Annexation deal still under seal

By Emma Perez-Treviño
Valley Morning Star
Originally published Nov. 12, 2013

HARLINGEN — The city is asking Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott if it must release a copy of its settlement agreement with annexation opponent Charles “Chuck” Lee.

The city also wants Abbott to determine if it must release how much money it agreed to pay Lee to settle the five-year conflict over annexation of land on the city’s west side, whether the money will come from the city’s general fund or if it is covered by insurance.

These questions are contained in a Nov. 8 letter from the city’s attorneys McKamie Krueger & Knight LLP to the Texas Attorney General.

The letter does not state which exceptions from the state public information act are applicable, but it states the city’s attorneys will file a brief with the AG’s Office.

Neither the city nor attorney William M. McKamie was immediately available for comment.

Shortly after the City Commission approved an agreement with Lee, the Valley Morning Star asked McKamie for a copy of the settlement agreement and related information.

McKamie said on Oct. 28 that the mediated settlement agreement must remain confidential “until the settlement documents are all finalized and executed.”

He further stated that, “as to the amount, Mr. Lee had expenses and out-of-pocket costs that will be covered. The final amount has not yet been signed off on.”

City officials said they could not release information until the agreement is finalized, filed in state district court and approved by the court to officially end the litigation.

According to the Nov. 8 letter from McKamie’s firm to Abbott, the case is still pending in court and has not concluded.

Although the Star has been waiting for the agreement to be finalized in state district court, McKamie’s firm requested a ruling from Abbott, “in an abundance of caution …,” attorney Adolfo Ruiz wrote to Abbott.

The city and Lee have disclosed some of the terms of the agreement.

In a joint statement, they said that the 1,039 acres included in two tracts that the city annexed in 2008 would remain within the city limits and the city would accelerate completion of major infrastructure improvements and continue to implement a service plan.

The city also committed to increasing the number of new street lights to be installed and to conduct two special large item and debris pickups in the area in the near future.