Just weeks ago, I wrote a blog article (click here) about how two CTRMA board members had refused to step down a year after they were asked to resign.
About a year ago, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn called for the resignation of Chairman Robert Tesch and Johanna Zmud because of conflict of interest.
According to an Austin Business Journal article today, Johanna Zmud, has agreed to step down. Of course, her resignation came with the usual politico excuses. But we know the real story. Thanks to many of you, and your letters to her demanding she step down. She finally listened!
WE HAVE MORE WORK TO DO!
Public records show that Chairman Robert Tesch’s property valuation (less any improvements) of an 18-acre tract, which lies about 2,000 feet east of future US 183-A right of way, has already increased by 612% percent since the time of his appointment to the CTRMA board, another piece of land has increased 989%!
Editorial: Road funding raises disturbing questions
San Antonio Express-News The Texas Department of Transportation should re-allocate $305,000 earmarked for a river crossing on a county road with limited public use in the Hill Country town of Vanderpool. Funding for the crossing suddenly appeared in the state's budget for expansion work on FM 187. The appropriation was never mentioned at a May 30 public hearing on the project. Bandera County officials are upset they were not consulted on the project, the Express-News reported. They say it's a waste of taxpayer money to spend funds on a road that leads to private property. Midland gas and oil businessman Ferrell Davis, who will benefit directly from the project, told Express-News reporter Zeke MacCormack he did not ask the state for a river crossing on the road leading to his part-time home and full-time ranch. If no one asked for the crossing, why did it end up as part of a $13 million state project to widen 14 miles of FM 187 between Garner State Park and Vanderpool? Improvements to the county road are a significant part of a $735,000 budget the department will use to adjust and repair 112 roads and driveways that will be affected by the road-widening project. The allocation for Bush Creek Road makes no fiscal sense. The dead-end caliche road runs for 1.6 miles across the Sabinal River bed to five homes. In the past, Davis lobbied county commissioners to improve the road, but his request was rejected. Bandera County officials said they couldn't justify the expense. Texas transportation officials deny being under political pressure or giving preferential treatment to Davis, who has friends in state and national political circles, MacCormack reported. However, they (TxDOT) have failed to provide an explanation justifying this project. The funding raises questions about funding priorities in the Texas Department of Transportation. Better uses can be found for the limited transportation funds than projects with little, if any, public benefit.
The Texas Department of Transportation should re-allocate $305,000 earmarked for a river crossing on a county road with limited public use in the Hill Country town of Vanderpool.
Funding for the crossing suddenly appeared in the state's budget for expansion work on FM 187.
The appropriation was never mentioned at a May 30 public hearing on the project.
Bandera County officials are upset they were not consulted on the project, the Express-News reported. They say it's a waste of taxpayer money to spend funds on a road that leads to private property.
Midland gas and oil businessman Ferrell Davis, who will benefit directly from the project, told Express-News reporter Zeke MacCormack he did not ask the state for a river crossing on the road leading to his part-time home and full-time ranch.
If no one asked for the crossing, why did it end up as part of a $13 million state project to widen 14 miles of FM 187 between Garner State Park and Vanderpool?
Improvements to the county road are a significant part of a $735,000 budget the department will use to adjust and repair 112 roads and driveways that will be affected by the road-widening project.
The allocation for Bush Creek Road makes no fiscal sense. The dead-end caliche road runs for 1.6 miles across the Sabinal River bed to five homes.
In the past, Davis lobbied county commissioners to improve the road, but his request was rejected. Bandera County officials said they couldn't justify the expense.
Texas transportation officials deny being under political pressure or giving preferential treatment to Davis, who has friends in state and national political circles, MacCormack reported. However, they (TxDOT) have failed to provide an explanation justifying this project.
The funding raises questions about funding priorities in the Texas Department of Transportation. Better uses can be found for the limited transportation funds than projects with little, if any, public benefit.
Amos "Pete" Peters (02/07/1948) criminal record spans 20-years in Texas, it includes a dozen charges of check swindling, credit card abuse and criminal mischief. He's pleaded guilty or no contest to three felonies and three misdemeanors. He's been convicted of Larceny and DWI. Peters has been convicted of Fraud four different times.
