A city council vote last year to create a special tax zone that would draw in $160 million to help develop the suffering downtown of Cedar Hill also secretly boosted the property values of several town officials, including the mayor.
Mayor Rob Franke said he was embarrassed, and he apologized for not disclosing his property holdings before the December vote during an interview with the Dallas Morning News, which uncovered the deal’s hidden payday for Franke.
[T]hey didn’t tell the public that several town officials — including the mayor — and their families owned at least 25 properties inside the zone, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found.
The zone’s boundaries loop around a 30-acre goat farm and other properties owned by the family of Councilman Chris Parvin, including his White Rhino Coffee shop. Also inside the boundaries: nine properties owned by longtime Mayor Rob Franke’s businesses, including a retail center, vacant lots and rental homes.
The zone — which covers roughly one square mile of the 36-square-mile city — also includes properties tied to officials responsible for the town’s planning.
Their holdings positioned Cedar Hill officials to benefit from the tax-zone vote — and from a decade of planning to urbanize downtown. Residents in the rest of the city of 48,000 won’t get the same improvements.
Until early this year, the town’s ethics policy required council members to disclose all their property holdings — but the mayor and other council members failed to comply after 2008, The News found.
Without a public explanation, the council got rid of that disclosure requirement in January. The new ethics code mirrors less stringent state rules.
Read the full report here. It’s solid, explanatory, and investigative work.
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.