On Friday, 4/23/2021, journalist-turned-private-investigator Wayne Dolcefino filed criminal complaints against two public officials for failure to comply with the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) in regard to his widening Colony-Ridge probe.
The TPIA requests included communication records between State Representative Ernest Bailes, Colony Ridge developer Trey Harris, and Colony Ridge lawyer Brent Lane. Dolcefino has also been frustrated in his attempts to obtain communication records from Liberty County Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur.
Behind the Criminal Complaints
Dolcefino suspects the records may shed light on the relationship between developers and public officials, and who is behind the failure of Liberty County to produce a complete set of Colony Ridge drainage analyses. The drainage reports were sought earlier under a separate TPIA request and relate to flooding issues that suddenly developed in Plum Grove. After Colony Ridge development began, the town’s main road washed out and homes started flooding repeatedly.
The question now is “Why?” are officials so reluctant to comply with the law?
After 4 months, the County still has not supplied the drainage records. Nor has it fully complied with the request for communication records. The latter triggered Dolcefino’s criminal complaints.
Earnest Bailes and Greg Arthur Target of Complaints
District 18 State Representative Ernest Bailes and Liberty County Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur are “the first,” according to Dolcefino, to be subjects of criminal complaints regarding the hiding of public records. The complaints filed in Liberty, San Jacinto and Travis Counties are part of a widening Dolcefino Consulting investigation of Liberty County’s controversial Colony Ridge real-estate development.
Still Seeking Communication Records After 4 Months
Bailes’ Communication Records
Dolcefino formally requested a year of Representative Earnest Bailes communication records relating to state business; Trey Harris, the Colony Ridge Developer; and Brent Lane, Harris’ attorney. Dolcefino made the request in December 2020.
In four months since then, Bailes has provided screenshots for just one unidentified week of phone calls and seven text messages. Bailes’ office maintains there are no additional records. According to Dolcefino, Representative Bailes also refused to say whether he accepted trips from the developer.
“We have spoken with the San Jacinto County District Attorney and the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office,” said Dolcefino. “We are confident they will seek the immediate production of these records. Representative Bailes has had four months to destroy the records of his text messages and this investigation should include efforts to recover what was on his phone when our request was made.”
Arthur’s Communication Records
Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur was supposed to supply more than a year of communications records pertaining to county business. Dolcefino says Arthur produced pictures of phone records on a computer screen taken with a cell phone. “All of the images were hard to read and many were totally illegible,” said Dolcefino. “Commissioner Arthur has ignored repeated requests for the actual, legible phone records.”
Drainage Records Still Missing, Too
These criminal complaints came months after county officials failed to find and produce missing drainage reports. The engineering firm that worked for Colony Ridge, Landplan Engineering, has also refused requests by Dolcefino Consulting to provide the drainage records.
“We have not asked for the Magna Carta,” says Dolcefino. “These are records that were allegedly reviewed by the former county engineer before he put his state stamp on their plans just a few years ago. At least we know where the Magna Carta is.”
Why Finding Drainage Docs Is Important
In response to an initial request for drainage analyses and construction plans for all Colony Ridge subdivisions, Liberty County initially produced 39 documents. Most mischaracterized soil types in a way that could have contributed to flooding.
If you go by Landplan’s numbers, more rain would soak in and less would run off. That reduces the amount of detention ponds needed, saves the developer money, and lets the developer sell more lots.
But if you go by the USDA numbers, the opposite is true. More rain runs off, more detention ponds are needed, costs go up, and the developer sells fewer lots. And if you don’t build enough detention ponds, people downstream flood.
Who’s right? No one seems to be able to supply soil samples to verify the information. Dolcefino also requested those. But the infiltration rates of the soil types were not the only problem in the Landplan reports.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/25/2021 based on input provided by Dolcefino Consulting and Liberty County
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The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.