Former Richardson Mayor Laura Jordan and her real estate developer husband, Mark Jordan, face federal bribery and corruption charges over a controversial project called Palisades, a mix of retail space, restaurants, office space and apartments under construction along Central Expressway.
In 2015, plans for 1,000 apartments in Palisades drew bitter protests from neighbors in the Canyon Creek and Prairie Creek neighborhoods near the site. More than 300 wrote letters opposing it, fearing that so many apartments would lead to more crime, overcrowded schools and lower property values. Nevertheless, Richardson's City Council approved the needed zoning changes requested by Mark Jordan's company, JP-KBS Richardson Holdings. The city also granted the developer a 50-percent tax rebate for infrastructure costs, capped at $47 million.
Laura Jordan, whose last name was Maczka at the time, lived in Canyon Creek and originally opposed zoning changes that would add more apartments to Richardson. She changed her mind on Palisades, however. After news broke that Maczka was not only dating Jordan but had taken a job at his company, what started as a typical NIMBY fight in the ’burbs took on the air of a soap opera. Maczka was hammered online, prompting an ethics investigation from the city. Ultimately, she decided in April 2015 that she would not seek a second term as mayor.
While the city’s three-week ethics investigation found no evidence that Laura Jordan or the City Council had breached state or city ethics rules, a federal grand jury came to a different conclusion. A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas lays out the charges:
According to the indictment, from May 2013 through April 2015, Maczka was the mayor of Richardson, Texas, and Jordan was a land developer. The indictment alleges that Maczka and Jordan conspired to devise and execute a scheme to defraud and deprive City of Richardson residents of the honest services of the Mayor through bribery. Maczka, contrary to her campaign promises, supported and repeatedly voted for controversial zoning changes sought by Jordan ultimately allowing for the construction of over 1,000 new apartments in Richardson near Richardson neighborhoods. The indictment alleges that, in exchange, Jordan paid Maczka over $18,000 in cash and $40,000 by check, paid for over $24,000 in renovations to Maczka’s home, paid for Maczka’s luxury hotel stays and airfare upgrades, and provided Maczka lucrative employment at one of Jordan’s companies. According to the indictment, Maczka and Jordan failed to disclose to the public that they had coordinated to effect the zoning changes Jordan wanted and that Jordan had provided a stream of benefits to Maczka.
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The couple face seven counts in the indictment. If convicted, they could receive prison sentences of two to 20 years.
To get elected in the first place, Laura Jordan had to go through Amir Omar, another city council member and her opponent for mayor in 2013. Their race was ugly and deeply personal. In a campaign mailer, Laura Jordan slammed Omar for his personal shortcomings, saying Omar had fallen $10,000 behind on child support (which wasn't true). When she was asked about the mailer at a campaign event, she said the jabs she took at Omar were just politics.
Later, when it came out during Laura Jordan's mayoral term that she was allegedly in cahoots with Mark Jordan, she told the public at a council meeting that things happening in her personal life — the stress of parenting and a recent divorce among them — led her to go into business with Jordan while she ran the city.
“I feel awful for our city, whose residents were betrayed by these unfortunate actions,” Omar said Wednesday over the phone. “With greater transparency and citizen engagement, these types of situations are preventable.”