Part 2 – More hats than the Sandstorm Scholar
Don’t think this is a scheme concocted by a couple city employees. It is not.
It is Councilwoman Latrelle Bright Joy’s law partner, former mayor David Langston, who has for many years been the driving force behind the North & East Lubbock Community Development Corporation. Their law firm, Mullin, Hoard and Brown, an Amarillo-based firm that boasts over 40 attorneys, is paid to represent NELCDC and has done so since 2006.
It was Langston who made a presentation to the Council on February 28, 2013 (agenda item 7.1) as a member of the board of directors and immediate past Chairman of NELCDC. The presentation was a work session item that was a prelude to the March 14, 2013 council vote to fund the first $251,000 grant in 2013. The second grant was approved in September.
While he serving as chairman of the board for NELCDC, Langston was also its legal counsel.
In that February 28 presentation David Langston spoke to the city council about north and east Lubbock saying from May 10, 1970 [sic] “until perhaps 1992, it was an area in decline”. Coincidentally, Langston was elected mayor of Lubbock in 1992.
In that meeting Councilwoman Joy praised Langston for his efforts to bring the needs of north and east Lubbock to the attention of the Council.
While he serving as chairman of the board for NELCDC, Langston claims he was (and continues to be) also its legal counsel. He is asserting that all communications on city email servers between himself and city employees Thomas Harris and Quincy White are protected from disclosure by attorney-client privilege.
In fairness to Councilwoman Joy, when we interviewed her on February 7, 2014 the Councilwoman indicated that she had been unaware of her firm’s representation of NELCDC until the firm’s recent work arguing that NELCDC records are not public.
“Even though I’m in the firm, the relationship between NELCDC and its attorney are still confidential. We don’t share information.” Hers is a large firm with many partners and hundreds, if not thousands, of clients.
Councilman Victor Hernandez recuses whenever a matter affects a non-profit board on which his wife serves.
But even with that knowledge Councilwoman Joy doesn’t believe there is any appearance of impropriety with her votes to fund NELCDC. In 2013 she voted three times to fund NELCDC for a total of over $1 million while knowing that her law partner, Langston, was NELCDC’s chief proponent and board member.
Councilwoman Joy explained in her interview with us that there is no defined legal conflict in her votes to fund NELCDC.
The American Bar Association has what might appear to be applicable rules of conflict (1.10 & 1.11) however they are model rules, not binding, and probably require an attorney to interpret them. It is interesting to note that Councilman Victor Hernandez recuses whenever a matter affects a non-profit board on which his wife serves.
The appearance of impropriety, on the other hand, is determined by the reader. But Councilwoman Joy isn’t the only city council member that NELCDC influences.
NELCDC holds an annual Community Champions banquet. The money for the banquet is raised independent of its Council funding albeit city employees are still involved. At its September 24 banquet NELCDC gave Councilmen Floyd Price and Victor Hernandez its Community Champion Award.
A timely award and no doubt given because the pair sponsored the May 9, 2013 (agenda item 6.2) resolution awarding NELCDC the majority of the proceeds of the city’s mineral royalties. Those royalties to NELCDC could exceed $700,000 this year. It was timely because at the time both council members were facing the possibility of a recall election.
Gratitude is appropriate even when politically auspicious. But while funds are raised independently for the banquet, historically $35,000 to $40,000, we are reminded that money is fungible. Funds raised for one purpose free up existing money for another.
These characters wear more hats than the Sandstorm Scholar.
If NELCDC can raise $40,000 for a party perhaps that money can be better spent offsetting tax dollars or supplementing its credit counseling program.
Quincy White summed up the problem of giving money to NELCDC, or any government funded bureaucracy, in this way. “It’s kind of like that old saying, something about ‘the hog will eat all you give him'” (2/28/2013 council meeting agenda item 7.1).
This is the NELCDC lineup. It should be remembered that while these characters appear to wear more hats than the Sandstorm Scholar, there is no allegation here of criminal behavior.
- Quincy White: an Assistant City Manager for the city of Lubbock who is check signer for NELCDC, former Executive Director of NELCDC, contract signer for the city of Lubbock and member of the board of directors of NELCDC. According to Langston’s 2/28/2013 presentation to council White spends ten to twenty percent of his time with NELCDC. It was White who “misspoke” about the nature and reimbursement of Thomas Harris’ employment.
- Thomas Harris: Assistant City Secretary for the city of Lubbock who is advocate for NELCDC, hired as Executive Director of NELCDC Oct. 1, 20113 and member of the board of directors of NELCDC.
- David Langston: former mayor and law partner of Councilwoman Joy, board member of NELCDC, self-described immediate past chairman of the board (2/28/2013) of NELCDC while at the same time paid legal counsel for NELCDC. It is Langston’s and Joy’s law firm that NELCDC engaged to prevent its records from disclosure.
North and east Lubbock does have pressing needs. In our final article we will look at what ought to be done with the funding.