At one point he was sent to prison for two years.
According to TxDOT District Engineer Bob Daigh's meeting calendar, convicted criminal Pete Peters has met with Bob Daigh a number of times in 2004, at times alone and other times with CTRMA toll Authority creator Mike Weaver of Prime Strategies, Inc., and Manuel Zarate of HBMG, Inc.
It is illegal for convicted criminals to lobby in the State of Texas.
A 2002 Statesman article “In Williamson, politics, roads and money mix” describes the conflicts of contractors and consultants. Pete Peters, Peters’ Roads Now PAC, Mike Weaver and others are the focus.
The article states:
“Peters' company earns about $4,000 a month from Williamson County's bond budget, mainly for work promoting the roads project.”and:
"WilCo Commissioners hired Weaver's company, Prime Strategies Inc., in 1998 to plan the bond package. In December 2000, after voters approved the proposal, the county put Weaver in charge of the project and let him hire a group of consultants, including Peters' company, to help him oversee it.”In 2002, Mike Weaver helped to create the freeway tolling authority (CTRMA) and hired his own company, Prime Strategies, as the first Toll Authority contractor. Comptroller Strayhorn’s report shows Weaver's company billed the CTRMA for well over $600,000 from 2002 to 2005. Weaver's company was paid with tax dollars for the NO BID contract he gave himself.
Also from the Comptrollers report:
“CTRMA’s first contractor was Prime Strategies, Inc., an Austin transportation consulting firm led by its principal, Mike Weaver. Prime Strategies is also Williamson County’s road bond manager for its multi-corridor transportation plan, which will build roads using $350 million in bonds approved by voters in 2000.”The Comptrollers report also lists Pete Peters as “Primary Staff” for HBMG inc. According to the investigation, HBMG Inc’s NO BID contract with the CTRMA added up to well over $259,000 within just a matter of months.
Also from the Comptrollers report:
“Interestingly, Peters was considered so close to Williamson County officials that the state Attorney General’s Office joined a recent investigation of him. According to one report, “Peters has handled campaign work for almost every major office holder in the county.” The investigation focused on several meetings related to the Williamson County Road Bonds Program for which Williamson County paid Peters; some persons who were supposed to be at these meetings allege that they never took place."In contrast, the Comptroller’s office requires that each proposer or bidder for a contract with the agency sign a “No Criminal Conviction” certification. The Comptroller’s office will not contract with anyone who has a felony conviction.”
Manual Zarate, the president and founder of HBMG altered the name of his company from “HB Media” to “HBMG inc” after Comptroller Strayhorn’s scathing investigation was released.
Austin Business Journal produced an article called “Road to Riches” with a focus on Manual Zarate’s HBMG inc. The article states how 70 percent of HBMG's business comes from the transportation sector.
HBMG’s client list include:
* Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority
* Fluor, Inc
* HNTB Engineering
* Pate Engineers
* Pioneer Development Corporation
* Prime Strategies
* Texas Department of Transportation
* Texas Turnpike Authority Division
* Williamson County (Texas)
* Zachry Construction
HB Media (HBMG) subcontractor invoices for CTRMA work, from late 2003, show convicted criminal Pete Peters making over $11,000 a month at $145 per hour from the tax funded toll authority. I’ve also been told about Peters and Zarate working to get Trans Texas Corridor media work from the Spanish company Cintra.
In 2002, the Statesman wrote an article called, "In Williamson, politics, roads and money mix", read it HERE.
This article is part 4 of a 12 part series called “Circle of Parasites”. Freeways have never been tolled in the history of the U.S., but that doesn’t stop a close circle of mostly Williamson County characters with a long history of looking out for themselves at the expense of others.
Read the other “Circle of Parasites” articles:
1 of 12: Deadbeat Mike Heiligenstein
2 of 12: Two Toll Authority Board Members Refuse to Resign
3 of 12: Austin American Snakesman
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Originally posted May 22, 2006, see update below.
In the election last week, Austin Toll Party’s campaign helped to remove another one of the stubborn representatives that ignored the super majority of the public and voted to toll roads we’ve already paid for.
