A while back, residents of the idyllic Richardson neighborhoods of Canyon Creek and Prairie Creek filed into the Richardson City Plan Commission meeting to voice their objections to the Palisades, at the time a 750-unit apartment tower/mixed-use development planned for an empty plot of land along Central Expressway. At the time we described their outcry
somewhat completely dismissively as "the primal scream of suburbia" (an assertion we wholeheartedly stand by), but the intervening months have provided a totally new reason to be skeptical of the project. To wit, the developer has given Mayor Laura Maczka a job.
Rumors about Maczka's relationship with developer JP Realty Partners -- and specifically its CEO, Mark Jordan -- have been circulating for months among Richardson government gadflies, fanned by Maczka's enthusiastic endorsement of the project even as it mushroomed to more than 1,000 units to the chagrin of her constituents. But now there's evidence in the form of a pair of ethics forms Maczka filed with the city last month.
One is a conflict of interest form local government officials are required by law to fill out if they are employed or have a "business relationship" with a person or entity doing business with the city. Maczka doesn't specify on the form when her business relationship with JP Realty, which also uses the name Sooner Management, began (i.e. was she was employed while she was voting to approve zoning changes that directly benefited her employer or was it merely an after-the-fact thank-you for her steadfast support?) or how much she is being paid, just that the job included "leasing, marketing, and communications." The second document -- which, according to the time stamp, was filed at the exact same time as the first -- is an admission from Jordan that Maczka is "receiving or likely to receive taxable income" from his business.
This is problematic for Maczka on several fronts that are probably obvious but which we'll delve into anyways. Maczka is on the May city council ballot. True, she's running unopposed, but landing a job with a favored developer -- particularly one so thoroughly loathed by a vocal group of constituents -- can't help her chances. And the admission will fuel already simmering suspicion about when the relationship between Maczka and JP Realty became so close. Assuming she filed the conflict-of-interest form immediately upon being hired by JP Partners, she wouldn't have been on the firm's payroll when she was voting for its project and wouldn't have been in violation of the city's ethics code, which bars officials from accepting gifts from entities with business for the city. Otherwise...
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We called and emailed Maczka this morning seeking comment. We haven't heard back. She did, however, post on Facebook that she won't serve as mayor for the 2015-17 term, even though she's the only person on the ballot:
There have been questions about my role as mayor for the City of Richardson for the next term. After much prayer and conversations with my family, I have made the decision that I will not serve as mayor for the 2015-2017 term and intend to submit a declination of such office at the city council meeting at which the election canvass will be conducted. My focus will be on my family, my health and professional career. I'm proud of what we as a community have accomplished. I am confident that Richardson will continue to be a successful community to live, work, play and invest.
(h/t Mark Steger)
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.