, just pointing to this thing that exists.”
In a comment on the Advertiser’s website, Thomann said: “It appears our Bastrop County elected officials should maybe keep more respectable company.”
Carpenter did not return a phone call from the Advertiser.
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