EDINBURG, RGV – Former Hidalgo County Drainage District consultant/director Godfrey Garza is back in the news.
ProPublica and the Texas Tribune have teamed up to do an-depth story on Garza and the millions of dollars he earned from the border levee-wall project in Hidalgo County.
The story is titled, “How a Local Bureaucrat Made Millions Amid the Rush to Build a Border Fence”.
The story notes that the Department of Homeland Security poured more than $174 million into the bank accounts of the Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1 for the project and that Garza earned at least $3.5 million through federal and local contracts associated with the work.
The story states that in haste to beat the congressional deadline, DHS “failed to follow basic safeguards designed to protect public money.”
Although Hidalgo County Commissioners Court negotiated a contract with Garza that allowed him to earn 1.5 percent of every dollar the drainage district spent on the levee-wall project, Hidalgo County is suing him to reclaim its money.
“In the end, Garza’s personal yield totaled at least $3.5 million, according to county records,” the story states. “The payouts didn’t stop there. To oversee the project, the drainage district hired Texas construction giant Dannenbaum Engineering, whose chief executive is one of the biggest GOP donors in the state. Dannenbaum and other project contractors, in turn, subcontracted with a company owned by Garza’s children — and later his wife — sending at least a million dollars to his family.”
When he appeared at Drainage District meetings Garza would often charm members of the OWLS, a local watchdog group. However, in the ProPublica/Texas Tribune story, Objective Watchers of the Legal System co-founder Virginia Townsend said: “When it hit us — what had happened and how much ridiculous money he was getting — we realized that every single one of the commissioners and [County Judge J.D. Salinas] signed off on it. You were the people in charge, and you sat there and went along with it.”
Garza denies any wrongdoing.
Click here to read the story.