the FOIA follies

The documents posted below were obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to Bastrop County, the State of Texas and the City of Elgin. Note that documents listed on this page only include those from 2010 and a few from 2011. Other documents from 2011 and subsequent years are presented in posts on the Factoids blog at the time they were obtained.

The bulk of the documents from Bastrop County - over 1400 pages - were received in six very large PDFs. Individual files were extracted and sorted according to date which made it easier to understand how all the pieces fit together. Duplicates were removed and the most readable version used.

There is very little correspondence coming from the county. Most is either from Jim Carpenter to the Court or conversations between attorneys representing the CTA and the county during the 381 Agreement negotiations.

The earliest dated document in the original FOIA material was an email sent to Commissioner Dildy on March 12, 2008 . It references a meeting with Carpenter & Associates the previous day. We have been unable to obtain more information about that meeting.

Approximately 214 pages were withheld from the original FOIA request pending a determination from the Attorney General whether to allow their release. We have now received 105 of the 214 pages. The remainder have been permanently withheld awaiting a possible appeal. The earliest documents released by the AG date back to August 2007 when plans for the Colorado Riverland Ranch Airport Project (later renamed the Central Texas Airport) were first taking shape. All the documents released by the AG are formatted with this lighter background.

In late February/early March 2011, supplemental Open Records Requests were made to Bastrop County. Correspondence between members of the County as well as a wider group of associations was targeted in these requests. A number of citizen comments and questions were included in the response. It is telling that the opposing correspondence was thoughtfully and independently written while the supporting letters were almost exclusively submitted using the prewritten letter on the CTA/EcoMerge site. There are very few additions to this page from these documents.

These documents regarding the Cottonwood Creek WCID#3 in the 2011 Legislature were obtained from Sen. Hegar and Rep. Strama.

Not many documents were received from the request to the State of Texas. They are clustered around the time the 381 Agreement was signed in June 2010. The entire PDF as we received it is posted below formatted with this yellow background. Note that the timeline of this document is reversed. Please read from the last page to the first.

A few important documents have been included from sources outside the FOIAs in order to further clarify the timeline and course of events. You'll find those on this blue background.

An additional Open Records Request was made for Campaign Contributions records For Ronnie McDonald from 2008 to present. Green is the perfect color for this addition.


The first documents of import contained in the initial 1400 pages of the FOIA are communications from Jim Carpenter relating to the Cottonwood Creek WCID#3 Bill which was prepared for introduction in the 81st Legislature. As far as we can tell that never happened as there is no mention of it in the legislative records.

Proposed Cottonwood Bill - This is a draft of the bill that failed in the 2009 legislative session. Carpenter & Associates are already laying the groundwork to reintroduce a similar bill in the 2011 legislative session. THIS BILL NEEDS TO BE STOPPED!

Public notice of the bill - Published in the Austin American Statesman January 31, 2009.

Cottonwood letter - This February 13, 2009 letter attempted to enlist Judge McDonald's and Commissioner Dildy's support for the Cottonwood Bill. We have been told by the Judge's office that no letters of support were sent to any of the suggested elected officials in the Capitol.

There are several very telling statements in this letter. One sums up the 'Carpenter MO' - avoidance of all those pesky safety and environmental regulations! This is some corporate-speak! Just remember . . . Global is NOT 'green'. Local is!!

"We want CTA to be a local community asset providing international accessibility without the requisite obstacles, inconveniences, operational inefficiencies and added expenses that come with Federal or State funding assistance."

Another suggests keeping the project a big secret. Well, they certainly did a good job of that!

"I think it is appropriate, subject to your concurrence, to let them know that we are attempting to NOT PUBLICIZE THIS PROJECT so that we do not adversely impact the potential location of another important economic development project."

State of Texas Leadership Briefing - An attempt to get the BCCC to schmooze with and lobby the rich and powerful at the Capitol on behalf of the CTA. We have been told that Commissioner Dildy did not attend did but Judge McDonald did. Is this when the Court's arm was twisted?

Mystery email - This page appeared in the FOIA without the attachment. The Court eventually sent the attachment which was an invitation for a meeting at Carpenter & Associates office only few weeks before the big presentations to the Commissioners Court and the City of Bastrop. The intention was obviously to drum up support for the proposed legislation.

