The Austin Chronicle

Commissioner Limmer's Private Business

By Jordan Smith, August 15, 2003, News

Williamson County Precinct 4 Commissioner Frankie Limmer assumed office in 1999. Since then he has expanded his real estate development activities in eastern Williamson County -- the area he represents on the court -- to include several major development companies currently building large housing subdivisions. Several of Limmer's business associates are also doing business with the county: Charles Crossfield, the Round Rock city attorney who has been negotiating many of the rights-of-way acquisitions for the county's $350 million road-bond projects; Dan Hejl, of the consulting firm Hejl, Lee & Associates, has done engineering work for at least one of the county's road-bond projects within Limmer's precinct; and Ted Hejl, the Taylor city attorney, who has also recently been cut a host of county checks for road-related bond work.

In July 2002, Limmer formed Magellan Water LLC. According to an Oct. 28 article in the Austin Business Journal, Limmer founded Magellan in an effort to bring a $30 million water pipeline to Precinct 4 from the relatively untapped, 48,000-square-mile Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. "Right now we don't have enough water to sustain economic development in eastern Williamson County," Limmer told ABJ. The article said that by that time, Magellan had raised more than $5 million in funding from investors and had secured three additional letters of intent from potential customers -- yet to date, Limmer has declined to name any of his partners or investors. Louis Repa, Limmer's opponent in the last election, told ABJ that the refusal might possibly conceal a "potential conflict of interest."

Limmer disagrees -- and that seems to be enough for county officials. "Williamson County Commissioner Limmer has discussed with the County Attorney's Office his plans to participate in a wholesale water company," reads a letter written by Assistant County Attorney Dale Rye. "He assures us that the company will not have any interests that conflict with the interests of the county government." According to the letter, Limmer told Rye that he wasn't aware of any "contemplated" county business that would conflict with his role in developing the company. "Assuming this is the case ... the Commissioner's role in the company would be completely lawful," Rye wrote.

The deference to Limmer has angered some county residents, who believe that as long as Limmer is an elected official, he should have to disclose the names of those individuals with whom he does business. In his role as commissioner, Limmer would have early, privileged access to information about county projects or private development proposals and any potential pipeline routes, for example, along county rights-of-way -- a circumstance that could possibly offer Magellan a competitive advantage, especially considering the $350 million in county road projects under way and overseen by the Commissioners Court. "My problem with Limmer," said one observer of the Commissioners Court, "is that he is in a position to use privileged county information to line his own pockets."

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