Concerns about conflicts of interest have been sparked by media reports that an aide to the Texas governor is a former worker of the Spanish construction firm chosen to build a massive toll road in the Lone Star state.
The aide, Dan Shelley, worked for the firm, Cintra, immediately before he became Gov. Rick Perry’s legislative director, The Dallas Morning News reported. When he left Cintra, Shelley also left behind money he was to be paid if the contract with Texas was secured.
Shelley also served in a legislative position under previous governor and current President George W. Bush. The Austin American Statesman reported that he raised eyebrows at that time when he left his job under Bush to join Lockheed Martin Corp. At that company, he lobbied for a state contract related to welfare reform.
Land Line reported Dec. 20 that the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, had reached an agreement with Spain-based Cintra – an international group of engineering, construction and financial firms.
In a statement, TxDOT said it chose the firm’s plan over two other competing bids because “the Cintra proposal provided the best long-term value to the state.”
The company will lead an effort to build the Oklahoma-to-Mexico portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor, including a $6 billion toll road between Dallas and San Antonio, which is planned for completion by 2010, and $1.2 billion in additional transportation improvements between Oklahoma and Mexico.
The entire project would be funded privately, with no state money involved.
The plan was floated as a way to relieve congestion on Interstate 35, which carries a significant amount of truck traffic and other vehicles north from the border to such states as Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and points north. The interstate terminates at Laredo, TX, at a major border crossing with Mexico.
The toll road from Dallas to San Antonio would be a four-lane, divided highway 316 miles long.
Gov. Perry announced Shelley’s appointment to the post Sept. 17. A former state representative and state senator, the Houston resident was tapped to represent the governor’s policy proposals in the Texas Legislature, Perry’s office said in a statement.
The governor’s office, in announcing Shelley’s appointment, noted that he “most recently has worked as a government consultant and lobbyist.”