Does a “no” vote on Sugar Land bond projects mean you’re not a proud resident?
By Elsa Maxey
As of yesterday, Tuesday, the City of Sugar Land “has not been notified by the Texas Ethics Commission of any complaint filed with them relating to the November 2013 bond election,” said city spokesperson Doug Adolph about a complaint filed by and provided to media outlets by Diana Miller, founder of Sustainable Sugar Land this month naming City Manager Allen Bogard as a respondent.
The commission’s attorney on the matter, Tim Sorrells, contacted by the “Star” twice this week, has not been available to respond to questions. At press time, the entire legal staff of the commission, eight attorneys including Sorrells, was in a commission meeting which could last until the end of the day, said an office representative and that no one else could provide feedback, even to confirm the filing. One could surmise that the meeting may have included the complaint filed against Sugar Land, but that would be mere speculation.
In the sworn document filed on October 17 (see complaint online) by 29-year Sugar Land resident, Miller, who is referred to as a community advocate, she cites Title 15 of the Election Code relating to an officer or employee of a political subdivision, who may not spend or authorize the spending of public funds for a communication describing a measure if the communication contains information that is sufficiently substantial and important as to be reasonably likely to influence a voter to vote for or against the measure. The section is also about the unlawful use of an internal mail system for the distribution of political advertising.
In the same complaint, Miller states that the city produced materials for the upcoming bond election with a newly created large parks logo with the words PARKS, FOR A PROUD SUGAR LAND, WHERE QUALITY OF LIFE COUNTS. “Clearly the message to voters is you should vote if you are a proud resident,” she maintains in the complaint. What is referred to as a professionally produced video with scrolling words “family, wellness, relaxation, nature” is also in contention as are large posters with the same large parks logo not specifying the bond projects’ dollar amount, and signs placed throughout the city. Direct mail publications and a press release about a citizen’s bond committee having recommended the parks projects two months before the committee was selected are included in Miller’s alleged violations.
The city previously reported that a bond committee of more than 100 residents met from March to May to prioritize proposed projects, consider phasing opportunities and make funding recommendations.
In substantiation of Miller’s claim is a list of seven documents including flyers for the bond election and a town hall meeting. This Wednesday, Oct. 30, 6:30 – 8 p.m., a public presentation on Sugar Land’s $50 million parks bond election, an overview of the parks and trails for voter consideration, is scheduled at Sugar Land City Hall. A question and answer session will follow the presentation, according to the announcement.
The bond election is set to take place this upcoming Tuesday, Nov. 5, and whether the Texas Ethics Commission may have contacted the city by then or begun or ruled on an investigation remains to be seen. In her statements to the media, Miller said that the ethics complaint was filed against City Manager Allen Bogard intending on also “filing a complaint against each of the City Council Members and Mayor in regards to this campaign.”
City spokesperson Adolph says, “The materials developed by the City of Sugar Land were designed to inform and educate potential voters of the choices they are being asked to make regarding the funding of three projects totaling $50 million.”
For more about the city election, he encourages residents to visit sugarlandtx.gov/bondelection.
Miller, on the other hand, encourages interested residents to visit SustainableSugarLand.com.
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