EXTRA! EXTRA! CORRUPTION ALERT!
Conroe, October 9 – Money ties to an Austin political consultant released from federal prison, to Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal’s legal defense fund, to a Minneapolis real estate developer that contributes thousands of dollars to Doyal’s campaign fund, and to San Antonio Rick Sheldon taint the right-of-way deal that Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley have placed before the Montgomery County Commissioners Court and Montgomery County Toll Road Authority for an official acceptance vote on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. Varde Partners, a Minnesota real estate developer, is contributing, through one of its real estate development partnerships, right-of-way property for the construction of the Tx-249 Tollway project.
The “contribution” is far from an act of benevolence.
Varde Partners, a Minneapolis-based real estate investment company, owns approximately six thousand (6,000) acres of real estate near the proposed Tx-249 tollway and intends to develop commercial centers after the government completes the unnecessary tollway. Varde has mastered the art of giving small portions of rights-of-way to governmental entities throughout Singapore, East Asia, and Europe so that the government will bear the cost of roadway development rather than Varde having to create access and infrastructure itself.
One of Varde’s directors is Jeff Thuringer, who has contributed thousands of dollars to Doyal’s political campaigns over the years. Thuringer and Pete Peters, a political consultant since his release from federal prison with whom Varde has worked closely, established Doyal’s and Riley’s legal defense fund, which hired and paid at least in part for Houston criminal defense attorney Rusty Hardin to lead the defense of Doyal in the Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”) criminal indictment which is now pending before the Beaumont Court of Appeals.
Doyal and Riley, who are co-indictees along with local political boss Marc Davenport in the TOMA case, also known as the “Trial of the 21st Century” due to its potential impact on efforts to clean up corruption in Montgomery County, have worked closely together with Hardin and Riley’s other attorneys to attempt to fend off the criminal charges against them.
Doyal and Riley have failed to mention that the “generous land donation” was adjacent to the Varde commercial tract of land from which Varde stands to make millions of dollars in profits.
Varde, San Antonio developer Rick Sheldon (also a Doyal-Riley political contributor), and others have quietly purchased land along the proposed right-of-way for the Tx-249 Extension, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway.
Don’t think for a moment that the Tx-249 project isn’t about funneling big money towards Doyal’s and Riley’s biggest political contributors and most important supporters. At Doyal’s urging, on January 26, 2015, Montgomery County entered into a $1.987 million contract with the engineering firm of his best friend and business partner Bobby Jack Adams. The firm is Halff Associates, Inc., which also has close ties to the San Jacinto River Authority. The County government has now paid Halff Associates well over $2 million on the Tx-249 project out of general revenue tax dollars. The other vendors on the project are also major political contributors to Doyal and Riley.
Why will Tx-249 be a tollroad at all? Because on June 27, 2017, none other than Craig Doyal and Charlie Riley appeared before the Texas Transportation Commission in Austin, where Doyal told the Commissioners who oversee Tx-DOT that Montgomery County was “unified in support” for the construction of Tx-249 as a tollroad!
In fact, even in the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, Tx-249 funding proposals had recently failed on 2 to 2 votes (Doyal and Riley voting “for” with Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark voting “against”). When Montgomery County citizens appear before the Commissioners Court to comment on the Tollway, they’re unanimous in their opposition, with the exception of a few close allies of Riley, such as the husband of his campaign manager, who have urged otherwise.
Meanwhile, little Grimes County to the west of Montgomery County lobbied vociferously against any tollroads cutting through Grimes County. The Grimes County Commissioners Court, their elected State Representative, and numerous citizens stopped the tolling of Tx-249 in Grimes. In other words, their elected leaders represented the citizens rather than their own financial interests.
If Doyal and Riley, along with the rest of the Commissioners Court, stood against the tolling of Tx-249 in Montgomery County, rather than lying to Tx-DOT, there’d be a very different scenario for the future of Tx-249.
The money ties to Doyal and Riley are overwhelming for the Tx-249 Tollway boondoggle. Gigantic political contributions, the legal defense fund, hiring of criminal defense lawyer Rusty Hardin, former federal prisoners for political consultants, awarding multi-million contracts to Doyal’s closest friend and business partner for the tollway, and downright deceit are precisely what Montgomery County citizens will continue to suffer as this Tx-249 Tollway will continue.