Over $16 million in government funding has been given to a private paving business with family ties in the contentious Texas neighborhood of Colony Ridge, which is notorious for luring illegal immigrants.
A local government organization was established on behalf of the development and among those associated with the project, developer William “Trey” Harris sits on the board. There is cause for worry over the potential financial gain for board members because public monies were allocated to a paving business with ties to the developers.
Illegal immigrants are the target audience for the company’s marketing and lending activities. Concerned about the development, which offers affordable property solely in Spanish to those without social security numbers, Texas Governor Greg Abbott convened two special sessions of the Texas legislature to discuss the matter. The local lawmakers who gave Colony Ridge the power to “operate essentially as its city” were scolded by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
According to records, Liberty Paving LLC was awarded contracts worth millions of dollars by a unanimous vote of the board. John Harris is Trey’s brother and a co-owner of Colony Ridge; Liberty Paving has direct connections to both of them. Savannah Crihfield, who voted to grant Liberty Paving a multi-million dollar contract, is also associated with the firm.
Colony Ridge and Liberty Paving have long-standing connections, according to records. Similarly vested in the power to distribute tax income is Patrick Thiel, a publicly traded CEO of Liberty Paving, who also serves on the utility board of Colony Ridge.
In 2017, State Representative Ernest Bailes formed the Colony Ridge management board, which is also known as Liberty County Municipal Management District No. 1. Developer Trey Harris gave Bailes $1,800, and the political action committee linked to Entergy—the energy provider that supplies all six Colony Ridge subdivisions—gave him $9,000.
In addition, the management board’s legal counsel, Coats Rose, also contributed $7,500 to Bailes via their political action committee. According to Trey Harris, the public may be sure that the funds received will not be used for the benefit of Colony Ridge or his friends.
A property owner inside the district is one of the requirements to be appointed to either board.