During the City Council meeting on Oct. 19, Councilmember Nate Killough called for a formal investigation into the past operations of the Hutto Economic Development Corporation A.
“Months ago, the Council saw a huge hole in the way our EDC was operating,” said Killough. “We were changing the focus from simply trying to bring in more jobs to bringing in retail and spec space, and helping small local business get off the ground.”
For Killough, it meant a chance to turn the then-current Type A board in the direction the City Council though they needed to go.
Steering the EDC from its current course would prove more difficult than expected.
“During this period, we became aware of some very questionable expenditures,” he said, “but we went ahead and directed the city manager to work with the EDC CEO and board to get some deals closed so we could start working on that change in direction.”
Despite clear direction from the City Council, the city manager’s efforts to work with the EDC board were met with criticism and pushback.
“We directed the EDC to stop spending money on the Megasite. Instead, we wanted them to focus on finding businesses to fill what we knew was a sure deal in the Titan project, Innovation Business Park,” said Killough. “Two weeks later, the CEO was back, asking for money to take a private helicopter tour of the Megasite. It was infuriating.”
The chances of the then-current board and city manager working together seemed unlikely.
“When we voted to appoint a new board, one that is willing to work with the City Council, as opposed to going off in whatever direction they wanted,” said Killough, “we were met with staunch criticism from former board members and their supporters.”
Questions from the City Council members began to uncover some disturbing information, said Killough.
“The undeniable conclusion is that the former Board cost the city and the taxpayers more time and money, and taxpayers have the right to know how their money is being spent,” he said. Questionable transactions included selling the options to the Megasite to a blind trust, spending almost $15,000 for three conferences in New Jersey, Alaska and New Orleans. None of these landed Hutto any business deals, said Killough.
In addition to vitriolic public commentary at City Council meetings, current City Council members have been accused of unfounded ethics violations, and have received threatening anonymous letters in the mail.
“With everything that has come to light, I see no other choice but to direct this Council direct the police chief to open a formal investigation into the operations of the Hutto Economic Development Corporation A,” said Killough.
“The whole goal is to move Hutto forward and until we deal with these issues and put them to bed, we’ll never be able to do that,” he said. “We owe it to the taxpayers to find out how their money has been spent.”