New Goliad development district board member wants to see jobs created

Editor's note: An extensive Victoria Advocate investigation revealed a program started to promote economic development has instead been riddled with poor record-keeping, questionable loan practices, missing documents and virtually no accountability. The Texas Rangers are investigating the program.

GOLIAD - Economic development in Goliad could take on a new function if a new Municipal Development District board member has his way.

Despite the Texas Rangers' investigation into the city's lending practices, Dannie Wade said he had no reservations about applying for the third time to serve on the board.

"I heard about some problems, and I wanted to get on there," he said.

He wants to see the money, which is generated from a half-cent sales tax, spent on job creation, not just business creation.

The Goliad City Council voted Tuesday night to appoint three new members to the Municipal Development District board: Wade, who retired from the Federal Emergency Management Association; Kristin Billo, a teacher; and Manuel Vela, who works in product development.

Councilman Lionel Garcia recused himself because he has an outstanding municipal development loan.

Wade said the community is fractured.

"It's us versus them, all or nothing," he said. "There's no real compromise."

Linda Powell, a Goliad resident who has championed for transparency of the city's lending practices, said statements from elected officials such as "I have been advised not to comment" and "no comment" speak volumes.

"Capitalism, not cronyism, should be the backbone of good government," she said. "Know the law and apply the law. Ignorance is never an excuse."

Since 2008, the Municipal Development District approved about $550,000 in loans and grants in the name of economic development.

Of the 13 loans and grants, six went into default, and two businesses closed.

The money was given for a range of intentions, including a $58,095 loan to construct and operate a funeral home that has been repaid; a $31,128 loan for a current city councilman to open a laundromat that is in default; and a $32,000 partially-forgivable loan to ANS Welding, which has not been constructed or repaid and is in a legal dispute with the city.

Councilman Buddy Zavesky, speaking as a resident, argued the funeral home loan was to pay for sewer improvements, not to pay for the funeral home itself. Zavesky was employed at that business.

"There was no money spent on that funeral home, but even though they don't pay taxes, they get flowers, hotel, motel, food, gas. People come to Goliad, and they spend money," he said.

However, loan documents provided by the city indicate the purpose of that loan was construction. The business was given a $7,750 grant in 2010 for sewer improvements.

While ancillary benefits like funeral flowers, gas purchases or restaurant dining are acceptable, Wade said his overriding goal as a new board member is to make sure the money is spent on bringing jobs to Goliad.

"Unless they can show me that they'll bring jobs -" he said. "My primary focus is to give the young people of this community a future."

Continue Reading: Goliad officials attempt to collect on $32,000 loan