It's a city-funded nonprofit that was established to spur economic development in North and East Lubbock. But recently, questions have been raised about how this organization is spending their money.
Our investigation has already revealed a possible conflict of interest and the appearance of secrecy surrounding the North and East Lubbock Community Development Corporation. Now, a former Lubbock mayor and sixth-year board member insists they have nothing to hide.
After our investigation aired last month, former NELCDC chairman David Langston questioned certain allegations in our report. So, we sat down with Langston to hear his side of the story.
Langston tells us while he and Lubbock City Council Member Latrelle Joy didn't see anything wrong with it, he can understand concerns regarding Joy's involvement with the corporation.
"I think it was properly characterized as the appearance of impropriety," Langston said.
As we previously reported, Joy voted three times to give tax dollars to the NELCDC. She's a partner in a law firm with Langston, who has been on the NELCDC board for six years.
Langston also serves with the chairman of that board, who is none other than Lubbock's Assistant City Manager, Quincy White, who writes tax-funded checks from the NELCDC back to Langston's law firm.
White also hired the assistant city secretary to serve as the executive director of the NELCDC. His salary is 100 percent funded by tax dollars.
So what kind of money are we talking about? Over the past two years, the NELCDC has received more that a half million dollars from the city to spur economic development in those areas.
Throughout our investigation, the NELCDC has argued that their books are not subject to open records laws - information that could reveal if their tax-funded economic projects are working; a valid question since only a year ago Deputy City Secretary Thomas Harris told the city council that the organization was "flat-lining."
Although he says they have nothing to hide, Langston tells us it's not that simple.
"We want to share information with the news media," Langston says.
Langston tells us it's an issue of attorney-client privilege, concerning proprietary information that should not be released to the general public.
"There are lots of documents that we had, and checks and invoices that relate to the construction of that, that relate to tenants, that relate to trying to collect rent, perhaps evicting tenants, that we don't think should be in the public domain," Langston says.
But it isn't just those records that the NELCDC has refused to release. When we asked for the information last year, NELCDC referred us to their legal council, Langston's own firm, to keep their records sealed.
Of course, Langston and Joy are both partners in that law firm. We asked if it was a benefit to the NELCDC for Langston's law partner to sit on the city council.
"Of course it's a benefit to have Latrelle Joy on the council," Langston said.
But when we asked if they ever considered whether there was a conflict of interest with Joy's vote prior to our story, Langston said, "No, as a matter of fact, we didn't."
We also discovered that NELCDC has a partnership in a for-profit business and that a city employee runs that business on city time. Those are some of the records Langston doesn't want released.
We're still waiting on an opinion from the attorney general on whether those records will be released.
Langston requested this interview to answer questions raised in our first two stories. Langston didn't question KCBD's accuracy in this investigation during our interview, only whether NELCDC was subject to the Public Information Act.
But on Friday we obtained an email through a Public Information Act request with the city in which Langston appears to be accusing us of "a number of untruths and half-truths in the reporting."
This email, written by Lubbock Chief of Staff Bob Goodwin, has Langston offering to meet with city council members to provide information and answer questions.
In it Goodwin writes, "Mr. Langston said that there are a number of untruths and half truths in the reporting."
We called David Langston about Goodwin's email and left a voicemail explaining our questions.
Langston did not return our call as of Monday night's broadcast.
For more on this story go to www.SandstormScholar.com
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