Residents of Chambers County Municipal Utility District No. 1 have taken issue with the law firm that administers it, saying the board members do not reside in the district – a requirement to serve on the board.
The MUD’s residents say this means they are disqualified from serving. The board members are President Richard Greer, Vice President Archie Peterson, Secretary Greg Garrett, Russell Ruth, and Harold Scarborough, both directors. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s district information report, Greer has a Richmond address, Peterson lives in Houston, Ruth lives in Huffman, and Scarborough and Garrett both have Baytown address, but none reside in the Chambers County MUD No. 1 — which includes - Pine Meadows, Hunters Chase, Country Meadows subdivisions off Highway 146.
Municipal Utility Districts are scattered about Baytown. Some have been around a while, some are fairly new; some are in-city limits, some are out of city limits.
Nearly 15,000 Baytonians live in a MUD district. The MUD is the second largest portion of a homeowner’s tax bill (behind school taxes). MUD boards choose who picks up your trash and how much to charge you for water service.
Thomas Parent, who led a citizen
effort two years ago for MUD No. 459 (Hunters Creek and Goose Creek Reserve subdivisions) and eventually was able to lower its tax rate by 10%, stepped in the assist the MUD No. 1 folks. The Baytown resident described what happened at the MUD meeting in Houston this month.
“Nobody resigned at the meeting. The MUD lawyer caught wind this was going to happen,” Parent said. “He is now claiming there is a deed that exists in which the Pine Meadows entrance monument has been subdivided amongst the five board members. And each of the members owns a small piece of the Pine Meadows entrance monument. But the deed has not been reported to the county, and he flat out refused to show us the deed.”
Parent said this seemingly counts as them owning property in the district.
“They didn’t dispute that they didn’t own property within the district, but they are claiming the Texas Constitution has a holdover clause, and because they now own a piece of the monument, they qualify to serve as a director,” he said.
Parent said he was told by the district’s lawyers the deed is in the hands of the MUD’s engineer, Alex Van Duzer with Cobb Fendley & Associates.
“I called the engineer, and he said he’d have to get back with me. I also asked for his email address. I haven’t heard from him yet,” Parent said. “I personally do not believe that deed exist at this time, but I wouldn’t put it past these guys to fabricate a deed and put a new date on it. It doesn’t have to be legally reported to be valid. Every other deed they’ve done related to those properties has been reported to the county. This is the only one they claim to exist that has not been reported to the county.”
Attempts to contact Van Duzer for comment were unsuccessful.
Ron Young with the Young and Brooks Law Firm, issued a statement about the resident’s accusation.
“With reference to Chambers County Mud (No. 1), you are advised that all five current directors own property within the water district and are currently directors of the board,” Young stated. “There are criminal statutes dealing with falsely accusing someone of a crime as well as defamation exposure for the same.”
Young was asked to clarify if the property he mentioned is the Pine Meadows entrance monument or homes. The request was not answered prior to deadline.
Scarborough and Garrett have since resigned from the board. They both sent letters to Young March 18, the same day as the MUD’s meeting, stating they “unknowingly became disqualified” to serve as directors.
Kelly Riggs, the Country Meadows Subdivision HOA president, attended the March 18 meeting with Parent.
“As far as I know, none of them had a title to the entrance,” Riggs said. “I think what the lawyer was trying to do is subdivide up into five pieces, so each one could have a piece. Personally, I think they don’t have lots within the MUD district, and they are not registered voters in the district, so they should all resign.”
Riggs said there would be lots of benefits if actual residents were on the MUD board.
“We’d vote to lower tax rates. That is a big thing,” he said. “We would also pay off debt. Those are the two biggest things we can do.”
Brenda Medina, Pine Meadows Subdivision HOA president, was in charge of maintaining the entrance monument.
“It is kind of strange, isn’t it?” Medina said. “First, we found out the center monument at the entrance of our subdivision changed ownership in April 2019. We were not aware of it. It was under the developer’s name. Obviously, through the HOA with the developer, we were in charge of maintaining it.”
Medina said she recently discovered the deed was transferred, or sold, to Ruth, who is on the MUD board.
“I am curious as to why it was transferred to an individual and not to an HOA or to a school district like it is normally,” Medina said. “And how it was sold to an individual and transferred automatically so they become a member on the board instead of notifying us.”
Medina said she had instructed the property manager to contact the maintenance department to halt work on the monument for the time being.
Parent said he is also working with Pct. 4 Commissioner Billy Combs and District 23 Rep. Mayes Middleton’s office on the issue.
“From what I see it looks when these directors were elected, they did not own any property in the district,” Combs said. “Whether they do now or not, that is another story.”
At the next MUD board election May 2, both Medina and Riggs are on the ballot. Ruth is, as well. Garrett was up for election until he resigned. Scarborough’s term was to expire in 2022. No appointments have been made to replace either Garrett or Scarborough.
“I would be more than happy to be appointed,” Medina said. “If somebody is going to be appointed, it should be someone on the ballot and resides in the district.”
Medina said in the meantime, they are keeping their eye on the situation.
“It is very suspicious, to say the least,” she said. “If it is all legit, then that is fine. But in my opinion, it doesn’t seem to go that way. And I am a person that gives people the benefit of the doubt, and if I start to doubt something, then that is a problem.”
Parent says there are other MUDs in Baytown without residents on the board, including Spring Meadows MUD (Springfield and Preston Place subdivisions) and Harris County MUD No. 213B (Goose Creek Landing).
Parent said the only MUDs in Baytown with resident boards are Lake MUD, which includes Meadowlake Village, West Meadows, and Highlands Ranch subdivisions and Harris County MUD No. 459, which includes Hunters Creek and Goose Creek Reserve subdivisions.