The City of Sandy Oaks has finally accepted the offer of the park land from Jim Clement, who claims to be the Waterwood Park Property Owner’s Association president. But everything about the deal reeks of illegalities.
Jim Clement Accepted the Land Illegally
The park originally belonged to the Waterwood Development Company. The company wanted out of the area and wanted to offer the park and the ability to collect assessment fees over to the WPPOA. Before they agreed to the transfer they (supposedly) wanted to make sure that the WPPOA had an up to date set of bylaws.
The WPPOA held a vote on January 15, 2015 to approve a new set of bylaws. The vote, however, wasn’t legal for a number of reasons. The ballot had the wrong date, it was missing a paragraph required by Texas law, and said that anyone who didn’t vote would automatically be counted as voting yes.
Charles Krause, part owner of the Waterwood Development Company, was at the vote right up to the point where someone read aloud the stat law that requires the special paragraph. He then stormed out of the building in anger. Shortly after, the meeting erupted in chaos and the vote was never taken. But the very next day on January 16th, Krause signed over a deed to the park to the WPPOA. Jim Clement was the one who agreed to the deed.
Jim Clement, however, is only 1 person. How is it that only 1 person has the ability to accept a deed for a piece of property (aka huge financial risk) without there ever being a vote by the POA board members or by the members within the WPPOA? The answer is: He doesn’t. The transfer of land wasn’t legal.
Jim Clement Offered the Land Without Permission
Acting as WPPOA president, Jim Clement offered the land to the city at the time that he was also mayor. Basically, Clement offered Clement the land. Besides the fact that it was a huge conflict of interest for Clement to be wearing both hats (WPPOA is 90% of the city), he had no authority to do so.
Again, how is it that only 1 man has the power and ability to give away land that belongs to a POA? The answer is: He doesn’t. To give or sell land, a vote would be necessary from at least the WPPOA board, or by the entire association.
The WPPOA board never voted to approve the land transfer. Pedro Orduno and Charlotte Rabe, who both claim to be WPPOA board members, said Jim Clement simply called them and told them he was going to give away the land. Here’s an audio of the saying so:
Jim Clement is Not the WPPOA President
Clement has been claiming that he’s the president of the WPPOA since before incorporation, which took place May of 2014. Never mind the fact that his term would have already expired by now, when exactly was he elected president? Who elected him? Where are the ballots?
Someone sent an official letter to Clement, Orduno, and Rabe asking to see all WPPOA documents, including those that prove the three were really elected to their positions. By law, they are required to provide these documents. But not one of them answered the request.
The City Council Accepted the Transfer at an Illegal Meeting
The City Council accepted Clement’s illegal offer. But they did so at a meeting that wasn’t legal by state law.
The Texas Open Meetings Act requires that meetings be announced 72 hours before hand so that the public has enough notice to know when and where a government meeting is to take place. An agenda was posted for a meeting on March 10, 2016 and the location was the meeting hall at the Braunig Lake RV Park. But on the day of the meeting the location has changed to a completely different building over 100 yards away. TOMA doesn’t allow this because it means citizens do not know where their government is meeting.
Because the City Council violated the law, everything that was decided at that meeting could be voided by a court judge.
The City Council Held an Illegal Closed Session
TOMA requires government meetings to be open to the public, but it also allows for closed meetings to take place under certain circumstances. A few of those include consulting with an attorney and discussing real property. A requirements for closed sessions, however, is that the governmental body must first meeting in a scheduled meeting and then move into the closed session. They also cannot make any final decisions in the closed session.
After the City Council announced they were going into a closed session the required everyone to clear out of the room and citizens were not allowed to reenter until they were finished. At one point in the session Mayor Micki Ball requested the City Marshal, Jesse Gutierrez, to come in to talk to the Council. The Marshal’s wife, Heather Leal, announced to the group outside that she wanted her car keys so she went into the closed session as well and stayed there approximately 5 minutes talking to Mayor Ball.
When Leal returned outside someone pointed out that she had gone into an closed session. Her response was that the City Council wasn’t actually meeting and they had taken a break. Through the window, Council members could be seen standing up and many were not in the room. They later came together and could be seen deliberating over something.
The City Council reconvened a closed session without first meeting in an open meeting for the public to witness. This is a massive violation to the Texas Open Meetings Act. Allowing only certain members of the public to enter the close session is also a huge violation.
The City Council Signed the Dead at Another Illegal Meeting
On March 30, 2016 the City Council met to consider the Warranty Deed that would transfer the WPPOA lands over to the city. The problem, however, is that they never announced where exactly they were going to have the meeting. The previous meeting agenda/announcement had the meeting hall listed and they instead met at the cafeteria. But for the March 30th meeting they simply skipped listing a location at all and only listed the address of the large RV park where the City Council has had a history of flip flopping on meeting locations without announcement.
It was known ahead of the meeting that activists in the community were planning to get a large group of new people to attend the next City Council meeting. Perhaps that’s why Mayor Micki Ball chose to omit the location of the meeting.