Group seeks investigation by District Attorney for board’s action on vague agenda item, as billions in taxpayer dollars are on the line.
By Terri Hall l June 29, 2012
On June 28, Texas TURF filed a formal complaint with the San Antonio Police Department White Collar Crime Unit seeking to open an investigation as to whether the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) violated the Open Meetings Act on June 25, by taking action on a specific financing proposal to toll portions of US Highway 281 & Loop 1604, when the agenda merely read: “Action on additional Federal and State Funding Opportunities.”
The White Collar Crime Unit will bring this to the Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed who will determine if they’ll proceed with the case. The Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, may also get involved.
Vague agenda items are the norm with this MPO. We have complained about this practice for a number of years to no avail. They expect citizens to wade through hundreds of pages of documents to actually determine what this board is doing and how our tax dollars are being spent.
Ironically, Senator Jeff Wentworth requested an Attorney General opinion (GA-0668) on vague city council agendas, and yet he voted for this proposal that was also vague and not properly posted.
But TURF believes Monday’s meeting warrants legal action since it so flagrantly sought to keep the public in the dark about what the board was adopting.
Not only did it fail to mention the names of the two highways involved, but it also involved:
- Converting an existing free lane into a toll lane;
- stealing money from 281 and giving it 1604 (when US 281 has already had $130 million in non-toll funds taken away that could have been used to fix it without tolls);
- turning the middle toll lanes into dedicated bus and HOV toll lanes;
- taking the power to toll away from the RMA and giving it to the Advanced Transportation District (ATD) board; and,
- It also grants the ATD board the right to raid the toll revenues to pay for mass transit projects, including the controversial downtown streetcar.
These are very specific, far-reaching actions and the public has a right to know about such impending changes so they can have a chance to properly respond and weigh in on the MPO’s actions before decisions are made.
Last minute changes that were not properly posted
Not only was the agenda vague, changes to the proposal were made after the agenda and the board’s meeting packet was posted and distributed, and board members, other than the two TxDOT and two Via members, were not privy to the changes until they walked in the door for the meeting on June 25.
State Representative Joe Farias, an MPO board member and the only dissenting vote, asked how the MPO could vote on such a measure when he only found out about the changes by “reading about it in the newspaper over the weekend.”
If the District Attorney fails to act, TURF reserves the right to bring a private cause of action into court. Every MPO Board member that took part in the illegal action could be personally fined and the action taken by the board nullified.
This is far too important an issue for taxpayers to sweep under the rug, while this organization has gone rogue by persistently flouting the law despite repeated warnings; it’s time they are reprimanded. Billions of dollars in taxpayer money are on the line, and if this is allowed to stand, San Antonians will have to pay tolls in perpetuity for lanes built with their tax money.
Terri Hall is the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), which defends against eminent domain abuse and promotes non-toll transportation solutions. She’s a home school mother of eight turned citizen activist. Ms. Hall is also a contributor to