By Tim Farley, News Editor – A Houston-based attorney has asked a federal judge to order Piedmont Park Project organizers to provide a complete accounting of all private donations and federal grant money used to finance the park.
The request is part of a federal lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Texas by attorney Terri Garcia. Garcia represents a Houston-area splash pad contractor who built special water features and installed them at the Piedmont park. The lawsuit alleges the contractor, SEE Spray, was not paid in full and delays were caused by the park organizers. The lawsuit alleges SEE Spray and its owner Rick Edwards suffered irreparable harm because park organizers failed to make payments provided for in the contract.
The lawsuit seeks more than $170,000 in back payments, plus attorney fees and other associated costs.
Named as defendants in the federal case are Piedmont developer Phil Boevers, bankers Eric Anderson and Terry Anderson, Paul Francel, SBS Development and The Piedmont Library & Cultural Events Society.
The federal lawsuit states, “The amount of money collected by defendants in donations and grants is unknown to plaintiffs and cannot be ascertained without an accounting of the collected donations, receipts and disbursements.”
Garcia said she believes the Piedmont group collected donations and grants exceeding $600,000 and about $250,000 was earmarked for the splash pad. Garcia said she has been unable to obtain a full accounting of all park donations.
Gideon Lincecum, attorney for the Piedmont park organizers, could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Posts on the Piedmont Park Project website show government grants in the amounts of $200,000 and $50,000 were received. Piedmont city officials also contributed $150,000 to the project.
Piedmont Councilman and Vice Mayor Bobby Williamson said neither he nor any other city officials have requested a full accounting of donations and grants.
Garcia said she doesn’t understand why the park leaders haven’t provided a full accounting to the public since so much money was from various government entities.
“Shakespeare said ‘something smells rotten in the state of Denmark.’ I think something smells rotten in Canadian County.”
Garcia added that Piedmont city officials should demand a complete accounting since they made one of the largest donations and will assume control of the park after it opens.
“So where is the financial paperwork? It’s a public facility,” the attorney said. “If I were a Piedmont resident and a member of that community I would be raising hell with these people. We shouldn’t even have to ask a federal court for an accounting. These are public funds, private donations and everyone in the world has to have an open door policy with full disclosure about this type of thing. They should provide a full accounting of what has been donated and what has been spent.”
Garcia is insistent that the federal lawsuit isn’t preventing the park from opening.
“That’s their decision up there,” she said. “I watched a video where a councilman said the worst thing is his granddaughter keeps asking why the park hasn’t opened. Why isn’t he asking for an accounting of all the records. He’s asking the wrong question.”
Garcia said her clients want to see the park open.
“We’re not keeping it from opening,” she said. “They can open it right now if they wanted, but they’re not. My clients were told from the start that this project was for the community and for the kids. Why are the people in Piedmont not opening the park? We think it should be.”
In a related lawsuit, the Piedmont Park Project has sued SEE Spray for breach of contract, claiming shoddy work was performed and the work was not conducted on the contractual timetable. That lawsuit was filed in Canadian County District Court.