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Thursday, July 6, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

Ethics commission slaps CTRMA board member with fine

The Texas Ethics Commission has collected a small fine from one of Travis County’s appointees to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority’s Board of Directors.

Charles Heimsath agreed to pay the $300 penalty after consenting to offer no further challenges to allegations that he failed to list two business interests in personal finance statements he filed in 2014 and 2015.

The commission issued the fine in late June, more than a year after the downtown Austin-based nonprofit watchdog group Texans for Public Justice originally filed a complaint against Heimsath.

The commission determined that Heimsath neglected to report his affiliation with 901 Big River LLC and CKH West LLC. Last Friday, Heimsath told the Austin Monitor he created each company to take ownership of a pair of small downtown properties, including the West Avenue office he works out of. His lawyers encouraged the move in order to protect him from potential liabilities, he explained.

He further noted that the properties would enjoy a negligible benefit from CTRMA projects, including the MoPac Improvement Project, which is more than a mile away from West Avenue.

Heimsath has sat on the CTRMA board since 2009 and was reappointed by the Commissioners Court to another two-year term in February 2016. Shortly after that vote, in March, Texans for Public Justice filed separate ethics complaints against Heimsath, CTRMA Chair Ray Wilkerson, and former Vice Chair Jim Mills. The group also accused Wilkerson and Mills of not disclosing property-owning companies they were involved with from 2014 to 2015.

The Texas Ethics Commission has not yet published any decision in those two cases.

In a statement that accompanied its original complaint, Texans for Public Justice slammed the CTRMA board for being “dominated by real estate interests that vote as a bloc with little debate or dissent.”

Texans for Public Justice Director Craig McDonald echoed that sentiment on Friday. He framed the fine against Heimsath as a small victory and said he looks forward to resolutions to his other complaints against the toll road board members.

“This is a body that controls nearly $2 billion in taxpayer-funded toll roads. It has very little accountability and very little public scrutiny. We need as much transparency as we can get into possible motivations,” said McDonald. “You need a good radar detector for these highwaymen.”

Photo by SPUI, Public Domain.

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Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority: The governing arm of Central Texas transportation. The board of directors is appointed by the governor and the Travis and Williamson County Commissioners Court. 1.5 stars on Yelp.

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