Tag Archive for: Trey Harris

Silence: Liberty County, Colony Ridge, Landplan Engineering Remain Mute on Missing Documents

Wayne Dolcefino titles his latest video “The Sounds of Silence.” It’s about the Colony Ridge problems in Liberty County and the response of officials.

On December 26, 2020, I reported about missing drainage reports for the Colony Ridge development in Liberty County. The post also discussed the mischaracterization of soil types in the reports that did exist. The mischaracterization let the developer overestimate the infiltration of rain and thus underestimate runoff. That meant he needed fewer detention ponds and smaller ditches. And that, in turn, meant the developer could sell more lots. But then the flooding started. Coincidental?

Sounds of Silence

On January 4, 2021, Liberty County Attorney Matthew Poston launched an investigation.

But four months later, the documents are still missing. Without explanation.

Either they got lost or were never developed in the first place. And no one will defend or explain the soil sampling in the documents that were produced.

Neither will anyone talk about how large parts of Colony Ridge got approved by the County without the required engineering documents certifying “no negative effect” on drainage upstream or downstream from the development (see page 5). Note: Plum Grove Road has been washed out since Harvey and keeps getting worse. Neither will they talk about whether conditions at Colony Ridge comply with Liberty County regulations.

  • Jay Knight, the Liberty County Judge, won’t talk.
  • Greg Arthur, Liberty County Precinct 2 Commissioner, won’t talk.
  • David Douglass, the Liberty County Engineer, won’t talk.
  • Louis Bergman, the former Liberty County Engineer, won’t talk.
  • Trey Harris, the developer of Colony Ridge, won’t talk.
  • Earnest Bailes, Liberty County’s state rep won’t talk.
  • Phil Struble, CEO of Landplan Engineering, won’t talk.

Enter Wayne Dolcefino, Investigator Extraordinaire

Wayne Dolcefino, formerly one of the country’s foremost investigative journalists and now a private investigator for the Plum Grove City Council, picked up the scent of a coverup. And he’s running it to ground…all the way to the Liberty County Courthouse and the headquarters of Landplan Engineering in Kansas. Landplan served as the engineering company for the Colony Ridge developer.

Merry Christmas from Colony Ridge. Photographed December 7, 2020. On August 11, 2015, Trey Harris, Colony Ridge Developer, told Liberty County Commissioners he “would work with the County to assure his subdivisions were ones Liberty County could be proud of.” (See top Page 5).

Simon and Garfunkle’s 1965 hit The Sounds of Silence became the theme song for Dolcefino’s latest exposé. In the 13-minute video, Dolcefino asks officials difficult questions about persistent problems that have driven off half of tiny Plum Grove’s population in the last few years.

I never get tired of watching Dolcefino wave his microphone in front of people who walk away to avoid answering questions.

From Dolcefino’s latest video on Colony Ridge. Trey Harris turns his back to Dolcefino and walks away rather than answering questions.

For those who enjoy hard-hitting investigative journalism that speaks truth to power, this is a must-view video.

When it’s all over, you’ll ask yourself the biggest question of all: “Are these officials protecting the people who elected them or each other?”

We may soon find out. I interviewed Dolcefino this afternoon. He told me that his company, Dolcefino Consulting, is filing criminal complaints against State Representative Earnest Bailes and Commissioner Greg Arthur for failure to produce records requested under the Texas Public Information Act.

Keep your eye on this one. It has the potential to affect cozy relationships between developers and officials throughout the state.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/23/2021 based on a video by Wayne Dolcefino

1333 Days after Hurricane Harvey

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.

Colony Ridge Developer Sues Critics For More Than Million Dollars Based on Questionable Allegations

(Updated 2/2/2021 at 8PM) In the “lawsuits-are-stranger-than-fiction department,” Colony Ridge developer Trey Harris has filed yet another lawsuit against the Plum Grove City Council and Plum Grove’s former Mayor Leann Walker. This time, Harris wants more than a million dollars. Among other things, the suit alleges that by hiring Wayne Dolcefino, they attempted to smear Harris. But in the next sentence, Harris trumpets “Their smear tactic was not successful.” So where was the damage?

More Questionable Allegations

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find several more equally questionable allegations. For instance, he alleges that elected officials acting in their official capacity can be sued as private citizens. To support this assertion, Harris alleges that council members had personal vendettas against him when they tried to defend residents from road damage, flooding and more.

Harris also alleges that:

  • The City Council doesn’t represent the public’s interest. Yet Colony Ridge issues have been front and center in multiple elections during the last decade.
  • Harris is a citizen of Plum Grove although he reportedly lives in Huntsville.
  • Defendants “trespassed” on his property, presumably by driving on a public road.
  • The Council refused Harris’ offer to help repair roads when, in fact, they accepted his $25,000.
  • Stopping road damage and flooding has “nothing to do with what is in the best interest of the public.”
  • Defendants do not like Harris.

Geez! When does a City Council have an obligation to like someone who they believe has destroyed the homes, roads and safety of City residents?

History of Disputes with Multiple Parties Contradicts Vendetta Claim

A long history of legal and political disputes between Colony Ridge and Plum Grove under different councils and mayors contradicts Harris’ claim that current criticisms are “personal vendettas.”

Harris previously sued Walker and lost in 2015. The judge ordered Harris to pay Walker’s legal fees. Harris also sued the City, which was under a different mayor at the time, and reportedly settled.

