in Houston, Texas

Airport system's nonprofit refuses to turn over records to Houston Mayor Bill White

Friday, Jul 17, 2009, 01:41PM CST
By Steve Miller
nosignbysmlpdotcodotukThe nonprofit agency that coordinates the Houston Airport System's work overseas has a brief message for Mayor Bill White: Hit the road, Jack.

The group, called HAS Development Corp., is refusing to turn over its financial and other records to the mayor's office, which is trying to conduct an internal review of the airport's foreign work.

That makes at least three entities trying -- and failing -- to get records from the nonprofit. City Controller Annise Parker's office has also been rebuffed in its attempts to get the nonprofit's financials, and the nonprofit has turned down Texas Watchdog's similar requests for records under the Texas Public Information Act. City Councilman M.J. Khan also requested records from the group and was apparently ignored.

"The HASDC wrote to the Attorney General’s office … It feels that it doesn’t have to provide these records," said Patrick Trahan, the mayor’s press secretary. "We are waiting to hear.”

The refusal of the nonprofit -- which was created with City Council approval and using city resources -- to heed even the request of the mayor's office for information "is a dangerous game to play," said Christian Fuller, a former attorney with the state of Michigan, now a private practice lawyer in Detroit. "These political authorities have the potential to make your life very complicated."

Public scrutiny of the nonprofit increased shortly after White in May forced out longtime airport system chief Richard Vacar, the architect of an elaborate setup in which airport workers have spent thousands of hours of work in the past few years building and running airports in other countries, including in Ecuador and Costa Rica, and consulting on airport projects around the globe. Vacar said the program would eventually make money for the city-run airport system.

Trahan said the mayor's office will continue to press the nonprofit. While the city doesn't hold all of the nonprofit's expertise, he said, “HASDC maintains both intellectual capital held by the city of Houston with other assets and resources that (the nonprofit) is developing. Who they are, what they are, I don’t know. I do plan to see them in the review.”

Parker's office began seeking the nonprofit's records several weeks ago after the city's external auditors concluded that the flow of money between the city and the nonprofit -- most of it, apparently, as reimbursement for city workers' time -- was substantial enough that the nonprofit should be considered a "component unit" of the city government and brought into its auditing fold.

Texas Watchdog asked for access to several records from HAS Development Corp. recently, including its budget and contracts with some of its spinoff entities. HASDC has refused that request, and instead has given the state attorney general's office a number of reasons why it believes it is not subject to the state open records law.

The nonprofit says it is not a government agency and isn't covered by the law. It also says it has entered into contracts and agreements with a series of private businesses, including a construction deal at the new airport in Quito, Ecuador, that have confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements attached.

“The concession contract for the Quito airport project is the fundamental contract upon which the entire Quito airport project rests,” the nonprofit's letter said.

HASDC also asserts that the deals it is working on in Ecuador “are subject to constant review and scrutiny by various Ecuadorian regulatory bodies...” and that while the public does have a right to information concerning governmental bodies and officials, HASDC’s business “falls well outside the ‘affairs of government.'"

The letter was authored by Hank Coleman of the Vinson & Elkins law firm, who is the attorney for the nonprofit. Coleman hung up on a Texas Watchdog reporter seeking further comment on the HASDC’s contention of immunity from open records requests.

Contact Steve Miller at

"No" sign picture from flickr user, used via the Creative Commons license.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog -- and join our new network on Ning at! If you haven't already, Fan our page on Facebook, join our group on MySpace, follow us on Twitter, fan us or friend us on Digg and send us links to stories you think we ought to see, join our network on to see what we're bookmarking, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader to get our updates delivered right to your desktop. We're also on NewsVine, tumblr, FriendFeed and YouTube.

Be the first to post a comment.
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Watering Hole 1114 B Potomac Dr. [HAR] … Read...
Update:2 years 8 months
Comment of the Day: Still Missing the Good Ol’ Days “I was born in ’91, so I never got to experience the little mom and pop stores (hardware store or otherwise). I wish I could have...
Update:2 years 8 months
Nothing Really Happens with This Bed Bug Shutdown Notice and Implosion Threat Posted to a Westheimer Strip Center Mattress Store “The movie finally makes a reasonable amount of sense now” after 4 years of work on it, writes producer Joseph Graham on the...
Update:2 years 8 months
Swamplot Sponsor: Central Bank Swamplot’s sponsor today is Houston’s own Central Bank. Thanks for the continuing support! Central Bank has 4 (central) Houston...
Update:2 years 8 months
The Next Food Hall Coming to Downtown Houston Will Be a Storeful of Open Kitchens If you’re just coming up to speed on the whole food hall thing, remember this: It’s not a food court, it’s a food hall....
Update:2 years 8 months
Amazon Will Swallow Whole Foods Whole For those who expected Whole Foods Market to shop itself to a fellow grocery store chain and not a powerful company experimenting with...
Update:2 years 8 months
This Century’s Rise in Home Prices; Rare Local Air Monitoring Equipment Exhibited at Museum Houston-Area Home Prices Have Increased Nearly 30% Since 2000, Finds Harvard Study [Houston Chronicle] Stream, AMD To Develop 5-Story...
Update:2 years 8 months
Daily Demolition Report: Feagan, and Again, and Again Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. Demolition is...
Update:2 years 8 months
Blessed are the Poor: Examining opposition to debtors-prison legislation Texas State Sen. Paul Bettencourt was quoted by the Associated Press (June 11) criticizing debtors-prison legislation (SB 1913) which...
Update:2 years 8 months
Grits for Breakfast
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Vault 14759 Oak Bend Dr. [HAR] … Read...
Update:2 years 8 months
Karen Townsend | 7 years 9 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" -
Peter Corbett ✈ | 7 years 9 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy
KERA Public Media | 7 years 9 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour.
PBS MediaShift | 7 years 9 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 7 years 9 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services"
TxDOT | 7 years 9 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact
keyetv | 7 years 9 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested.
Karen Townsend | 7 years 9 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
© 2019 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement