No one was allowed to talk Tuesday about the Calhoun County Port Authority's recent hiring of Blake Farenthold, who resigned April 6 as the area's congressman after receiving several sexual harassment complaints from his staffers.
Farenthold attended the meeting as the port's legislative liaison who is being paid six figures. He told the Advocate afterward that his job would be to show the Corps how this project fits with President Donald Trump's agenda to export rather than import goods from other countries. He said that could help get it prioritized for funding.
Farenthold recently told ABC News that he won't repay the $84,000 he used to settle one of the sexual harassment complaints on the advice of his attorney. He had promised to do so earlier.
Some in the community remain skeptical that he'll be an effective advocate for the port.
"I think the port made a bad decision," said Commissioner Clyde Syma, who is supportive of deepening and widening the channel. "He says he's coming to help, but why didn't he do that when he was in office?"
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, said Farenthold won't be effective. She has urged her colleagues in Washington not to take meetings with him.
"This should enrage taxpayers in the area. They have paid for his bad behavior once and now they are going to pay for him again by way of a local authority that, I guess, presumes he has some clout in Congress, which I would find hard to believe. Stranger things have happened, I guess," she said.
The Advocate made an open records request on Tuesday for Farenthold's employment contract for the newly created position in which he serves as well as the minutes for the meeting at which the board approved his hiring.
Port Executive Director Charles Hausmann said Farenthold did not have an employment contract and that the minutes would not be available until the board approved them at its next meeting on June 13.
Hausmann has not yet answered follow up questions about why there is no employment contract nor has he replied to the newspaper's second open records request for copies of text messages and emails between him and Farenthold from December until his first day on the job at the port, which was Monday.