The North Texas Tollway Authority board on Wednesday agreed to pay legal fees for one of its members who disclosed that he has been asked to provide documents for an ongoing federal investigation into the agency.
Tollway board member David Denison of Lewisville has retained the firm Meadows Collier Reed Cousins Crouch & Ungerman LLP to represent him, according to a letter from Denison to tollway authority general counsel Thomas Bamonte. The undated letter was released Wednesday.
"I believe with respect to performance of my duties as a director of NTTA that I have acted at all times in good faith, my conduct was not opposed to the best interests of NTTA and I did not have reasonable cause to believe that my conduct was unlawful," Denison wrote in the letter. He couldn't be reached Wednesday afternoon to elaborate. In the letter, Denison said he was asked to provide the documentation Oct. 11.
In October, tollway authority officials disclosed in a preliminary bond offering statement to potential Chisholm Trail Parkway investors that the FBI had questioned several officials about possible conflicts of interest by past and present board members. Details of that inquiry have not been discussed publicly.
In February, Denison came forward with a potential conflict issue, after the Star-Telegram reported the sale of a 625-acre tract of land straddling the planned Chisholm Trail Parkway, a 28-mile toll road from downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne that officially broke ground on Tuesday. Denison, a retired real estate investor, disclosed to fellow board members in February that he had worked as an independent consultant and investor with one of the partners in the purchase, Stratford Land.
Stratford and Legacy Capital Partners bought the McPherson Ranch property, about five miles south of Hulen Mall, near where McPherson Boulevard is expected to intersect with the new toll road. Part of the property will be set aside for single-family homes, although retailers will likely also be drawn to the area once the toll road provides easy access, a Stratford official has said.
But, Denison wrote in a Feb. 11 memorandum to fellow board members and tollway staff: "There is no scenario under which that acquisition can result in any economic benefit to me." Denison later explained in a Star-Telegram interview that Stratford has several funds, each of which is managed independently, and that although he was an investor in three such funds, he had no involvement in the fund near Chisholm Trail Parkway.
On Wednesday, tollway board chairman Kenneth Barr of Fort Worth sought to downplay the board's agreement to pay Denison's expenses, and instead focus on the agency's progress in getting the Chisholm Trail Parkway project underway. The agency is also celebrating the opening of a new, 10-mile eastern extension of the President George Bush Turnpike east of Dallas.
“The NTTA Board gave careful consideration of the request and concluded that reimbursement under the circumstances is appropriate, is consistent with its continued cooperation with the FBI in its investigation, and will provide current and prospective directors with the assurance that the NTTA will stand behind its indemnification obligations," Barr said in a statement. “The NTTA will now move to formalize the terms and conditions of the reimbursement process. This will include an agreement by Director Denison to repay any monies paid if it is later determined that Director Denison is not entitled to indemnification. We look forward to getting this matter behind us and so that we can fully focus on delivering more mobility projects to the North Texas region.”