It appears Lubbock City Council Woman Phyllis Jones will leave office amid a swirl of controversy. It concerns a vote on the newly approved multi-million dollar Lubbock Visitor's Center that some may see as a conflict of interest.
At a city council meeting on March 27, 2008 Phyllis Jones said, "None of our property taxpayer's money is going into this, but it's going to be a sales tool that is going to help increase the sales tax."
Last month, outgoing city council woman Jones argued in favor of the proposed $6.7 million new visitor information center that will be located at 19th & Crickets Avenue. Just one block away from a business that Jones is invested in. This is where the allegations concerning a conflict of interest come in.
"So no one ever asked you to recuse yourself?" NewsChannel 11 asked. "No one ever asked me to recuse myself," Jones replied.
Jones says before the vote she even sought a legal opinion to see if she should recuse herself.
"I have a written legal opinion that I do not have a conflict of interest on voting on any of the visitor center items. In order of trying to do my due diligence and to be good council person," Jones added.
According to Texas Secretary of State public records, in July 2007, just four month after the city purchased the for-profit corporation Entertainment Lubbock Management, Inc. which was formed with the business name Cactus Courtyard.
The new visitor's center will be built where the South Beach building currently stands. It will also be adjacent to the Cactus Courtyard, an area said to benefit from traveling dollars.
Marcy Jarrett, Executive Director of Visit Lubbock said, "The Depot Entertainment District - they certainly will benefit because of that it's in walking distance."
"I have just recently invested in operations of the courtyard," Jones said.
"When did you decide to become a part of it?" NewsChannel 11 asked. "After I made a decision not to run for city council, and then I decided I would invest in the operation of the Cactus Courtyard," Jones said.
Jones says she invested in the business in August or October of 2007. However, it was not until March 2008 that she announced that she would not run for re-election.
"The visitor center location had already been set long before I decided not to run for city council and invested in the operation of this business," Jones said.
On Thursday, NewsChannel 11 spoke with the three candidates seeking Jones' council seat. Candidate Paul Beane says Jones should have recused herself, Jerry Bell said if there is any appearance of impropriety a person should recuse him or herself, and Tom Keisling added that if there were a possibility of conflict, he would seek an opinion from the city.
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