Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority - Controversy

Controversy

In March 2005, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn issued a report that alleged conflicts-of-interest for board members of the toll authority (the CTRMA) charged with building and eventually running the Phase 2 toll roads. The CTRMA subsequently issued a response contesting the Comptroller's report. Ronnie Earle, the Travis county District Attorney, wrote a letter to the CTRMA reporting no conflicts-of-interest from his own investigation. In June 2006 Johanna Zmud, one of the CTRMA board members who the Comptroller called to resign in the report, subsequently announced plans that she would resign in order to pursue consulting opportunities.

Also in March 2005, the People for Efficient Transportation (PET), an anti-toll PAC opposing Austin-area toll conversions, filed a lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of the CTRMA board's tenure. The Texas Constitution limits persons appointed to boards created by the legislature to two-year terms (matching that the terms of state representatives) unless otherwise provided by the state constitution. The provision is intended to ensure accountability for un-elected board members.

In July 2005, Texas district court Judge Darlene Byrne ruled that legislation allowing six-year terms to CTRMA board members is unconstitutional based on Article XVI, Section 30(a) of the Texas state constitution which states "The duration of all offices not fixed by this Constitution shall never exceed two years." Because a majority of the board members were within a two-year term, the ruling did not immediately affect the ability of the CTRMA board to conduct business. Subsequently, Williamson county reassigned their CTRMA appointees to two-year terms. In September 2005, Judge Byrne further ruled the CTRMA must pay PET for legal expenses resulting from the successful lawsuit filed by the group.

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