EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Internal emails record TxDOT deception.

TxDOT hid TxTAG overcharges from public for months.
Internal emails record intentional TxDOT deception.

As tens of thousands of Central Texas toll road drivers were being double charged for months, TxDOT and contractors discussed the problem via email, without telling the press or the public, according to e-mails released under the state's Public Information Act. KXAN broke the story after a citizen contacted the TV news station in late September. But even then, emails prove that TxDOT was not forthcoming with the facts.

"A system issue was discovered in July, in which approximately 30,000 duplicate transactions were posted to customer accounts since January 2007." PBS&J’s, Vivian Raines, wrote on July 19.

The email continues to explain that some people are being double billed numerous times, for numerous trips. The emails between TxDOT and contractors continue for months, as they try to figure out what part of the system is causing the double charges on drivers TxTAG statements.

"Please be aware that this is a significant issue..." TxDOT Turnpike Authority Division’s Julie Dillard wrote in an email blast on July 30 to TxDOT, PBS&J and other contractor employees. Yet, TxDOT did not alert the press or the public of the over billing issue.

On September 19th, after KXAN contacted TxDOT about the over billing, Coby Chase, director of TxDOT's Government and Public Affairs Division email states, “I take it we will get ahead of this and not let it look like we were caught right?”

A debate on whether they should or should not produce a press release is captured within the email records. As Coby Chase suggests a press release, Gabriela Garcia, TxDOT spokesperson, discusses a strategy to keep the story from spreading further.

Gabriela Garcia tells Coby, “There’s certainly a chance other interviews will follow KXAN, but not until Friday (after their story runs). Then we’re taking a chance that since one station already had it first, others won’t take it. With a news release, we’re inviting news coverage”.

When KXAN interviews the TxDOT spokesperson (click to see the video), Gabriela Garcia doesn’t share her knowledge of the 30,000 that have been double charged, instead she intentionally sets out to deceive the press and the public by says it’s only “150 a day”.

As underlings panic with the pressure of answering KXAN’s tough questions, Philip Russell, TxDOT Turnpike Division Director sent this sarcastic email. “sounds like I better look at my billing statement closer!”

A few days after Gabriela Garcia tells KXAN that TxDOT has it all under control, an email from Powell on Sept 24th says it all, “Latest word on the double charging issue is that it is NOT fixed.”

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