This time it was WestLake Hills Mayor Dwight Thompson, Vice Chair of CAMPO, who paid the toll.
Dwight Thompson had a vote on CAMPO because he was the representative of a group called the "Alliance of Cities". I am told the Alliance is made up of 23 Mayors within Travis, Williamson and Hays Counties. I'm also told this organization was formed by representatives within Williamson County.
After many hours of research, I’ve found that the “Alliances of Cities” has NO website, almost nothing can be found out about the organization via google, it is NOT registered with the Texas Secretary of State, it is NOT registered with Travis County, it has never posted a meeting with the Texas Registry as most government organizations must to follow the Texas Open Meetings Act.
After calls into CAMPO and the City of Austin, I’ve found only one lead.
After the City of Austin gave me Peggy Croslin's phone numbers, 338-1777 and 799-8759, I left respectful phone messages asking her to call me back so I could learn more about “Alliances of Cities”. Peggy Croslin has not called me back and, as I was told, will not call me back.
Since she failed to respond to my phone calls, I figured she had something to hide. So I started digging.
I've found that Peggy Croslin was listed as a vehicle and traffic lobbyist in past years with the Texas Ethics Commission.
Peggy "Peg" Croslin (also known as Peggy Smith Croslin) and her husband Charles "Chuck" W. Croslin have interests in Croslin and Associates, which turns out to be a pre certified contractor for TxDOT. Croslin and Associates also has a business partnership with PBS & J, a major contractor with TxDOT.
Peggy Croslin also worked for Mike Weaver’s Prime Strategies, who was hired to help Williamson County with road bonds. More importantly, Prime Strategies helped create the toll authority (CTRMA). Prime Strategies was the CTRMA’s 1st contractor, and had numerous NO BID contracts with the Williamson County heavy toll authority.
If "Alliance of Cities" is allowed to send a representative to vote to toll our Austin freeways I think we have a right to know what and who they are.
I'd like to know who is on the Alliance, have they kept minutes, are the meetings open to the public and if the public can speak. How are these Alliance Mayors supposed to get balanced information from a closed organization run by those who profit off working with the people that want to toll our freeways?
I spoke to Peggy's husband Chuck Croslin on Friday morning. I asked him if he knew what the "Alliance of Cities" was. He told me "Yes, I do." I asked him if he could tell me about the Alliance, and he told me, "I don't want to talk with you."
Who has been paying Peggy Croslin for her work to administer the "Alliance of Cities"?
The Comptroller's investigative report refers to the tight knit group of Williamson County special interests, with the strangle hold on tolling our Austin Freeways as "The Circle". The Circle is tight, and the robin hood toll plan is under their secretive grasp.
Read "Austin Toll Roads to fund Williamson County Freeways".
I've received documents from a City of Round Rock information request. "Legislative Consultant" is listed at the top of all Invoices from Peggy Smith Croslin to RR in 2000 and 2001. My request was only for 2000 to 2006. "Big 4 Toll Road Projects" is listed as some of the lobby work she did. Most of the 2001 invoces mention 130 ROW as her focus of lobby work as well as toll road discussions with Mike Weaver (use the search engine at the top of this blog for more about Mike Weaver).
I was also surprised to see invoices from Croslin & Associates. Round Rock hired and paid Croslin & Associates over $95,000 for the design of Fire Station #2 in 2004.
So who pays Peggy Croslin today for the administrative work for "Alliance of Cities"? If you know, email me at Sal@TexasTollParty.com.
The Circle sure takes care of it's own.
What do you hear on the scum bag Robert Tesch (CTRMA toll authority)? I see his name and my blood runs cold. The way he ripped off old people at his property in Plano, not to mention his 48 employees he ran out on and let us all work for 8 days, running his business, racking in the rental fees of $2500 a month & UP, and didn't pay us.
Many of his employees at the assisted living facility in Plano, worked for barely above minimum wage--and then the multi-millionaire, crook, schister, left all of us holding the bag and no pay checks.
Gov. Perry has appointed Tesch as his director of the highway mobility team, which will include Tesch's property when the highway is built, thus making him all the richer...and he won't even pay his employees. Many of us have filed with the Labor Board, but as I talk with them they tell me they have a "process" that takes some time. They tell me they are trying to freeze his assets. I keep telling the State of Texas Labor Board--THIS MAN IS A MILLIONAIRE IN AUSTIN--GO FIND HIM--WE NEED OUR MONEY.
