Commissioner accused of cashing in on buyouts

October 20, 2010 4:41:56 PM PDT
Properties and homes were wiped out after Hurricane Ike. Now there are questions in Galveston County about land that was bought out with federal grant money. There are allegations a county commissioner's company is cashing in off the buyouts and the county judge signed off on it. County Commissioner Patrick Doyle says his title company so far has netted more than $126,000 by doing closing on this property buyout program. But one critic says Doyle could make as much as $600,000 before it's all over. Despite some criticism, Doyle insists there is no conflict of interest here and that it's all legit.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, Galveston County started purchasing property to act as a buffer for when the next major storm hits. Much of it is on the Bolivar Peninsula. It's part of a $100 million federal buyout program. All closings of those properties go through League City-based Southland Title.

Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark said, "It's kind of odd that there was no discussion and the title company Southland Title is owned by Commissioner Doyle. It just doesn't look right."

Commissioner Pat Doyle owns the title company which fellow Commissioner Ken Clark says was given the contract without public debate or a vote by Galveston County commissioners. Despite appearances of a possible conflict of interest, Clark says County Judge Jim Yarborough signed off on the deal March 18, 2009.

Clark said, "The document was signed by the county judge and it was slipped into the commissioners' court minute meetings for March 18, 2009."

What's more, Clark says Doyle is friends with Yarborough and that Doyle has even contributed to Yarborough's campaign for re-election. Doyle admits to both points, but insists he has done nothing wrong.

"I don't think there's any basis for it," Doyle said. "I think it's a political motivated move and that's it."

Judge Yarborough admits he signed the recommendation for the county to use Southland Title for the property buyouts, but says county commissioners, including Ken Clark, approved the consultant, which ultimately chose Southland Title. Further, Yarborough insists Clark has since, as part of commissioners' court over the last six months, helped unanimously approve the purchase of each property.

Yarborough calls Clark's allegations a political attack and says, "It's a shame it's gotten to that."

Doyle says he is guilty of one thing and one thing only.

"Being a business man and a politician and that's it," he said.

Doyle tells Eyewitness News he has never voted on anything related to this buyout program, saying he has abstained each time. Clark insists he plans to pursue this issue, telling us he intends to take this before the county's legal department for review.


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