Numerous Plum Grove residents have complained about Colony Ridge to Liberty County officials for years. Resident’s concerns have included destruction of wetlands, inadequate detention pond capacity, damage to roads, public safety issues, violation of county regulations, plat irregularities and more.

Downstream residents in neighboring counties have also expressed concerns about flooding and road damage related to Colony Ridge construction practices.

TCEQ has repeatedly investigated Colony Ridge contractors and found multiple sewage leaks and substandard construction practices that jeopardize human health. Erosion caused by piling dirt next to ditches has clogged Plum Grove creeks with sediment and contributed to repeated flooding.

Colony Ridge Drainage Ditch Photographed on January 1, 2021, months after the TCEQ warned that such practices could adversely affect human health.
Sediment coming down the East Fork (right) from Colony Ridge on Jan. 1, 2021.

Rumor also has it that the Army Corps in Galveston has an open investigation into wetland mitigation issues in Colony Ridge.

Finally, last year, Plum Grove sued Colony Ridge to get the developer to repair roads his trucks have damaged. Could Harris’ recent suit simply be a countersuit designed to intimidate Plum Grove into dropping its suit? Possibly. But there’s something else going on, too.

Enter Wayne Dolcefino, Investigative Journalist

Having found no way to get Liberty County to enforce its own regulations in Colony Ridge, last October, Walker and the City Council hired Wayne Dolcefino, one of the country’s leading investigative journalists. They hired him to help shine a light on problems there. And for the first time ever, Liberty County started paying attention.

In January, Dolcefino’s reports forced Liberty County officials to investigate irregularities related to engineering reports that may have been falsified and alleged violations of County drainage/development regulations.

A short while later, Harris filed his latest lawsuit.

Intimidating People into Silence

Harris seeks more than a million dollars from the tiny city of Plum Grove. On Page 4 of the suit, Harris alleges, “This action [the hiring of Dolcefino] was not taken with the public’s best interest in mind. It was taken as a calculated and vindictive action in an attempt to harm Plaintiff.” But in the very next sentence, Harris also claims, “Their smear tactic was not successful.” So if he wasn’t damaged, why is he suing? To intimidate people into silence?

I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, but the State’s Anti-SLAPP statute (AKA, the Texas Citizens Participation Act) may help Walker and the council members as individuals without governmental immunity. The act protects free speech on matters of public concern. If a legal claim is dismissed under the Texas Anti-SLAPP statute, the Court must award attorneys’ fees and may sanction plaintiffs from bringing improper lawsuits in the future.

But like the boxer he was, Harris has come out swinging. Things will soon get interesting.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/1/2021 and updated on 2/2

1252 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 490 Days since Imelda

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.

Based on new information obtained on 2/2/2021, mention of the Texas Municipal League paying for legal costs was deleted.

Rivers of Mud, Part Dos: Wayne Dolcefino Uncovers More Liberty County Dirt

Wayne Dolcefino, one of the country’s great investigative journalists, has been digging into Colony Ridge, as I have. So when he asked me last week if his videographer could hitch a ride on my helicopter, I said “sure.”

New Dolcefino Video Covers More Dimensions of Flooding Problem

While I shot hundreds of stills over Colony Ridge, his videographer shot 90 minutes of video. Dolcefino edited it together with other footage. His 8-minute video includes:

  • The most recent Liberty County Commissioner’s meeting
  • Attempted interviews with Trey Harris, the Colony Ridge developer
  • Some mind-boggling political donations made by Harris
  • An interview with a Harris County flood official
  • Articles from ReduceFlooding.com, including my recent Colony Ridge post, Rivers of Mud.
Wayne Dolcefino begs Liberty County Judge Jay Knight and commissioners to watch video of drainage violations at Colony Ridge before voting on new plats for the developer. They approved the plats without watching his video.

While I have focused primarily on the physical issues involved in flooding, Dolcefino has also focused on political issues. He literally digs deeper into the problem.

From Colony Ridge to the Liberty County Courthouse

The background for Dolcefino’s latest video is a Liberty County Commissioner’s Court meeting in which he attempted to show Commissioners video of drainage violations in Colony Ridge before they voted on additional plats for the developer.

Commissioners approved the plats after refusing to watch the video. Then, incredibly, one said he didn’t see any proof of violations.

And that – in one brief soundbite – explains why flooding is such a difficult problem to solve.

Colony Ridge violates Liberty County drainage standards because ditches have no backslope interceptor swales to reduce erosion. Most also lack grass.

I highly recommend Dolcefino’s video if you want to understand – in your gut – how politics can affect local flooding.

Out-Scrooging Scrooge

You may also find Trey Harris’ refusal to answer questions about deplorable living conditions in Colony Ridge, coupled with interest rates up to 13% on land purchases, quite interesting. It only took 177 years for someone to out-Scrooge Ebenezer Scrooge, the protagonist from Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. But, in my opinion, the Colony Ridge developer now sets the standard.

Merry Christmas from Colony Ridge. Photographed December 7, 2020.
Colony Ridge residents living in tents without water or sewer hookups at Christmas time. A fulfillment of the American Dream for many immigrants according to Colony Ridge PR. Photographed December 7, 2020.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/13/2020 based on reporting by Wayne Dolcefino

1202 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 451 since Imelda

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.