Friday, July 29, 2011

Editorial: Corpus Christi Mayor Joe Adama Assisting Private Club's Agenda of Self-Service?

COLUMN: Economics and Politics and CONFLICT OF INTEREST


Corpus Christi, TX – There is a general concern expressed to this publication that the City of Corpus Christi is being used by what has been described as a well-oiled, well-fueled power group that basically wants to take over the “money-making” functions of the city council. Related to this concern is the economic situation – which Mayor Joe Adame – promised to address responsibly is the topic of discussion among many a business and politico and generally involved resident activist.

“There are a few things coming down the pipe that are stamped ‘economic development’ and the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation might be trying to get credit, but the CCREDC (or “EDC” for short) has a record of procuring tax payer dollars for their own private agenda and getting inside info to ensure the success of the interests of their private membership. It is basically a private corporation run for the most part by public dollars. They have not brought in any major development in most of their years of experience yet how do they justify getting public dollars? Recently a new plastic company from Italy was referred to this area by the state – in an attempt for it to settle here, but it is not yet a done deal. It is still involved in sensitive negotiations,” a local insider shared.

The source continued: “The CCREDC (or EDC) has too much control over economic development and is not sharing the wealth… They get too much inside information and share it with their buddies in my estimation and business partners. Now with Mayor Joe Adame (who was a past president of the CCREDC) is starting to show his colors by pushing to have city staff under the CCREDC which is a private organization. Recently they put the Corpus Christi Economic Development Corporation (which was controlled by the city) under a private organization – that is, the CCREDC. The mayor and some of the council also allowed a city staff person that was working for the city to go work for the CCREDC. The mayor and political chums allowed for the “city funding” portion to pay her position to be transferred.”

The CCREDC is a private group. The City’s economic development corporation is now under the control of this private group -- and as cited above even a city staff person is now working the CCREDC (who was reporting to the 4A board). The problem is the CCREDC does not have the same requirements for open meetings as other public entities. This issue raises many an ethical concerns.

To repeat, keep in mind that prior to this arrangement, there were two parts to economic development: the CCREDC (a private group) and the Economic Development of the City – now the city’s has been shifted by the mayor to be absorbed by the private group – that is, the CCREDC.

Is it a new trend by the current administration allowing private investors exerting a major influence over public entities? The theme expands in these discussions to the scenario of more and more public money being put under them. “The mayor should be pushing an agenda that works the other way around,” a former city administrator shared.

“It has become more clear, day by day in every way that these guys are a private investment, and thus are using public money to further private personal agenda. How can the face and voice of the city be so befuddled by this issue. The CCREDC is private, not public. They use excuses such as, ‘We have to assure some high degree of confidentiality for proprietary reasons in reference to our investors.’ But it is all an excuse to manipulate priorities. When the dust settles after each lobby attempt, it all comes down to the fact that the CCREDC is using public money and do not even abide by the rigors of open meetings that other entities have in the region. If there is an issue of privacy or legality involve the CCREDC can always keep the meetings as public as possible and the go into private sessions like the other entities do. They should be accountable and be audit by the public. Did you know the city cannot audit them?”

One businessman, who is a critic of the CCREDC and has been researching their activities, shared: “It is my opinion that the mayor is part of that agenda. He is either being pressured or driven by his orbit of associates in that direction. Lack of performance: this historically describes the CCREDC. It cannot justify getting thousands and thousands of public dollars from the city and port and county. It can never justify so much power. The CCREDC despite funding over the years since Loyd Neal help establish their operation as mayor have never demonstrated a good performance record. “Mayor Joe Adame is one of them. The cat is out of the bag,” a current city councilman told El Defenzor off the record. “The 4A board..who represent the city part of the CCREDC, had a staff person who is now under the CCREDC – the city’s budget slice to pay for her salary was also transferred to the CCREDC. The mayor pushed for that move. He was behind it. The terrible thing is that the 4A board did not find out until the deal was done -- at least most. The mayor did not even express the courtesies to ask the 4A board for their opinion. Moving city staff and departments and resources to a private entity with voracious appetites of self-interest can never be justified. It is Fascism.”

But some claim the influence of the CCREDC transcends just the four walls of its office and official “written” terrain. Come claim it has infiltrated many a public entities with public dollars: from CCISD to Del Mar Board of Regents to the RTA and Port Authority.

On a related note: currently, there are some concerns about the bid process at the Corpus Christi Independent School District. There are some bids related to construction to architects to other companies that are directly or indirectly associated with School Board Trustee Carol Scott (who runs KAILO COMMUNICATIONS). In fact, many of these bidders are her clients (that is, being represented by KAILO COMMUNICATIONS) yet she insists on being a primary mover and shaker of many of these contracts. A lot of politics is being played out.

At the school district level, a TEA representative told this publication that any school board trustee with a conflict of interest should not be involved in the bidding process – especially if the interest of one or more of their clients in on the table. To this day, no one has asked Ms. Scott to recluse herself. “She is playing a prominent role and making rules how the company should bid. What a coincidence,” a former school board trustee informed.

Ms. Scott used to brag on her KAILO internet website that she could “connect you with the movers and shakers.” It is clear now who they are – “the cat is out of the bag” as some have put it. Her own husband sits in the city council. “It is not ‘public service’ but ‘self-service.’”

To return to the CCREDC. “The CCREDC is getting stronger funding, yet is not delivering. It has received over a million from entities and has delivered less than one percent of job growth in the area. Something that should occur naturally but are taking credit for it. But look at The Valley and San Antonio and other cities – they are all doing well; but the CCREDC continues to drag here locally. And this mayor, has to be held accountable, he is pushing that this voracious entity with private investors be given additional funding. STOP THE CCREDC at their tracks.”

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