Blessing Pay to Play in the City of McKinney

Introduction.

There is one problem when lawsuits get settled. You never know how the outcome would have been in front of a judge and jury. Guilty or innocent? The facts put forth in a lawsuit may or may not be accurate. Again, the trial is about substantiating the facts through documents, witnesses, experts and cross-examination.

One interesting lawsuit occurred in McKinney in 2009. It has been conveniently forgotten. In spite of the shallow news coverage in McKinney, there were some decent reports in the newspapers. The lawsuit was filed by a developer from out of state involved in the early stages of Gateway. The suit was against 1) the City of McKinney; 2) the McKinney Community Development Corporation; 3) the McKinney Economic Development Corporation; 4) then Former Councilmember Thad Helsley; and then Councilman Bill Cox.

The first three defendants were being sued due to an alleged breach of contract on the Gateway Hotel Project. The last two defendants allegedly extorted $50,000 from the out of state developer. My blog is about the second part of the lawsuit.

What Happened?

A ground breaking ceremony was set for February 28, 2008. The Developer Principals traveled from California to McKinney the day before to finalize agreements. While meeting with MEDC and City officials on February 27, 2008, McKinney City Council Members Thad Helsley and Bill Cox asked to speak privately with one of the Developer Principals. In the Council Chambers at City Hall, the two Councilmembers told the Principal that in order to finalize the agreements and break ground on the Hotel Project, the Developer had to “contribute” $50,000 to the McKinney Veterans Memorial Park Fund.

Prior to the meeting, this Fund was never mentioned, the lawsuit states. However, faced with potential breaches of the timing requirements to start the project, the Developer had no choice but to capitulate to the Council Members’ extortion request. The lawsuit says the Developer agreed to write the check. Also, the Developer was required to make an announcement about the “gift” at the groundbreaking ceremony the next day.

A copy of the cancelled check made payable to the City of McKinney/MCDC was Exhibit A in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit goes on to say the proposed park was situated within Craig Ranch, a competing developer’s project.

What Was The Outcome?

It was reported in the McKinney Courier Gazette n October 2, 2009 that Helsley and Cox filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit parts pertaining to them. The lawsuit by the Developer included assertions of racketeering and extortion. The same newspaper reports on December 4, 2009 that the Developer responded to the motion to dismiss.

Ultimately, the brawl between the Developer and the City, including the charges against Mr. Helsley and Mr. Cox, were part of a large settlement of multiple suits. Therefore, we don’t actually know how the Developer and the two Councilmembers would have been judged by a jury.

But, you know what? It doesn’t matter to me.

In asking around with knowledgeable city officials, there is no argument that the $50,000 check happened. The only argument offered is that the check may have been voluntary and not coerced.

Whoa! That is not a good answer. If Helsley and Cox approached a Developer and asked, pretty please, would you mind giving $50,000 for a park on another developer’s property, who authorized them to make that request? And what developer on Planet Earth would just willingly pay that kind of money? There would certainly be an appearance Helsley and Cox were acting in their official capacity of elected officials for the City of McKinney.

Did the remaining and subsequent Councilmembers weigh in on this event? Did they censure Mr. Helsley and Mr. Cox for the taint this placed on the McKinney’s reputation? The Developer’s lawsuit actually stated, “Upon information and belief, the City has also extorted money from others similarly situated.” I wouldn’t give any weight to that statement except it is also not the first time I’ve heard similar comments even before I knew of this particular lawsuit.

So, where can we find Mr. Helsley and Mr. Cox now? While I should be surprised, I’m not. They are part of the McKinney good ole boys that continue to be circulated from one board and commission to another. Mr. Helsley was on the Stormwater Committee and is now on the Comprehensive Planning Committee. Bill Cox is on the powerful Planning & Zoning Commission and Reinvestment Zone 1.

Conclusion.

Where is the outrage on the audacious action of taking $50,000 from an out of state developer’s pocket to put into a local developer’s project?

Did it ever occur to the City Councils since 2008 (and especially today) that you can have a Restaurant Row that stretches for miles, but that pales in comparison to an image that all developers are treated equally and fairly in McKinney?

It seems to me now that US 75 improvements are done and Sam Rayburn has been wide open for quite some time, the biggest impairments to the commercial growth the McKinney Elite profess to want and need are the very ones putting up blocks to take care of their own?

Why would this kind of mindset happen in 2008 and not still be evident today when the same actors are still being appointed by the City Council?

These kinds of stories need to be told and retold. Many don’t want to look into the past. And we know exactly what happens when we don’t. The stewards of McKinney’s past have failed us.

This will never change as long as the McKinney Citizen-Sheep continue to graze while the McKinney Elite manipulate the key decisions. Let’s end the Blessing of Pay to Play in McKinney. LFM

 

 

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