Travis County

City staff failed to stop mayor from misusing city resources

City staff failed to prevent Mayor Steve Adler from making candidate endorsements that were aired live on a city-run television station last December, on the first day of early voting, even though he told them beforehand that that’s what he intended to do when he got in front of the cameras.

Second effort to find Central Health auditors

Lack of response caused Travis County to issue another solicitation In response to concerted pressure from groups alleging that Central Health lacked sufficient financial controls...

Commissioners order Central Health performance audit, again

This article was updated 12:21pm October 4, 2022, to reflect what the final order for a performance audit contains, and to replace the linked draft...

Commissioner Daugherty’s Criminal Case Delayed

 Commissioner Daugherty’s Criminal Case Delayed

Statute of limitations will expire in May, attorney
investigating alleged offense had health issues

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2015
Posted Monday February 23, 2015 9:41am

Gerald DaughertyA court hearing scheduled last Thursday on the criminal complaint against Travis County Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty was not held.

The doors of the designated 390th Judicial District Court were locked. A judicial aide said the attorney investigating the complaint and assigned judge had agreed not to proceed with the criminal case until a related civil lawsuit filed against Daugherty was resolved.

Leslie B. Vance of Marble Falls was appointed “county attorney pro tem” to investigate the complaint filed 11 months ago by William G. “Bill” Bunch of the Save Our Springs Alliance. Travis County Attorney David Escamilla was recused because the Travis County Commissioners Court controls his budget. Judge James E. Morgan, retired from the 220th Judicial District Court with jurisdiction over Bosque, Comanche, and Hamilton counties, was assigned to hear the case.

The complaint, supported by Daugherty’s testimony in a deposition in a related civil case filed November 12, 2013, claimed that Daugherty had violated the Texas Public Information Act by not turning over his correspondence related to the proposed controversial State Highway 45 Southwest.

At the time the complaint was filed, Daugherty told The Austin Bulldog it was “nothing more than a rehash of the allegations they brought in the civil suit. I don’t put anything past Bill Bunch or the SOS organization to thwart the will of the people,” he said, referring to efforts to halt construction of SH45 SW.

Bill BunchBunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, was also at the 390th Judicial District Court for the Thursday hearing and was disappointed to learn it would not be held.

Bunch said, “The Texas Public Information Act has distinct civil and criminal remedies. The (civil and criminal) cases are separate.  My understanding is that Judge (Billy Ray) Stubblefield (who assigned Vance Judge Morgan to the case) referred our complaint for prosecution. The documents we provided in our complaint, including Commissioner Daugherty’s sworn testimony, were sufficient to file charges and take to a jury. We did most of the work upfront. So I don't understand the lack of action.

Criminal Complaint Hits Commissioner Daugherty

Criminal Complaint Hits Commissioner Daugherty

Save Our Springs Alliance files complaint a day
before vote to fund State Highway 45 project

 by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2014
Posted Monday, March 17, 2014 8:29pm

Gerald DaughertyThe Save Our Springs Alliance filed a criminal complaint with the Travis County Attorney’s Office today, alleging that Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty had violated the Texas Public Information Act by not turning over his correspondence related to the proposed controversial State Highway 45 Southwest. (See: SOS Alliance Criminal Complaint re: Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty)

The complaint came the day before the Travis County Commissioners Court could vote to approve an initial payment of $2.5 million to help pay for design and construction of SH45 SW and to be obligated to pay an additional $12.5 million by October 30.

The SOS Alliance has long opposed the construction of SH45 SW over the sensitive recharge zone of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer. Daugherty has spearheaded efforts to get SH45 SW built.

The timing of the vote is important, given the recent Democratic Primary election. Former Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt is the Democratic nominee for county judge, and former City Council Member Brigid Shea is the party’s nominee for the Precinct 2 county commissioner’s seat that Eckhardt vacated to run for county judge. Both are unlikely to support the new highway.

Deferred Prosecution Ends Open Meetings Investigation

  • Deferred Prosecution Ends Open Meetings Investigation
  • Mayor and five current council members sign agreements
  • waiving the statute of limitations and requiring major reforms
  • by Ken Martin
  • © The Austin Bulldog 2012
  • Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2012 11:54pm

The Austin City Council Members Subject to the County Attorney’s Investigation: Riley, Cole, Shade, Leffingwell, Morrison, Spelman, Martinez

David EscamillaTravis County Attorney David Escamilla today issued a seven-page press release to announce the results of an investigation that began 21 months ago into the question of whether then-members of the Austin City Council violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.

