Report looking into questionable deals released

May 20, 2008 5:33:50 PM PDT
Another 13 Undercover investigation sparked heated words at Tuesday's Harris County Commissioner's Court meeting. The words came after a close look at a report that shows some real estate deals cost you, the taxpayers, millions of extra dollars.

13 Undercover was the first to tell you about the questionable lease-purchase agreements. Under those terms, the county didn't buy the buildings outright.

The FBI is already investigating those deals, but in commissioners court, not everyone liked what was found by the county and Eyewitness News.

Commissioner Jerry Eversole is not happy with 13 Undercover's revelation. Nor did he like the fact that Harris County Judge Ed Emmett spoke out about several lease-purchase agreements approved years ago by Eversole, El Franco Lee and Steve Radack that he says cost taxpayers millions.

WATCH EVERSOLE'S FULL COMMENTS

But what 13 undercover reported several weeks ago was confirmed by the county's own study. Seven properties sprinkled throughout out the county are lease-purchase agreements. The county's own estimates show the finance structure cost taxpayers $2.6 million in interest, and $5.3 million overall. Judge Ed Emmett stopped short of calling the lease-purchase agreements bad deals, but says the county will no longer participate in them.

"You can't go back and analyze it like we have now, we didn't have the financial tools back then," he said. "We didn't have the credit rating back now, but going forward, lease purchase doesn't make sense."

Even with today's report, some commissioners contend that lease purchase agreements, including this property is still a good idea.

Other county commissioners appeared willing to move past these questionable deals, but admitted getting things right in Harris County won't be easy.

Despite Eversole's claims that the commissioners did nothing wrong, the FBI is conducting its own investigation into the deals. Meanwhile, two of the key players who negotiated some of those lease purchase deals with Harris County have been indicted by a federal grand jury in an unrelated city hall corruption case. Both men deny wrong doing.

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