Resolution in support of the Cottonwood Bill - Jim Carpenter suggested that the BCCC get behind the Cottonwood Bill by passing this resolution. We were told that never happened.

Pre-presentation discussion - Getting ready for Jim Carpenter's big presentation at the BCCC on April 13. Wanna bet this was set in motion at the State of Texas Leadership Briefing?

Agenda and questions for the presentation - The agenda and questions that the BCCC wanted Carpenter to address in his presentation. Note that there is an agenda item for 'questions from the public'. Well then, just why weren't questions allowed at the meeting? Hmmmm . . . let me guess. 'Wrong' kind of questions? Ones that would expose this scam?? Davis McAuley's coverage of the presentation is posted here

Commissioners' questions - This email was written the day of the formal presentation to the Commissioners Court the evening of April 13, 2009. The questions for the April 13, 2009 meeting were released with the original FOIA documents (see above). However, we have yet to find the answers in any of the documents we have received. Why are they being withheld?

Letter to Senator Hegar - In the wake of the big presentation, Jim Carpenter pulls the plug on the Cottonwood WDID #3 legislation.

Cottonwood Creek WCID#3 redux - This redacted letter discusses the draft consent agreement for City of Bastrop's approval to allow Cottonwood Creek WCID#3 to annex the CTA_GCC properties and levy additional property tax on them. The draft agreement promised to the Commissioners Court was NOT included in the documents released from the AG. There is high praise for Bastrop County's 'cooperation and harmony' compared to Austin and Travis County (who are quite happy to 'outsource' undesirable projects like the CTA so they won't have to suffer the consequences close to home). Too bad that Bastrop County wasn't smart enough to figure things out. This quote is priceless! Bon appetit!!

"Thank you again for your excellent participation in our dinner reception for the Eco-Merge and Toshiba officials. All comments were positive as the collective Bastrop County delegation demonstrated a level of cooperation and harmony that cannot possibly be matched by Austin and Travis County."

Texas Water Code - Attachment to the previous letter offers 'evidence' supporting the opinion that land added to water districts does not need to be contiguous.

Draft of 2011 Cottonwood Bill - StopCTA obtained this document in order to compare with the version which was drafted in 2009. Of course, the filing deadline has now passed so this bill is now officially dead . . . thankfully.

Letter to Cottonwood Creek WCID#3 - Senators Hegar and Watson sent this strongly worded letter to the Board of Directors of the Cottonwood Creek WCID #3 to encourage that any possible annexation involve the Bastrop Community.

SB1257 Press Release - Senators Hegar and Watson responded to the possible Cottonwood Creek annexation by filing SB1257 which would provide deterrents to developers attempting to annex non-contiguous land without the blessings of the community who would suffer the consequences of unwanted development.

SB1257 - Here's the text of Sen. Hegar's bill, SB1257.


The second bill connected to the CTA in the 2009 legislative session was SB1615. This bill attempted to create alternate methods of financing in order to avoid having to rely on Federal or State funds. Please go here for all the details.

Summary of SB1615 - Thankfully, this bill died in a house committee at the end of the last Legislative session. Look for it again in the upcoming Legislative session.

Concern about HB1615 - This bill caught the eye of Johnny Sanders who offers some insiders comments. You'll need to read from the bottom up.

Financial Strategy - This quote summarizes Carpenter's financial strategy. All that talk about bonds should make taxpayers very, very nervous.

"We need changes in existing State law to create a self-sustainable financing structure with flexibility to adapt to the new emerging global financial markets. We propose to utilize municipal bond financing, (tax-exempt bonds for some assets) and revenue bonds for the balance of the public use assets."

the 381

The following documents clarify a timeline for the 381 negotiations. Documents dealing with the non-negotiable items and taxation issues will be added shortly.

First Draft cover letter - The first draft of the 381 Agreement is dated August 31, 2009 with this cover letter of September 1, 2009.

Concern about the slow response - Nothing had happened by mid-October prompting a promise of action within a few weeks. The Commissioners weren't in any rush.

