A peek into papers of the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council, whose day-to-day operations are funded with public monies, reveals the board of the 501c6 organization voted to direct $991,000 in assets of the Texas Energy Center to the council and dissolve the Center.
Documents obtained by BJP include the minutes of the GFBEDC Executive Committee’s September 24, 2014 meeting to accept the funds of the Texas Energy Center and the subsequent October 8, 2014 Board of Directors meeting disclosing that approximately $991,000 was moved from Texas Energy Center accounts to Greater Fort Bend EDC accounts on September 30, 2014.
The meeting minutes reflect the Texas Energy Center board met in late September 2014 and voted to dissolve the Corporation and provide its remaining assets to the GFBEDC. The TxEC vote includes a stipulation the funds be managed under a separate committee comprised of the existing board members of the TxEC that are also board members of the GFBEDC—Fort Bend County, City of Sugar Land, University of Houston and the GFBEDC.
According to a media account in the Austin Chronicle, research from Texans for Public Justice and the State Auditor’s Office, the Texas Energy Center was a recipient of $3.6 million dollars in grant funds from the Texas Enterprise Fund at the Office of the Governor under former Governor Rick Perry. The audit found the Texas Energy Center was one of five projects that did not submit a formal application for the money nor was the TxEC required to create new, direct jobs.
The audit further disclosed the Office of the Governor (Perry) amended its agreement with the TxEC to give “job-creation credit” for salaries that exceeded the salaries that the award agreement required and secondly, remove a requirement that 100 initial jobs be located at the Texas Energy Center.
The Office also removed two additional requirements pertaining to a $20,000,000 investment requirement and a requirement to spend funds solely to provide tenant space. As a result, a $3.6 million clawback penalty the Texas Energy Center could have owed due to award non-compliance was eliminated.
Research from Texans for Public Justice published by the Austin Chronicle revealed the amended deal gave the Texas Energy Center until 2015 to hit its full target of 1,500 indirect jobs.
In March 2015 the Open Records Division of the Texas Attorney Generals’ office specifically noted in a ruling that “under two of the submitted contracts, the GFBED Council will use the funds paid by the Sugar Land 4B Corporation and the Sugar Land Development Corporation for “day-to-day operations, supplies, salaries, office rentals, travel expenses, and other administrative costs.””
Contained in the minutes of the September 24, 2014 meeting of the GFBEDC is a concern expressed about the politics of the Texas Enterprise Fund and opponents desires to “use it” against political candidates.
Moreover in the wake of the Greater Houston Partnership v Ken Paxton and Jim Jenkins decision and the majority opinion written by Justice Eva Guzman, the Texas Attorney General ruled the check register of the EDC is excepted from disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act.