We are writing to clarify and correct statements Mr. John Ferguson made at the September 17, 2012 City Council meeting and Mrs. Charlotte N. Hopson-Hanson in her letter to the Editor published September 19, 2012.
On September 17, Mr. Ferguson justified the number of Public Information Act requests because it had uncovered a $4,300 City Attorney expense for a private party land transaction.
The land transaction they referred to involved the City, the Chamber of Commerce and the Catholic Diocese of Austin.
Mr. Ferguson and Mrs. Hopson-Hanson questioned the use of City funds for that purpose and why the City was withholding the information.
Mrs. Hopson-Hanson made an information request for the City’s Attorney Bill for the transaction related to the sale of City Right of Way on June 16, 2012.
Was the City withholding information?
The City of Llano responds quickly and professionally to all Public Information Act requests as required by law and Chapter 552 of the Texas Local Government Code.
The Act does require that if information can be withheld by law, it must be submitted to the Attorney General’s Office for a formal ruling within 10 days. The bill Mrs. Hopson-Hanson requested had information related to juveniles in the justice system among other items.
Mrs. Hopson-Hanson received the Attorney General’s Opinion and the attorney’s bill, with portions of sensitive information redacted, marked out, on August 28, 2012, which was in response to her request.
Did the City spend $4,300 on attorney’s fees for this transaction?
The City’s invoice for legal services, which Mrs. Hopson-Hanson received, for the period of March 1, 2012 to March 22, 2012, included 17 items and totaled $4,396.50.
Only two of the 17 items related to the land transaction Mr. Ferguson and Mrs. Hopson-Hanson cite. On March 5, the City incurred an expense of $287.50 for “prepare email correspondence to Finley deGraffenried re: Abandonment and Conveyance of City ROW”.
On March 23, the City incurred and additional charge of $25 for “T/C/W Attorney for Catholic Diocese of Austin re: Sale of Street ROW to Trinity Catholic Church in Llano”. The total expensed for this transaction was $312.50.
The other 15 items on the attorney’s bill clearly do not relate to private land transaction, conveyance of property or sale of City Right of Way even when partial information has been marked out.
Was this a private party transaction?
The parties to the conveyance included the City of Llano, The Llano Chamber of Commerce, and the Catholic Diocese of Austin. Because the City must follow strict laws regarding the sale of City ROW, and the transaction involved a building owned by the Chamber adjacent to the Diocese, the City sought legal reassurance that the transaction was being conducted without exposure to a future clouded title or other legal action. Unfortunately, when land is sold, you sometimes have to pay an attorney to make sure you’re doing things right. The City received $5,157.60 for the conveyance of the property.
Why would Mr. Ferguson and Mrs. Hopson-Hanson make these statements when they were provided documentation that clearly says otherwise?
We don’t know. Neither Mr. Ferguson nor Mrs. Hopson-Hanson asked for any clarification from staff or elected officials prior to making their statements.
It is also understanding that the real estate broker for the transaction did not receive any commission or fee, which they could have determined if they asked.
Alderwoman Jeanne Puryear, Mayor Mike Reagor, and Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Hazel