Confidentiality - A gentle reminder from Carpenter's attorney about 'confidentiality'. If we weren't out of the loop before, we certainly were now.

Zoning cap questioned - Ronnie Moore questions the cap related to airport height hazard zoning costs.

Cover letter to first revisions - The original draft of the 381 was sent to the County on August 31, 2009. This letter prefaces the County's requested revisions submitted to Carpenter's legal team on December 7, 2009.

14 CFR Part 139 exemption - We were shocked to see that the exemption to the 14 CFR Part 139 rules was included in this first revision at the County's request. This exemption, as noted elsewhere allows the proposed airport to be sited within a Wildlife Hazard Zone which threatens the safety of those on the ground and in the air. Bottom line, the Commissioners sold out the County's safety and security in the interests of 'economic development'. This kind of thinking is not only unethical. It will bring the County to its knees.

Deleted Indemnification clauses - A single page on indemnification marked as deleted. This section was reinstated later in the negotiations.

The County's non-negotiable items - These 9 non-negotiable items focus on the contract rather than the disposition of the airport itself.

Response to the non-negotiable items - Item #4 is especially interesting. It exposes Carpenter's backdoor attempt to remove the restrictive covenants - Sections 1(b) and 9(d) - on usage of the airport that protect the County's interests. We have always believed that Carpenter's plans for the airport are much different that what the Commissioners we led to believe and this exposes that intent.

"However, in the event that the County fails to fulfill its obligation to appropriate moneys to pay amounts owed under the Agreement, the Company should be permitted to maximize the value of it's investment in the Property in a manner that will minimize the losses expected to result from termination of the Agreement due to non-appropriation by the County. Accordingly, the Company's agreement to restrict the use of the Property in perpetuity through the imposition of restrictive covenants that will run with the land SHOULD BE EXCUSED in the event that the County fails to perform it's obligation to pay amounts owed under the Agreement."

The County fires back - Carpenter's endrun didn't fly. Of course, what the County missed was that Sections 1(b) and 9(d) still left the door open to large, cargo charter service. Wanna bet that even with the imperfect 381 in place, the CTA will try to lift these restrictions by other means?

"The County is not able to agree to this change as the lifting of the restrictive covenant in such a situation would allow CTA to seek to develop the airport without restriction, including a full service commercial airport."

Back again - Carpenter's attorneys are still trying to find a way to remove those pesky restrictive covenants.

"To provide a modest offset to the County's absolute right to elect not to appropriate funds in respect of payments owed under the Agreement, the Company proposes that the restrictive covenants governing the use of the property (described in Sections 1(b) and 9(d) of the Agreement) run with the land in all events, except in the event that the Agreement is terminated by the Company as a result of the County's failure to appropriate moneys to pay amount owed under the Agreement."

County holding tough - While this wording offers some protection, it does not eliminate cargo charter service from using the airport. Big loophole!

". . . the County continues to be placed in a position of negotiating the non-negotiable items. "

"The County was amenable to entering into negotiations based on the representations that the proposed airport would never be a full service commercial airport with regularly scheduled flights. The current ownership and/or management of CTA may change and the restrictive covenant approach is the only way the County is able to go forward to negotiate and enter into the 381 Agreement."

Carpenter's team folds - In this letter, the remaining terms are accepted by Carpenter's legal team. However, there's an important reminder getting back to the special utility district.

". . . the Company intends to request the County's consent to the inclusion of the Property in a special utility district by separate instrument."

Confidential Negotiations Communication - Carpenter is obviously not happy with the delays and added expense. There is a reminder of the county's possible role in setting up a 'special utility district' or 'municipal utility district'.

Second proposed and unsigned resolution - Another version of this resolution was submitted to the Court the previous year when the Legislature was in session. Section #1 is quite a bit different. Carpenter sure is persistent!

Land contract confirmation - Just over a month before the 381 was signed, the county didn't yet have confirmation that the airport land was under contract. It was received quickly.

Funding Model - This scheme is tax haven heaven. Read just how they're gonna make money from parking those 250 airplanes from who knows where on all that impermeable surface that will send pollutants into the Colorado river. A pretty twisted business model

Tax haven defense team - This explains how the CTA is going defend against challenges from other locations that will be losing revenue because these planes are parked outside the owner's residential jurisdiction.

