Lake McQueeney

A drone captures Lake McQueeney and Treasure Island on Aug. 26, 2019.

An attorney who took aim at the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority in court-filed new paperwork accusing the authority of gross mismanagement of funds that could have been used to help save GBRA-owned dams on the Guadalupe River.

In the amended petition filed Monday, Dec. 9, J. Douglas Sutter said the authority, its officers and directors used the money to line their own pockets with inflated salaries and more.

“That money should be going to the dams, not to these people,” he said. “If you’re going to be paying somebody $350,000 a year, a car allowance and a stipend and all of these things, then you’re going to say you don’t have money to fix the dams?”

GBRA General Manager/CEO Kevin Patteson takes home a hefty salary and has been awarded additional increases in his almost three years leading the authority, Sutter said.

In his filing, Sutter accuses board members of rewarding Patteson with increased compensation for favors he did to help them enrich themselves personally.

Sutter said he and his team uncovered evidence proving GBRA spent money it could have used to rebuild the failing 90-year-old dams that make up the Guadalupe Valley Lakes system.

GBRA officials declined to comment on Sutter’s most recent claims.

Sutter filed a lawsuit Sept. 5 asking a judge to hold the authority responsible for failing to maintain the six hydrodams in the system. Two of the dams have had failures that drained water from the lakes and GBRA officials have said all of them are ripe for similar problems.

The dams are suffering from deterioration after already having eclipsed their projected lifespans. They need to be replaced, Patteson has said, at a cost of millions of dollars the authority does not have.

Sutter and the hundreds of plaintiffs he represents said it is GBRA’s duty to maintain the dams and find the money necessary for their upkeep. Sutter has said GBRA and its officials have squandered money, spent it inappropriately or profited from waters of the Guadalupe River.

The sides have dueled in court over the issue already but no final results have been realized. Parties involved in the suit have come to terms to limit access on the lakes, and GBRA shelved plans to drain each of the remaining four lakes.

Up next

Still in the very preliminary stages of the court process, both sides are preparing to move forward with their cases.

GBRA is looking to do so with a new set of attorneys. Represented in previous hearings by the Jefferson Cano law firm, the authority chose to go in a different direction in recent weeks — tapping Baker Botts for its defense, Patty Gonzales, GBRA communications manager, said.

Jefferson Cano successfully represented GBRA during the earlier phases of the suit but it became too much for the firm to handle, Gonzales said. GBRA chose a larger firm with more resources available, she said.

Another track

GBRA has been in talks for months with area residents to come up with a plan to repair the failing dam structures and pay for the project.

Residents who live along and around Lake McQueeney have proposed setting up a Water Control and Improvement District (WCID), essentially taxing themselves to raise money for any repairs or replacement and maintenance of spill gates. The cities of Seguin and New Braunfels have passed resolutions supporting the WCID.

A hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17 before the Guadalupe County Commissioners Court to discuss the district. The hearing will take place on the third floor of the Guadalupe County Courthouse, 101 E. Court St.

Dalondo Moultrie is the assistant managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at dalondo.moultrie@seguingazette.com .

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(4) comments

Ricky Vandersloot

Guess what, GBRA decides how their funds are spent, not a court, and especially not some overpaid lawyer. These Hydroelectric dams have not been profitable for a very long time. It does not make financial sense for them to spend any money on them, PERIOD. The only purpose for these dams is gone, they can't even break even selling the electricity that is produced from these dams, so they should just tear them all down and get out of the electric business altogether. This all started with the move away from GBRA to other electric providers. The City of Seguin is one of those who did so.

Dldmny

Removing the dams and allowing the river to flow naturally may make financial and ecological sense, but the fact remains that there is more to this story than the GBRA, its dams, and lakes. The current fiasco and others yet to be discovered were caused by an indifferent Texas legislature in 1933. It is unconscionable to have created River Authorities as independent businesses, without state oversight or indemnity, thereby risking Texas' future water requirements.

Dig Deeper

While I agree with the spirit of Vandersloot's comments, the dams created unintended consequences in generating riverfront economies and community value that cannot be ignored. As the manager of the lakes, GBRA should have responsibility for their maintenance. I implore them to continue working with the homeowners associations to prepare a plan forward. I also agree with Didmny's comments about how unfortunate it is to have this quasi-government entity that answers to no one. I personally find Patterson's salary to be beyond what comparable leadership positions would pay - and would love to hear what the compensation to the voice-less board members is.

Dldmny

If I correctly recall, the hydro-electric dams were purchased by GBRA, after it had been formed as a business. GBRA's motive might have been to add electrical generation to its business or to prevent that system from being expanded. The goal was to provide GBRA with greater independent control over the river. Additionally, if that system was allowed to deteriorate, the purchase price and related losses could be applied to reducing GBRA's tax burden. I doubt that there was any thought given to the future of the lakes or adjacent property values.

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