The City of Forney TIF/TRIZ Board of Directors convened on Thursday night to again hear the results and recommendations of economic development consultant David Hawes, Managing Partner of McCall Gibson Swedlund & Barefoot PLLC, in regard to the Gateway Project’s multi-million dollar price tag.
City Manager Tony Carson chose not to use the city’s Swagit recording system to provide video footage of this very important meeting and according to City Secretary Dorothy Brooks this meeting was also not audio recorded as is required by the Open Meetings Act.
The photographs and videos supplied clearly show that Mayor Rick Wilson, Council Member Shaun Myers, City Manager Tony Carson and City Attorney Jon Thatcher along with Petro-Hunt Vice-President Alan Bain were all in attendance at this public meeting.
Shortly after calling the meeting to order TIF/TRIZ Board Chairman Skeet Phillips recessed the meeting into Executive Session so that the board could confer with City Attorney Jon Thatcher and consultant David Hawes privately before publicly revealing the audit findings and solution recommendations.
By decree of Chapter 311 of the Texas Tax Code, the City of Forney TIF/TRIZ Board must include seven members in total. Five members are appointed by the Forney City Council and the other two members are appointed by the City Council and then ratified by the Kaufman County Commissioners Court.
This Joint City-County Board is “charged with adopting a project plan and a reinvestment zone financing plan for the TIF/TIRZ as described in Section 311.011 of the Texas Tax Code”.
TIF/TRIZ Board Members are appointed for two-year terms on a staggered basis, and it’s important that the taxpayers of this county understand that the Forney TIF/TRIZ Board was originally, illegally, formed by former city manager Brian Brooks, former City of Forney mayor Darrell Grooms and former city attorney’s Brown & Hoffmeister.
The original TIF/TRIZ zone was established in 2008 and it was created to accommodate the original Meadow Ridge Farms developer contract that was negotiated between Petro-Hunt attorneys and former city manager Brian Brooks and former mayor Darrell Grooms.
Consultant David Hawes first explained the unethical, illegal formation of the Forney TIF/TRIZ Board at the April 2018 council meeting.
At that time Hawes stated “This TIF/TRIZ doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting the requirements of the statue under Chapter 311 of the Tax Code.”
Consultant Hawes detailed how the TIF/TRIZ Board and the TRIZ Zone were incorrectly formed. The required public meetings were not held and there are no meeting minutes of the Forney Council voting to establish the TRIZ zone, nor any meeting minutes that approve the formation of the TIF Board of Directors.
Now on Thursday night, Consultant David Hawes said “Commissioner’s if you will turn to the Reinvestment Zone One Forney, Texas Draft Project Plan Finance Plan Original, dated October 2018. I’d like to go over this with you.”
Explaining he said “As you had requested when you hired us, we pointed out that there was a problem or issue with not having a proper procedure back ten years ago with regard to the project plan and finance plan, in that a plan was not approved by the TRIZ Board and then approved by a City Council ordinance.”
These facts make it clear that the original formation of the TIF/TRIZ Board was illegal, as was the formation of the original TIF/TRIZ Zone simply because the city did not follow the legal requirements set forth in Texas Tax Code Chapter 311.
Therefore, the City of Forney TIF/TRIZ Board of Directors has no authority, period. The votes cast by these board member’s on Thursday night, mean nothing.
This malformed, council appointed TIF/TRIZ Board can deliberate and offer recommendations to the same City Council that illegally created them if they want, however a court of law can easily denounce their very existence.
Speaking honestly with The Post, TIF/TRIZ Board Chairman Skeet Phillips said “the Board voted to leave the original TIF Zone as is. We didn’t change anything. The city has a developer agreement with the Hunt’s in place that has nothing to do with the County. The County and City have an Inter-local Agreement on this project, that’s all. The City Council can do whatever they want with that developer agreement.”
Currently the TIF Board of Directors is comprised of the follow appointed individuals:
Skeet Phillips – is the Kaufman County Precinct 2 Commissioner however he has been appointed to the TIF Board strictly as a Kaufman County resident, not as a Kaufman County elected official. Phillips currently serves as Chairman of the TIF/TRIZ Board of Directors.
Darrell Hobbs – is a former Forney City Council Member. He is a retired police officer who currently lives in the Devonshire residential development located just outside the Forney city limits. Hobbs was appointed by Council Member Mary Penn on March 6, 2018 to serve on the TIF/TRIZ Board as a county representative.
It should be noted that when Darrell Hobbs was an elected member of the Forney City Council he voted on dozens of change orders presented by former City Manager Brian Brooks on the Gateway Bridge project.
David Holler- is a former Forney City Council Member (2006-2010) who is serving on the TIF/TRIZ Board as a city representative after being appointed by Council Member Robbie Powers.
It should be noted that David Holler was seated as the Place 2 Forney City Council member when the Meadow Ridge Development Agreement with Petro-Hunt was originally considered by the City Council, therefore he was on the council when the TIF/TRIZ Board was initially illegally formed.
Like Darrell Hobbs, David Holler also voted on dozens of change orders associated with the Gateway Bridge project. And very recently Council Member Shaun Myers appointed Holler’s wife, Misty Holler, to the Forney Planning and Zoning Commission.
David Holler is an independent insurance agent who works for Texas Farm Bureau Insurance in Forney.
Janice Wood – was appointed to serve on the TIF/TRIZ Board as a city representative by Council Member Cory McGee. She is a longtime resident of the City of Forney and is the Branch Manager of Mortgages at City Bank in Forney.
Mitch Owen – was appointed to serve on the TIF Board by Council Member Mary Penn in June 2018.
Chandra Goodson – was appointed to serve on the TIF/TRIZ Board by Council Member Robbie Powers in June 2018. Goodson was not in attendance at this meeting.
To all the taxpayers who have reached out to The Forney Post wanting more information about the TIF/TRIZ taxpayer obligation, and to all the residents of Forney currently preparing to sell their homes:
Please know that you are not alone in your displeasure and frustration with the unethical and often illegal antics of the Forney City Council.
Please be patient as attorneys, judges and elected officials all the way to the top are being consulted. In Texas, the judicial system still has the final say.
Written by: Denise Bell