From most accounts, Robbie Clark is a nice guy. In a 2007 local newspaper story, Mr. Clark is referred as “Mr. McKinney.” He was the star quarterback of the McKinney High School football team in the 1960s. A search of Mr. Clark’s service on the City of McKinney Boards and other community boards shows he is highly involved. I would say he qualifies as being part of the McKinney Good Ole Boy Network – or the Underground Government, as I call it.
You might recall my Rumors vs Fact blog a few days ago. I had heard rumors from more than one person that Robbie Clark goes a little overboard in representing his bank while he sits on the McKinney Economic Development Corporation. The rumor included pushing for the MEDC to give Mr. Clark’s friend or customer some extra consideration on a piece of property the MEDC was selling. So I did an Open Records Request. After three attempts I finally got the email MEDC Executive Director about which I was hearing. It is dated November 27,2013. I suggest you read carefully.
“I have been aware for over a year that Larry Crosby has put a group of investors together to purchase land in East McKinney. The Group started with the purchase of the Cotton Compress property. I understand they are trying to put property together to make significant investments in new construction projects in East McKinney. If at all possible, I would like to see us give them every consideration that we can for the purchase of the old Emerson Building. I know nothing of the other offers, when they came in, if the purchasers have the capacity to buy or what the intended uses are. I understand that it is difficult to run to board members for approval. I understand your intentions to talk to the Executive Committee, but this seems like an odd way of selling City owned property valued at over $3MM. Why would we not bring all three proposals along with the back up information on each proposal to the board for approval of one. I don’t think you want to take the risk yourself if there is political fall out over the selection process.
I apologize for being new to the process and don’t want to be a trouble maker or second guesser, but I think you can use your board to see that you are negotiating the swamp. I have always thought that reasonable business thinkers, given all the information, will tend to come to the same conclusions except when politics are involved.
Mr. Crosby has gone to considerable expense for a while to assemble property. I understand that he may be interested in buying some property in East McKinney along the railroad track that would significantly clean up a blighted area. I think this is someone we want to work with and will help us. Please let me know if you would like to discuss further. I am in Friday and will be available most of the day.
The MEDC Executive Director responded that he was trying to keep politics completely out of the process and that all three prospects were “clients” of MEDC.
The Brush Off.
I contacted the Mayor and Interim City Manager (ICM) as was told they would check into this incident. A week or so later I was invited back to talk to the ICM. The response was exactly what a few people told me would happen, as if some of my colleagues had seen the script. Mr. Clark shouldn’t have done that, but he meant well as a representative of the City. His choice was not awarded the contract, so no harm was done. He probably just wasn’t thinking and wasn’t likely to do it again. I assumed somebody at the City had talked to him. In fact, the City Council at that point had already made the move to place the Money Boards (MEDC/MCDC) administrative oversight under the City Manager. I expressed my great disappointment with the response and left fairly quickly. I sensed a circling of the wagons going on.
The McKinney Way.
I sincerely believe Mr. Clark is a good man. I also believe he may have behaved not realizing he was doing something wrong. But then why would someone have that perspective? I feel fairly confident in saying Mr. Clark is a product of what he has seen being done over the years by others. That is exactly the way we humans rationalize and lower the bar on behavior. “Nothing I did or am doing is much worse than others have done before me.” That is how a culture gets established. Left unchecked, the inevitable laxness settles in. The bar is lowered. McKinney has a ton of examples I will be writing about in the future.
So, What Should Happen?
I believe Mr. Clark should be removed from the MEDC Board by the City Council. They have removed another MEDC Board member at least once to my knowledge not due to a conflict, real or perceived but for a potential conflict of interest. This is the real thing, concrete, with Robbie Clark. If Mr. Clark was anything but a hometown football hero, this might have already been done.
Actually, I am calling on Robbie Clark himself to resign. It is the honorable thing to do. I am quite sure that this is not the first time he has used his influence, although it is hopefully the most flagrant. In my ORR emails I received from the City, I found it interesting that he lobbied the MEDC to look favorably toward his good bank client: Servergy. It may have been before he joined the MEDC Board, but there was another time when he recommended his good friend, the ex-CFO of Servergy, to be the Compliance Auditor for the MEDC to monitor contracts. All you have to do is Google “Servergy” to be reminded it is the company Ken Paxton is connected to and part of Mr. Paxton’s current indictment. And if you were to go to the offices of Servergy, you walk past the adjoining neighboring offices of the MEDC/MCDC.
The City Council should raise the standard and live by the highest standards of all. The two Money Boards (MEDC/MCDC) receive $10,000,000 each in sales taxes every single year.
Reversing The Culture.
In just one generation of elected City Council members, The McKinney Way could be reversed. They could do that by living within a high code of ethics, written or unwritten. They could convey a message that conflicts of interest, real or perceived, will not be tolerated. They would make it known to a board violator that they stepped over a line. The standards would be fully understood if the example exuded from every Council member themselves.
If there is one single achievement that would match the best of just about everything I’ve seen from recent City Councils, it would be this: Change the culture. This monumental act would survive them and mold the most honest future possible for the City of McKinney. I have many more examples to write about this week. LFM