Mike Weaver told the Travis County Commissioners all about Pass through financing this week.
Mike Weaver helped create CTRMA and was the first Toll Authority contractor.
Weaver's company Prime Strategies billed the CTRMA well over $600,000 from 2002 to 2005. Weavers company was paid with our tax dollars for his NO BID contracts that he gave to himself.
According to Weaver, Pass through is not right for Travis County, even though about 20 counties and cities have already applied. Travis is the only county in Texas seeking to toll most of it's freeways. That is cool with Weaver since the CTRMA he helped create is controlled by Williamson County. What a scheme - and the Travis County Commissioners keep buying it hook line and sinker. Mike Weaver and Bill Burnett (former Hays County Commish and CAMPO Board member turned consultant) said Pass Through Financing was NOT an alternative to tolls.
BUT - Rep. Joe Pickett, former Chair of House Transportation Committee who has oppossed the privization and tolling of our public highways said an alternative to tolls is pass-through financing.
Who do you believe? Gerald Daugherty, Sam Biscoe and others on the Commission believe the Con.
CLICK HERE, then click in agenda item #15 TO HEAR AUDIO OF THE MEETING.
Statesman endorsed the Austin toll plan on June 27, 2004. Since then they have failed to do any investigative reporting on the corruption of the privtization and tolling of our public highways. They have even deleted a blog on the Statesman.com website that exposed that corruption.
Austin American Snakesman Censors Citizen
In a bold move of censorship, to keep facts from the community, Statesman.com deleted my “Boondoggle Blog” of three months on June 7, 2006.
The Statesman first deleted the Mike Heilgenstein (Toll Authority Executive Director) article earlier in the week. I called Tim Lott, assistant managing editor and asked why it was deleted. He told me they didn’t like “the tone”.
I asked to see the rules. The Statesman had no rules to show me. Tim Lott said it was subjective.
Knowing that the Statesman.com blog was on their site, I respectfully promised to alter the tone of all future articles. I altered the Heilgenstein article accordingly and reposted it.
Mr. Lott, was pleased with the words like “crook” and “deadbeat dad” removed. The article focuses on an unelected persons character (Heilgenstein), who have a part in tolling publicly funded freeways here in Austin for the first time in our country.
He then told me to remove the portion of my blog article that reported Anne Heilgenstein filed the petitions for Divorce and Child Support. Tim Lott had suggested he spoke with the Heilgensteins, who had called and complained. They told him both petitions were filed jointly and that Heilgenstein was not forced to pay. I called the Williamson District County Clerk 943-1212 (case number 03-556-f395) to confirm. I confirmed my report was correct and both petitions were filed by Anne. I also faxed the district court documents I had for weeks to Mr. Lott. I then called Tim Lott back about the court confirmation and he seemed pleased that my facts were confirmed.
Within 2 hours the Statesman deleted the whole blog. Tim Lott left me a voice mail saying “Your blog was not in the best interest of the newspaper”.
The Austin American Statesman circulation, like almost all newspapers in the U.S., has been dropping like a brick for many years. Even ad rates, the statesman other key income, is tied to that deflated circulation.
Desperate for higher circulation, the Statesman endorsed freeway tolls two years ago, in hopes that it would help boost their dwindling income. No city in the country has tolled its freeways. This new tax will cost families thousands of dollars a year to drive roads we’ve already paid for. But the Statesman doesn’t care about our families.
Developers who are pushing the freeway tolls (RECA) promise the Statesman many more customers, many more homes with the double tax freeway toll roads.
The Statesman, now owned by conglomerate Cox Communications, no longer produce investigative reporting for the good of the community, but instead they tip the scales with every article to look out for thier own bottom line.
The CTRMA will start the TxTAG RFID campaign soon. It’s a good bet that the bureaucratic toll authority (CTRMA) will be given a lot of dollars to Statesman for a part of that fat campaign.
