Who is Texas Area Fund Foundation? According to their website “Texas Area Fund Foundation cultivates and facilitates the philanthropic spirit, responds to charitable needs, and promotes community service”.
The real question the citizens of Palestine Texas should be asking themselves is why Texas Area Fund Foundation so important that our City Council allows and pays a CONTRACTED City Attorney, Ron Stutes, to represent them in issues before Council? It is very important that as tax payers we understand the difference between having a paid City Attorney on staff and contracting out to a Law Firm such as Potter Minton. According to payscale.com the median pay for a City Attorney is $91,331. The contracted City Attorney is budgeted at $95,000 on average and goes over budget more times than under. A contracted Attorney bills by the hour and usually represents many other clients. Sometimes in the history of the City of Palestine the contracted Attorney has had conflict representing both sides. In those cases he expects the City to seek other Council and pay extra to bring an outside Attorney up to date on cases already overseen by City of Palestine Attorney Ron Stutes.
This brings me to the Palestine City Council meeting of May 10, 2016 where Ron Stutes represented TAFF in front of the Council in reference to a property owned by TAFF that the City had placed liens for demolishing a building and mowing. Texas Area Fund wanted to donate the property to the UT Tyler campus in Palestine for parking area. As Mr. Stutes stood in front of the Council and made his case of why the lien should be forgiven I couldn’t help myself but wonder how many other cases for actual tax paying citizens of Palestine had gotten the same forgiveness? Of course, the Council voted on releasing the lien in favor of TAFF without mention of the amount, without a copy of the lien in the agenda packet. Reliable sources haven remembered the amount being somewhere around $12,000. So, not only did the tax payers lose $12,000 dollars spent on man power to clean up Texas Area Fund Foundation property but the tax paying hardworking citizens paid by the hour for Ron Stutes to work it all out when the President of TAFF is a local prominent property lawyer Jackson Hank.
At a more current City Council meeting one of the TAFF umbrella non-profits, Palestine Tomorrow, was requesting a grant from the Palestine Economic Development Corp. Jean Mollard a long-time board member of several of the Texas Area Fund Foundations “umbrella” non-profits spoke shakily before the City Council as she was questioned about the legitimacy of giving money to a non-profit that had not renewed their filing with the State of Texas since it expired in 2015. While one councilman did have concerns, when the vote came all voted in favor of issuing the grant. Odd? Not for Palestine, it’s business as usual for a select privileged group.
Much to the added shenanigans of the non-profit circus, sometime in 2017 a local citizen advocate, Jack Coleman, brought up the issue of what is now jokingly called “Dirt Mound Park”. The records are unclear. What you must remember is the grants issued out by the City of Palestine through the PEDC are matching fund grants. The receiver of the grant must contribute the same amount as it was awarded. Does the City follow up? (laughable) The original project was touted to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000. The property for the sculpture park is diagonal to the City of Palestine’s visitor center. While money had been approved and awarded to Palestine Tomorrow, as of early 2017, no work had been done, just a mound of dirt. In his research Mr. Coleman uncovered that the City had placed a water meter on the property and the meter was showing to have usage. Digging more found that no information could be found on who was responsible for applying for the meter installation and no one was being charged for water. It might seem like a small issue, but favors are favors in the world of politics. I don’t get any. Do you? By the way it still isn’t complete.
Recently Texas Area Fund Foundation was mentioned in one of our articles about an on-going unlawful law suit the City of Palestine has filed against a local business owner Jerry Laza, Lawnmower Man. Rather than letting the information stand as speculation, two members of the TAFF decided it was a good idea to make statements to the Palestine Herald Press:
Current TAFF president Jackson Hanks, and former foundation President David Barnard, told the Herald-Press the accusations were laughable.
“Doing so would defeat the purpose for which we exist,” Hanks said. “Moreover, none of our board members would approve such a thing. It is an outright lie.”
Is it? Would it be so hard to believe that a member of or former member of the TAFF would be interested in a historical building. One of the last 1950’s building left in tack within the City of Palestine. TAFF recently gained control of the IvanHoe Building that is currently caving in on its self and causing a hazard downtown. Within the time of the law suit 2016-2018 the City of Palestine has moved the Main Street District/Historic District to within one block of Laza’s property and encompasses TAFF’s “Dirt Mound Park”.
In another statement from an active member of Texas Area Fund Foundation in the Palestine Herald Press’ article:
Barnard said the very thought of the TAFF wielding such power was ridiculous.
“Even if Laza donated the property, the TAFF wouldn’t have the funds to clean it up.”
That is laughable because it brings me back to the second paragraph of this article. There is a really good chance that the champion lawyer for both sides would fix that little expense right up for them, like he has done in the past. Really, we don’t know how many times.
Ever been to the Redlands Hotel?
The Texas Area Fund Foundation own that also. If you read any other articles on Texas Public Corruption have a look at Money and Murder Series (total of 3) That suspicious death they mention in Palestine. One of the Palestine Policemen mentioned wife owns the Red Fire Grille. She is very young and we could find no previous restaurant or even business experience. But that is a whole other story we will write about next time.
Hang on more to come about the legal organized crime perpetrated under the guise of non-profit philanthropy. Next up is TAFF really have assets valued at 1.5 million and can’t afford to fix the IvanHoe? & what about those mineral rights?
Submitted by Johnnie Belle Reagan