LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Mayor Dan Pope issued a public apology last week for his vote to grant tax dollars to a downtown restaurant where his wife is an investor.
The mayor said his admission was prompted by questions from a local reporter. That reporter was KCBD Investigative reporter, Kasie Davis.
The mayor’s apology came after KCBD’s four month investigation into a single vote that he says simply should not have been cast.
“All in favor, say I," it was that April 14th vote by the Lubbock City Council that launched the four month KCBD investigation, ultimately leading us to this: “I probably should have recused from that. It was an oversight on my part. I’m certainly not trying to hide anything,” said Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope, explaining his vote to provide funds for improvements to several downtown businesses - money that was granted through Lubbock’s tax-funded economic arm, Market Lubbock.
One of those establishments was a restaurant Mayor Pope says his wife is an investor in.
After the unanimous vote on April 14, with no mention of a possible conflict, the KCBD Investigates team wanted to know if the mayor disclosed the restaurant on his financial statement to City Hall.
However, the documents requested revealed no disclosure. In fact, financial statements provided by the City of Lubbock redacted the names of investments that might have shown a disclosure. The city secretary told the Investigates team those redactions were made “out of courtesy” to the council.
So, a second request was made. This time for “lawful redactions.” That request did show names. However, there was one name not listed, the name of the restaurant in question.
When asked about the investment, Mayor Dan Pope said, “It’s frankly a very small part of our portfolio. That doesn’t really matter, it should have been there.”
The KCBD Investigates team wanted to know if the possible conflict was documented anywhere. Another open records request was made. This time from Market Lubbock’s downtown facade grant request, which revealed no equity investors.
Our Investigates team then went to John Osborne, President and CEO of Market Lubbock, Inc., the economic development arm of the city, funded 100% by taxpayers and asked the question, “When were you made aware of the fact that the mayor is an investor in this restaurant?"
Osborne said, “KCBD first reached out to me on August 20th and asked if the mayor had an interest in the specific business. I looked back through the applications and didn’t ever see his name on it. Subsequently, I did call the mayor and ask if he had any interest. He assured me that he didn’t, but he did say ‘my wife does.’”
We then took a closer look at Texas law to see if disclosure was required, and it is. Texas is a community property state, meaning, in this case, what’s hers is his.
We asked Osborne: “But he would have been briefed on this particular project and the funding towards it. Is that correct?”
“I can’t disclose what was discussed in executive session on either of the two organizations by penalty of law,” Osborne replied.
Again, we found no disclosure.
When we sat down and spoke with Mayor Pope, we asked very specific questions.
Kasie: “Do you see this as a hiccup in your overall leadership of Lubbock?”
Mayor Pope: “I hadn’t thought about it as a hiccup. But, yeah. It’s a...I take it seriously. I don’t want to be dismissive. I think people trusting me is very important, so, in that regard, it’s not something that’s a, it’s not something I think that’s a mortal blow, but it’s something I take seriously... I think it is something we can get past and I think the first part of that is making sure you’re quick to say you made a mistake...and, so, that’s what I’m doing.”
Kasie: “Do you see what has transpired, what was left off of the personal financial statement, do you see that as illegal?”
Mayor Pope: “I’m pretty conscious of that. That’s probably why I’ll beat myself up about it, is because I have a pretty clear understanding of that and so, I, to our voters, to our taxpayers, I apologize and I trust that they’ll, I hope that they’ll accept that and that we’ll move forward.”
Kasie: “Is that your promise to the public, that this won’t happen again?”
Mayor Pope: “Yeah, I think so. You hope to learn from your mistakes, and I think that would be...my goal is...I hold myself to the same kind of standard that we hold city leadership to. In fact, I probably hold myself to a higher standard because I think I’ve got to lead the way.”
The KCBD Investigates team chose not to name the business because the investigation found no unmet obligations on the part of the business, or the mayor’s wife.
KCBD was able to confirm the mayor did file an updated personal financial statement the same day the interview took place, Aug. 26.