This article is part 3 of a 12 part series called “Circle of Parasites”. Freeways have never been tolled in the history of the U.S., but that doesn’t stop a close circle of mostly Williamson County characters with a long history of looking out for themselves at the expense of others.
PBS&J, one of TxDOT's largest contractors, is now the focus of overcharges and theft.
Billions of dollars worth of toll road and freeway contracts using tax payer dollars are at stake. PBS&J former chief financial officer, W. Scott DeLoach, and two other Miami employees are now the suspects of theft.
The Statesman did a report on it here today:
PBS&J overcharges have spanned six (6) years, according to a TxDOT memo.
TxDOT has secretively been looking into the corruption for months, but failed to inform the public.
TxDOT has stopped granting new contracts to PBS&J because of the overcharging. Amadeo Saenzcq, TxDOT's engineering director, told PBS&J in a May 23 letter that it would not be considered for any new contracts until further notice. TxDOT will not issue any additional work authorizations to the company on existing contracts. In-progress projects could eventually be shifted to other construction companies or delayed.
An anonymous source within TxDOT leaked the information to myself about the TxDOT letter last week. I took that information and gave it to a number of reporters around the state.
The PBS&J overcharges could easily add up to hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.
PBS&J is the general engineering contractor for the $2.5 billion Central Texas Turnpike Project. The first toll road in Central Texas has yet to open, and we are already awash in secrets and taxpayer waste.
UPDATE: See TxDOT Letter and Memo about PBS&J contracts HERE.
Just over a year ago, on March 9, 2005, Comptroller Strayhorn asked for the immediate resignations of two (2) Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) board members.
Both Chairman Robert Tesch and Johanna Zmud have REFUSED to resign.
The report press release states:
“Chairman Tesch's personal holdings and Johanna Zmud's business interests should have prevented their appointments in the first place.“
"In order to build public confidence that is so necessary for the CTRMA and other Regional Mobility Authorities to be successful, I am calling for the immediate resignation of Chairman Robert Tesch and board member Johanna Zmud. Chairman Tesch's personal holdings and Johanna Zmud's business interests should have prevented their appointments in the first place.
"Both of these board members stand to gain financially as a direct result of their positions on CTRMA's board, which is why I am calling for their immediate resignations," Strayhorn said.
Public records show that Chairman Robert Tesch’s property valuation (less any improvements) of an 18-acre tract, which lies about 2,000 feet east of future US 183-A right of way, has already increased by 612% percent since the time of his appointment to the CTRMA board, another piece of land has increased 989%.
Board Member Johanna Zmud’s business, NuStats, is a subcontractor on two teams under contract to TxDOT. This appears to be a violation of TxDOT’s rule §26.51(b)(1)(A).
The Comptroller’s report found other items of “Double taxation without Accountability” and “Favoritism and Self-Enrichment”.
In January 2003 Bob Tesch was appointed by Gov. Perry, even though his Governors Appointment Application spelled out he had previously defaulted on "personal, business or student loan(s)", not to mention a bankruptcy in Dallas and pending foreclosure in Plano. Apparently Gov. Perry’s standards are not that high when it comes to unelected people that will set the toll rate for freeways we’ve already paid for.
Just last August, Robert Tesch had yet another bankruptcy!
The Comptroller's report found these same board members giving No Bid “gas tax dollar” contracts to themselves and their friends.
Where do these two board members get the nerve to look past their corruption and ignore the call for their resignation? Ask these freeway tollers why they continue to feed at your trough.
Ask Robert Tesch.
Ask Johanna Zmud:
This article is part 2 of a 12 part series. Freeways have never been tolled in the history of the U.S., but that doesn’t stop a close circle of mostly Williamson County characters with a long history of looking out for themselves at the expense of others.
H-E-B Food Stores announced this week that it will start carrying an ethanol-based fuel at five of its gas stations in Central Texas. Two in Austin, one in Waco, Killeen store, and one near San Antonio will begin to sell the corn based product in August.
E-85 will sell for about 30 cents less per gallon than unleaded gas and will continue to cost less than gas as gas prices continue to rise.
With a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, E-85 could help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.
More than 450,000 Texans drive vehicles designed to run on the alternative fuel.
Click HERE to see if your vehicle can use E-85.