Just as the North Texas Tollway Authority tries to shed an image of awarding lucrative sweetheart contracts, an FBI investigation is raising new questions. KERA’s Shelley Kofler has more on actions the board took Wednesday.
In a meeting where NTTA board members talked about the importance of transparency, they emerged from an executive session and quickly agreed to use public money to reimburse board member David Denison’s legal fees. But NTTA Board Chair Kenneth Barr would say little about the reason for the vote or how much money Denison will receive.
Barr: The board has met with our lawyers and we’ll have a written statement for you in the next few minutes.
The statement said the NTTA is reimbursing Denison for legal expenses related to his position on the board. It said the reimbursement is consistent with the NTTA’s continued cooperation with an FBI investigation.
In a letter requesting monthly payments Denison said he’s retained legal counsel after being asked in October to produce documents related to a federal investigation of the NTTA. Denison’s letter states he’s not aware of having done anything unlawful.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram has reported that Denison who represents Denton County invested in and consulted for a firm that was a partner in buying land along the Chisholm Trail Parkway which is an NTTA project.
The FBI isn’t commenting and the NTTA has only said that one or more current or former board members are part of the FBI probe.
The decision to pay Denison’s legal expenses came on the same day the NTTA approved a policy designed to give more companies a chance to bid on lucrative NTTA contracts. In the future board members and companies won’t be able to confer during the bidding process.
Barr: We want people out in the community to recognize this is an open, fair process. It is going to be transparent.
The NTTA has been blasted for awarding big NTTA contracts to the same companies for decades. An audit this fall identified potential conflicts of interest among contractors and it disclosed the ongoing FBI investigation.