Agenda request - Carpenter is in a big rush to get on the agenda even before the 381 negotiations are completed. This is perhaps the only correspondence from Judge McDonald in the FOIA.

Final tweaks - Some final tweaks from the county's attorney. More talk about that troubling 'special district'

"We previously discussed the establishment of some undefined special district which would be handled separately from the 381 Agreement. We have deleted the provision in your April 28, 2010 draft that said the County would assist the CTA in the creation of an Infrastructure agency. Please provide us with the particulars of the special district as soon as possible."

Request for a joint team meeting - Carpenter whining about outstanding differences and delivering something close to an ultimatum. Why didn't the county just send him packing?

Final exhibit B plans - One of the last submissions requested by the county.

Joint 381 Agreement Meeting - WHAT? He wants even MORE money, this time from taxpayers?? Remember he wouldn't have this problem if he accepted Federal funding.

"Additional bondable municipal revenue is needed beyond the 75% Property and Sales taxes in the 381. A district is the only way we see to accomplish this."

Tax exclusions questioned - Commissioner Klaus questions tax exclusions only a few days before the 391 Agreement was approved.

What should have been asked - The ink was barely dry on the 381 Agreement when Myron Papadakis, a 'Bastrop resident with some aviation safety expertise' offered a list of questions that the Commissioners should have asked Mr. Carpenter. This is the cover letter.

The question list - Sadly, it's unlikely these questions will ever be answered.

Texas FOIA

State of Texas FOIA - About a week prior to the signing of the 381, Jim Carpenter connected Dennis Sheehan the Economic Development Director for Elgin with Larry Ruggiano in the Governor's office in an attempt to secure State funding. A plan "to get a letter from the Bastrop County Commissioners Court or Judge to the Governor's office requesting assistance with all the various forms of support, funding and contacts that could be available" is mentioned. This four page document contains responses from various individuals.

City of Bastrop

Bastrop City Manager asks questions - In this March 30, 2009 letter to Jim Carpenter, Mike Talbot asks many of the right questions and offers thoughtful comments. If only the Commissioners had such good sense!

City Council minutes - This excerpt from the Bastrop City Council's April 14, 2009 minutes documents Jim Carpenter's pitch to the Council and their decision of non-support for the Cottonwood Bill. The signed resolution follows. Please note that these minutes are not part of the FOIA but presented here because of the importance relative to the FOIA documents.

BCC Resolution No. R-2009-10 - On April 28, 2009, the Bastrop City Council formally declared that they would not support the proposed Central Texas Airport. Davis McAuley's coverage of the vote is posted here.

"A resolution of the City Council of Bastrop expressing a vote of NO SUPPORT for a proposed general aviation airport, referred to as the "Central Texas Airport" project, to be located in Bastrop County, Texas as presented by Carpenter & Associates."

City of Bastrop slaps Carpenter - A strong cease and desist from the City of Bastrop's attorney. This is a must read. If only the Bastrop County Commissioners Court had the courage to stand up like this!

"Thus the statements quoted above, as they relate to the City of Bastrop, are blatantly false and misleading, and are irrefutably known by you to be so."

"This letter is provided to you as a formal notification that you must immediately cease and desist making and disseminating false statements about the City's plans, actions or intentions. As they relate to the Airport or any other project."

Jim Carpenter's apology - This apology was prompted by the cease and desist from the City of Bastrop's attorney (posted immediately above) and a similar letter of objection from the County's attorney, Tom Pollan. Tom Pollan's letter was NOT included in the original FOIA documents but instead sent to the Attorney General for a determination on whether to release it. We were informed on January 14, 2011 that the letter was being withheld and would not be released. We have also been unable to obtain a copy of the 'Ownership and Interest Offering' dated February 6, 2009 but passages are quoted in the C & D from the City of Bastrop.

Bastrop City Council discussion of letter to FAA - This excerpted agenda item discusses a response to the FAA (posted immediately below). The City's relation to a proposed MUD is also mentioned. Note that this is not part of the FOIA proper but rather supplemental documentation to provide additional background information.

