Hall calls campaign contributions from developers a ‘coincidence’

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

In his campaign for reelection, Liberty Hill Mayor Rick Hall has raised over $10,000, nearly all of those funds coming from donors connected to development, and all connected in some way to property or projects in the vicinity of the SH 29/Ronald Reagan intersection.

Four of the donors – Wyatt Henderson, David Howell, John Marlin and Robert Wunsch – donated $500 each and are all affiliated with MA Partners, the developers for the Omega Ranch project, which has come before Council on two different issues in the last six months, including preliminary plat approval at Monday’s meeting.

But Hall denies any potential conflict of interest and has implied he has had minimal involvement in the project.

Hall’s original response to the question of why all of his donors had some connection to that specific area was that “campaign contributions come from all sorts of donors.” But in a follow up e-mail he responded that, “There is just a larger amount of property and potential growth in this area. I would say it is a coincidence.”

He said each of the donors to his campaign approached him with the donations and he did not seek them out.

In the case of Omega Ranch and MA Partners specifically, Hall denied there could be a perception of a conflict of interest involving the ongoing project and the contributions to his campaign.

“The development agreements are handled by the staff and legal counsel and are sent to me to present to City Council for approval,” he wrote. “As I have no vote on any of these or any other items I am just providing the information to the council for them to make the decision on.”

But no vote does not mean Hall is not potentially heavily involved in the negotiations or planning, as well as the steering of projects through the City in his expanded role as Mayor and city administrator.

He said he has “sat in on the first or second meeting with some of the development contracts and then the contracts are drawn up by staff and legal council for the city and then will be presented to the City Council for approval or denial.”

When asked how this potential conflict of interest is different than the one alleged in the spring of 2019 by three candidates for council he supported when claims were made of unethical dealings and involvement in projects by Chris Pezold, he attempted to make the distinction about land ownership.

“These are all developers that own the land and are building projects on the land.  None of these developers are selling the land to the City,” he responded in his e-mail.

Campaign finance reports show 12 contributions were made to Hall’s campaign between Feb. 15 and mid-July. Among them were business contributions, including $1,500 from Larkspur, which is a Milestone development, $1,000 from Coffin Investment, and $500 from 1941 LTD.

The Coffin Investment company profile provides an address on Ronald Reagan Boulevard, and identifies Philip Coffin as a principal. A group of siblings from the Kauffman family are identified as the partners in 1941 LTD, and is tied to 285 acres located between Liberty Hill and Georgetown at the intersection of Ronald Reagan and SH 29.

Steve Bamsch, a Realtor with Keller Williams in Georgetown, contributed $1,000 and Amy Renee Andrews contributed $500. A pair of attorneys – Joshua Kahn and Julianne Bremer Kugle – affiliated with SKLaw contributed $375 each. The top donor for Hall was developer James Jacobs at $2,500.

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