Council member denies conflict of interest with development firm - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Council member denies conflict of interest with development firm, a KCBD/Sandstorm Scholar Investigation

Council Member Latrelle Joy Council Member Latrelle Joy

Our investigation continues into a city-funded non-profit set up to help develop North and East Lubbock.

We've already told you about the conflicts and secrecy surrounding the North and East Lubbock Community Development Corporation, but the issues don't end there.

Our investigation has uncovered a lack of accountability and lax supervision by the Lubbock City Council. Only one Council member has consistently voted against funding NELCDC, and that's because Councilman Todd Klein believes there's a better way.

"Any time you get new people into the housing market, that's a good thing. The question is, can the private sector provide that," Klein said.

While he sees the need for helping historically disadvantaged areas, Klein questions how the money is being spent.

"As a general rule, I have a problem when you fund a grant that is solely for salaries. I think there are better ways to do it," Klein said.

Twice last year, the City Council voted to fund NELCDC with a $251,000 grant, along with most of the proceeds from the city's oil royalties, which could exceed $700,000.

So, we asked Councilwoman Latrelle Joy if they keep an eye on how this money is being spent.

"No. None. And they really don't have supervision. There is no supervisory capacity for the city over this separate legal entity that's a non-profit. None," Joy said.

However, the statute which authorizes NELCDC and organizations like it contradicts her. Section 501.073 of the local government code says: "The corporation's authorizing unit will approve all programs and expenditures of a corporation and annually review any financial statements of the corporation."

Meaning, the city council has the obligation to supervise their spending. The statute also says they're subject to open records laws. However, NELCDC has consistently refused our requests for their financial records, instead, paying Joy's law firm to keep them private.

So, that brings up two questions. First, is there a conflict of interest here?

"I don't believe so," Joy said.

Joy never recused herself from any votes involving NELCDC, insisting she has no interest in the money they are paying her firm.

"No. No interest," Joy said.

The second question, shouldn't their records be public?

"I think through a proper request, probably. But I leave that up to the Attorney General," Joy said.

But the NELCDC used your tax dollars to pay Joy's law partner to write five letters to the Attorney General in an attempt to prevent us from obtaining its financial records and emails.

As we continue to try and gain access to those records, Klein says the city should remain focused on the needs of North and East Lubbock.

"I think you could be paving roads in North and East Lubbock that aren't currently paved… We need to do everything we can to finish Erskine from MLK to the Loop," Klein said.

It's also important to know that assistant city secretary who is also NELCDC's Executive Director is not only being paid by the city, but is also taking home a paycheck from NELCDC's city funding.

We don't know how much, However, on Feb. 25, the Attorney General is scheduled to decide whether their records are public.

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