Bastrop City Manager questions the FAA - Mike Talbot asking good questions again and identifying more misleading information undoubtedly generated by Carpenter's spin machine.

"1. As a preliminary matter, the City objects to the characterization that this proposed airport facility is located in Austin, TX."

"2. The Council is concerned that the misinformation related to the actual location if the proposed airport/runway has been significantly misleading to the public . . . "

the airport

Colorado Riverland Ranch Airport - This appears to be the first application made to the FAA for the airport project which would eventually morph into the Central Texas Airport. On this application the type of use was designated as 'private' and airport licensing was marked 'not required'. Estimated construction dates were to begin November 2007 with completion in November 2009.

FAA compliance - Just eight days after the application was made, this enthusiastic letter was sent to Jim Carpenter announcing the airport was in compliance with FAR Part 157. It reveals the lobbying that occurred prior to the nod from the FAA. Note that Mr. Scroggins' attached resume was not released by the AG. Scroggins is currently a Consultant for the CTA project.

FAA airspace approval - This letter states that:

"It was determined that the airport would not be objectionable from an airspace utilization standpoint."

GA Subcommittee meeting - It appears this meeting discussed the state of General Aviation in Central Texas. A Colorado Riverland Ranch Airport representative was on the panel.

Central Texas Airport - One year after the Colorado Riverland Ranch Airport proposal was submitted to the FAA, the Central Texas Airport is born. The application states it is an 'alteration' and the type of use is now 'public'. Airport licensing is still 'not required'. Runway is stated to be 7500" though supporting data (see below) states 8000". Construction dates are now commencing October 2009 and completing October 2010. Here's a look at some other rather interesting numbers submitted on the form:

Estimated monthly landings in 5 years:
Jet 360, Turboprop 7200, Prop 30,000, Helicopter 9000

What!! That would be about 45,000 flights going over our heads per month, folks! Just why would the FAA approve such traffic for our quiet little county!!

CTA number crunching - A comparison of data from other airports in Central Texas. Note that at this time the runway was 8,000". Other projected CTA data is non-existent in this table.

FAA response to the new application - "We continue to have no objection to your proposal."

CTA airspace approval - This is basically identical to the letter Mr. Scroggins sent after the FAA's approval of the Colorado Riverland Ranch Airport proposal. He writes that "the CTA meets or exceeds all requisites of the local and National Airspace System".

BISD questions the FAA - BISD Superindendent Steve Murray's attempt to get information from the FAA regarding the proposed CTA.


Special utility district - Reminder from Carpenter's attorney requesting the County's consent to the "inclusion of the property in a special utility district by separate instrument". We assume that would be the Cottonwood WCID#3 and/or the creation of a Municipal Utility District (MUD).

Carpenter's introduction to Aqua Water's letter - Carpenter courts local utilities.

Aqua Water to CTA - Bill Loven gushes praise to the CTA team. He wants to crush EndOp but is going to supply water to this water hog!!?? Give me a break!

data spin

Noise Contours - The DNL contours presented by Carpenter & Associates have absolutely no factual basis to what will actually be observed at the CTA site, as they were conducted in an airport near Oklahoma City which does not accept 737-class aircraft, and has a entirely different surrounding topography.

DFW land use - Various Google searches and maps were attached to this letter to 'prove' how harmless the CTA would be. Well, we can Google too and found this study of Airport Noise and Apartment Rental Rates, Addison, Texas. Another related study is ABIA's Off-Airport Land Use Compatibility Planning.

Education and job pitch - Mr. Meck wrote a glowing letter which was used to sway the Commissioners Court. He then sold Southern Careers Institute and landed the position of Chief Financial Officer at Eco-Merge, Jim Carpenter's latest attempt to reinvent the floundering Central Texas Airport project. Note that the cover letter from Jim Carpenter mentions an 8,000" runway which was the length in the original plan. This letter also discusses the Bird's Nest Airport project in relation to the CTA.

Another Pipeline project - These days water export is big business and Jim Carpenter has a hand in that also. This pipeline is similar to what we might expect from the Cottonwood project. Don't all these pipelines remind you of EndOp!?