 “This investigation was always about compliance with the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) and other legal standards requiring transparency at City Hall, which are crucial to ensuring a government that is accountable and responsive to its citizens,” Escamilla’s statement says.

The investigation found no evidence of corruption, but voluminous proof of communications among the mayor and council members by every means possible, the sum of which violate the criminal provisions of the Act.

The agreements signed by each elected official affirm long lists of detailed, specific communications among the council members that constitute probable cause. These include specific dates on which a quorum of the council communicated face-to-face, in phone calls, and via e-mail and text messages.

Why is Apple Getting Tax Incentives?

Why is Apple Getting Tax Incentives?

Austin Won Apple Without Competition
‘The Arizona Republic’ Reported

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2012
Posted Friday, March 16, 2012 5:46pm
Updated Friday, March 16, 2012 6:13pm

The Arizona Republic, that state’s largest newspaper, yesterday reported that Phoenix was never in the running to attract the Apple Inc. facility for which Texas has committed tax incentives, and both Austin and Travis County are considering doing likewise.

Governor Rick Perry is offering Apple $21 million in incentives over 10 years and the City of Austin is considering sweetening the deal with $8.6 million, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Travis County is also considering incentives.

Those incentives were based on the premise that Apple was considering Phoenix and Austin.

However, The Arizona Republic’s story published yesterday reported Phoenix “never had a chance” because the proposed site was on state land and “state trust land did not excite them” (Apple), so there was no Phoenix site reasonably in contention.”

BCCP Celebration

Posted Tuesday May 17, 2011 4:49pm
Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan
Looks Back On 15 Years of Accomplishments

Preserve Still Short of Acreage But Provides
a Lasting Legacy for Future Generations

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2011

Balcones Canyonlands Preserve: 15th Anniverary Hat from 2011 Celebration, Commemorative Cup from 1996 CelebrationSpirits were high on May 2, 1996, when Nancy Kaufman, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, signed the permit at 10:24am, the stamp of approval obtained through the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP). The plan called for the creation of a preserve system (the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve or BCP) to protect endangered and at-risk species. The overcast morning cooled temperatures and saved a lot of sweat for those who attended the invitation-only celebration, including Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, former U.S. Representative J.J. “Jake” Pickle, and other dignitaries.

Holding the permit aloft after signing it, Kaufman said, “It looks like it’s made out of paper but it’s really made out of blood, sweat and tears.”

That was not an exaggeration, considering the plan was eight years in the making. From 1988 through 1996, concerned citizens, business leaders, landowners, developers, environmental groups, scientists and the Fish and Wildlife Service collaborated to create a Habitat Conservation Plan that allowed the permit to be issued under the Endangered Species Act.

We were bussed in that morning amid tight security that blocked access by the protesters, who had massed outside the gate to Reicher Ranch on Ranch Road 620. Inside, we stood amid the junipers and watched turkey vultures coasting lazily on the currents overhead. Remarks were purposely kept short so that all in attendance would have time to sign the registry that would stand as testimony to this unique achievement, which Babbitt called, “the very first place in the United States we have produced an urban conservation plan.”

Kerry Tate, chair of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce said, “In developer’s terms, we could shout, ‘Done deal.’”

But Babbitt issued a warning: “I recognize this as the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. We’ve got a long way to go.”

The irony of this project being ramrodded by Babbitt, who said he was drawn to the challenge of working on the Endangered Species Act for President Bill Clinton, is that around here Babbitt wasn't exactly thought of as a friend of the environment. As I later wrote in the July 2002 edition of The Good Life magazine, in a story titled “The Life and Death of Barton Springs,” it took two federal lawsuits filed by the Save Our Springs Alliance to force Babbitt to finally declare the Barton Springs Salamander an endangered species in 1997.

But then, theBalcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan was not simply about the environment. It gave landowners who wanted to develop or otherwise alter habitat for endangered species that’s outside the preserve boundaries an alternative to seeking an individual permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The FWS permitting process requires development of an individual habitat conservation plan tailored to the project and may require additional habitat to be set aside.

The Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan offered landowners a faster process administered by Travis County in which they could buy participation certificates to allow development in habitat located outside the preserve.

On May 13, 2011, fifteen years after the BCCP permit was signed, there were no protesters at the gate and precious little cloud cover to ward off the heat, but the spirit of the event was again one of celebration.

Bad press, mea culpas