in Houston, Texas
Junket or fact-finding trip? Travis County officials to attend F1 race in England courtesy of company behind Formula One track
Tuesday, Jun 26, 2012, 10:05AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Formula One

Investors trying to get as much of a $300 million racetrack built in secret in Travis County as they possibly can are offering to pay for an all-expenses trip to England for two county officials to study race week preparations.

Just don’t call it a junket. Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe tells the Austin American-Statesman today he’s looked into it and concluded that it is a needed fact-finding mission.

But just to be on the safe side, Biscoe says he declined his invitation.

Exactly why Circuit of the Americas abandoned its secrecy first policy and made its offer to the county officials public is anyone’s guess. The newspaper is currently trying to pry from Circuit of the Americas, the company building the Formula One track, financial documents outlining taxpayer investment in the business.

The newspaper has been making open records requests to discern local, county and state commitments to Formula One for more than two years.

Biscoe is asking Travis County commissioners to approve allowing Hershel Lee, the county fire marshal, and someone selected from the Sheriff’s Department to take the offer to see for themselves the safety and security preparations for an F1 track.

No total estimates of the cost of the trip have been made, but Biscoe says the county would pay each of its employees a per diem for the four or five days they were in England.

Bill Aleshire, a former county judge and prominent free speech and open government attorney in Austin, says that while the junk, er, trip might give the appearance of improper influence, he would prefer the company rather than taxpayers bear its cost.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo 'F1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix 2012' by flickr user vikhoa, used via a Creative Commons license.

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