Courting Woodbine - The attachments to this letter include the slick (and biased) Perryman Group Report: "The Sky's the Limit" from May 2009 as well as some material from Pico Energy Services (soon to morph into Tiga). This snowjob purposely downplays the airport in an attempt to divert attention from the impact it will have on the surrounding community including the Hyatt. After considering this information, Hyatt/Woodbine continue to take a neutral position on the CTA to the present day.

"As I have always maintained, our real business is not the airport although it is an essential element."

Pico to Tiga - Pico has now transformed into Tiga in this cover letter to Judge McDonald. An upcoming Austin Business Journal story is mentioned in closing. Carpenter's minions may have quashed the original ABJ story but Birds Nest (now the Austin Executive Airport) is gonna have the last laugh when it opens this spring making CTA superfluous and unnecessary. Bye, bye!

"We did not initiate the story but decided to manage it as best we could. It seems that State, FAA and aviation folks that ABJ attempted to interview for the Birds Nest story suggested that they should be writing about CTA - they decided to do just that."

Letter of intent between CTA and Tiga - This is the signed version of the LOI mentioned in the previous letter to the Judge. As with the CTA, the Green Corporate Centers are relying on private status to avoid regulation and controls. The timeline seems more than unrealistic but hey, there's no law prohibiting fantasy:

Green Corporate Centers is designed to be a privately developed corporate campus community free from most all regulatory and development controls . . .

The estimated timeline for beginning is 3rd to 4th quarter 2011 with CTA achieving operational airport status before the end of 2012.

Confirmation of signed LOI - It's interesting that Carpenter is quite happy to have government contracts flowing into potential businesses associated with the airport.

Pitch for GA airports - This news report was attached to a letter sent shortly after the 381 Agreement was signed. The letter's purpose was to garner preliminary support and commitment for the Cottonwood WCID#3 and financing restructure which is in the works for this legislative session (for the second time). The comment about 100LL prompted a search leading to this article on Avgas.

The ultimate redaction - Is there any reason why this was included (other than to illustrate bureaucratic stupidity)?

Bullock Museum invitation - This event brought 'greenwashing' to a whole new level. You can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig. Both Judge McDonald and Commissioner Dildy were there for the photo op.

Letter from T.R. Reid to Commissioner Dildy - This email came in the wake of the opposition to the airport present at the Bullock event and prior to Mr. Reid's pitch to the Bastrop City Council for the Special District (MUD). We have been informed that Commissioner Dildy did not respond to this email. It is unknown whether Mr. Reid met with any community groups. This document was obtained through a supplemental FOIA request.

EISD letter of support - Just days before the showdown at the Bastrop City Council, EISD drank some Carpenter Koolaid and penned this glowing letter of support. They just don't 'get' it.


The 381 Agreement states that construction of Phase One of both the Airport and Commercial improvements must commence no later than June 30, 2012 and be completed no later than June 30 2014.

Formula One connection - The Formula One fiasco gave new life to the CTA. This is likely more wishful thinking than a real possibility since he doesn't even own the land yet! Are there any investors crazy enough to sign up for such a risky proposition?

Carpenter's plea to Elgin - First appeal to the City of Elgin to support the USACE Permit Application.

Pitch for USACE support - The developer tried his best to get the City Of Elgin to submit comments in support of the USACE permit application when the deadline was extended.

campaign contributions

An observant eye will note that contributions to Ronnie McDonald swelled in the fall of 2009. Those familiar with the FOIA documents will recognize that the dates of those contributions follow just after the 381 Agreement was first submitted to the Commissioners Court on September 1, 2009. A $500 contribution from Jim Carpenter is recorded around that time. Other notable names also appear on the list. Coincidence? Or as they say . . . greasing the wheel? Why are contributions even needed by an incumbent who would be running unopposed the following year?

Ronnie McDonald - Campaign contributions from January 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009 totaling $1,710.

Ronnie McDonald - Campaign contributions from June 30, 2009 to January 1, 2010 totaling $11,940.

Ronnie McDonald - Campaign contributions from January 1, 2010 to December 30, 2010 totaling $2,200.


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