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Ethics complaints filed against CTRMA board members

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Three top officials at the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority are facing formal complaints that they failed to properly disclose pertinent business interests.

The director of the nonprofit watchdog group Texans for Public Justice filed three complaints with the Texas Ethics Commission against CTRMA Chair Ray Wilkerson, Vice Chair James Mills and Board Member Charles Heimsath.

TPJ announced the action with a release that accuses the three of having “violated the state law that requires them to publicly disclose personal business interests.”

“Today’s Texas Ethics Commission complaints cite a total of 15 business entities that appear to be closely connected to Wilkerson, Mills, or Heimsath,” the group said, adding that the board members failed to disclose their connections to those entities as required by Texas Government Code.

TPJ cited the members’ most recent financial disclosure reports, which cover 2013 and 2014.

In the complaint filed against Wilkerson, TPJ Director Craig McDonald wrote, “County tax appraisal district records suggest that Mr. Ray Wilkerson may have a beneficial interest in five real properties that were not disclosed” in Wilkerson’s reports.

Those five properties are clustered in Northwest Austin on Mesa Drive, Burnet Road, Shoal Creek Boulevard and MoPac Boulevard. Each is within a mile of the freeway, which is undergoing a controversial expansion project steered by the CTRMA.

The properties are listed as belonging to several different corporations that are linked to Wilkerson through filings with the Texas Secretary of State’s office, according to McDonald’s complaint. McDonald also accuses Wilkerson of not revealing his connection to those companies and several others.

The complaint against Mills lists six entities to which the vice chair allegedly failed to disclose his links, and the complaint against Heimsath, who was just reappointed by the Travis County Commissioners Court to the CTRMA board last month, lists two such entities.

In a statement to the Austin Monitor, CTRMA Director of External Affairs Dee Anne Heath said: “We will of course investigate these claims and respond as needed, in keeping with legal processes. The CTRMA and its board uphold the highest ethical standards and take great pride in representing the best interests of Central Texans and their transportation needs.”

On Monday afternoon, TPJ’s Andrew Wheat declined to speculate on why the board members’ disclosures would be incomplete. “We can’t for the life of us figure out why they weren’t reported,” he said.

Wheat explained that TPJ began looking into the CTRMA in response to growing public frustration with the agency over proposed toll lane projects and charges that the board acts as a rubber stamp for development interests.

“The furor over (the MoPac South project) has certainly brought this all to our attention. That controversy has some disturbing elements to it,” said Wheat. “The real estate industry has a lot of representation on the board, the board rarely dissents and the CTRMA has serious problems with cost overruns and deadline overruns. There are legitimate questions to be asked.”

According to TPJ’s statement, each board member could face a fine as high as $10,000 for filing incomplete personal financial statements.

Photo by The original uploader was Kkinder at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by King of Hearts, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3662539

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