The Calhoun Port Authority apparently violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when it hired former Congressman Blake Farenthold as its lobbyist. “This is one of the most clear-cut examples of a notice violation that I’ve ever seen,” said longtime media attorney Joe Larsen, who serves on the board of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. Attorneys David Roberts and Sandra Witte, who represent the port, also known as the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort, disagreed. Larsen and John Griffin, a Victoria lawyer who has handled Texas Open Meetings Act complaints before, said that explanation just raises more questions.
When the Advocate learned Farenthold’s first day as the port’s lobbyist was May 14, the newspaper sent the port two open records requests. The first was for copies of Farenthold’s employment contract and minutes from the May 9 meeting in which the board approved hiring him. In response, Hausmann said Farenthold did not have an employment contract and neither did any other of the port’s employees as they are at-will employees. He said he could not provide the Advocate with a copy of the minutes until the board approved them at its next meeting June 13. The Advocate’s second open records request was for text messages and emails between Farenthold and Hausmann between December and May. Thursday, the port provided emails that show Farenthold asking about lobbying for the port just days after resigning from Congress.
This is the first time the port has employed a lobbyist. Some leaders, both locally and in Washington, D.C., were shocked when they learned of Farenthold’s hiring and did not think he could be an effective advocate for the port. “I was not aware of them even advertising for a legislative liaison,” Calhoun County Commissioner Clyde Syma said. Hausmann did not answer questions about whether the board had advertised the position or considered other applicants. U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, has urged her colleagues in Washington not to take meetings with Farenthold. “I think it’s very disheartening that, first of all, he lies and that, secondly, he would be hired by an entity who thinks he can be persuasive,” she said. “I really think his conduct has made him radioactive.”
For more: The Victoria Advocate