The Clock Is Ticking

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BREAKING REPORT: We won’t stand for illegal secrecy. We’ve now filed major new claims against the city of Dickinson in a Galveston district court alleging systematic violations of state transparency laws. Our lawsuit comes as other legal storm clouds, with bigger financial consequences, are building in the city. The clock is ticking…

You won’t believe the controversy erupting at the College of The Mainland in recent days, all over what used to be just a cookie. Boy, times have changed.

The gingerbread man is now a ‘gender bread’. A dual credit college psych class being taught by a COM professor at a Santa Fe High School.

“Your faculty member wanted my daughter who is a minor by the way how sexually attracted to other woman she was,” said Shad Cundiff.

“To do this to minors, I mean it is pathetic,” expressed Richard Gustafson.

“I didn’t know anything about it, but I was disappointed to know that was the official stand that the college took, and I can’t stand with it,” said Dawn King.

“This is what higher education is. It’s critical thinking,” said Melissa Skipworth.

The COM trustee over Santa Fe is Melissa Skipworth. Who we last saw shooting the bird at her husband’s critics. The controversial mayor of Dickinson, Sean Skipworth.

And sex wasn’t the only thing on the agenda of public speakers at the college headquarters meeting.

“We’ve got a gentleman, the mayor, who is taking a paycheck from the city of Dickinson as the mayor and at some point, was taking a check as a city councilman. He’s also taking a check from y’all. And so, what that involves here is that conflict of interest,” said David Lehmann.

The criticism of the politician we’ve dubbed the dick of Dickinson is mounting. Now the owners of the long-shuttered Creekside Apartments are finally giving the city an ultimatum.

Thirty days to vote to redevelop the property as the mayor and city manager Theo Melancon promised the owners fifteen months ago. 

Or face a massive lawsuit that could bankrupt the city.

“What do they want? They want to redevelop; they have this grand plan that they want to beautify that part of town. Ok wonderful we will do that with you, we will work with you,” said Ahmet Kalkan.

“The clock is ticking” a Kalkan family representative wrote to city officials.

We’ve been reporting on the creekside case since the holiday season in late 2022. When the city cut off the hot water and later forced 200 low-income families out in the streets during Christmas.

There is no debate that the creekside apartments near the critical valuable intersection of 45 and 517 had building code violations.

The place is 50 years old and some of the place was still unoccupied after massive damage from a hurricane and should have been demolished.

But that wasn’t the whole story. Did Creekside deserve to be shut down?

The city’s own records show the Kalkan family had always repaired any violations the city found in inspections.

“You know we’ve invested millions of dollars in that property to bring it back up online again,” said Ahmet Kalkan.

Our investigation found evidence the city targeted the apartment complex for closure. Even before they conducted an inspection in May of 2022. Even bringing police to the complex as part of their invasion.

The city drafted a press release the day before the inspection announcing creekside was being shut down. Tenants moved out.

Here’s an email with the mayor reacting to that email. “Looks good to me,” reads the email.

During that inspection that next day, the Kalkan family believes it was the beginning of the sabotage plan.

“The city officials themselves, the mayor himself, has stepped onto my property and spoke to my residents and said, look, this place is so terrible, right? If I were you, I would not pay rent. Don’t worry about rent. Don’t pay rent,” recalls Ahmet Kalkan.

Most tenants did stop paying rent after that inspection.

In the Summer and Fall of 2022, the Dickinson Building Commission ruled the place should be shut down. The first apartment we know of shut down in Dickinson. But our investigation found evidence the city had misrepresented living conditions in the pictures they showed the commission.

The Kalkan family, they believed a gas leak in a boiler that Winter was another part of the “sabotage.”

And it was a damaging blow to the reputation of Kalkan Capitol, with a billion dollars in assets, hundreds of apartment projects. The publicity from Dickinson even reached investors in the Israeli stock exchange where Kalkan stock is trade.

In a text message Mayor Skipworth called Creekside a “slum” that the city had received an influx of complaints before that may inspection.

The city though could not provide a record of these alleged complaints.

But there were several complaints within hours of the inspection about mold. We looked for evidence of mold after Creekside was shuttered, but we didn’t see it.

“The first time they ever tried to condemn me, the first time that the city is approaching me with this much aggression out of nowhere,” said Ahmet Kalkan.

After we aired our investigation into the cities conduct in 2022, one of the members of the Building Standards Commission said they felt played by City Hall.

“I believe we were probably misled on how bad it really was,” said Susan Wilcox.

Last week a meeting of that very same Dickinson Building Commission got cancelled. The public wasn’t told why. But we know why.

Four members have resigned. There’s no longer a quorum.

Wilcox says there is fear they could be individually sued if the Kalkans now follow through with a threatened lawsuit.

The demand letter came from Houston attorney Jeff Diamant, part of a team of lawyers helping the family.

That is the same law firm helping us fight the illegal secrecy at Dickinson City Hall. They were chosen by Tony Buzbee because they has seen so much of the Dickinson story.

So why are the Creekside owners finally laying down the gauntlet with Dickinson City Hall? It’s the story Dickinson taxpayers haven’t been told.

In December of 2022 Dickinson city officials directed creekside owners to work on a 750-million-dollar redevelopment plan. The largest by far in the city’s history. A plan to transform the area around Deats Road.

“We brought the city planners, we brought the architects, we brought the investors, we designed the entire project. We made quite a bit of progress,” said Ahmet Kalkan.

A new home for city hall, police headquarters, and retail. Sort of like Sugarland Town Square.

The family spent more than 100,000 on experts after that, and by April the comprehensive design and plans were done. The Kalkans set off to begin buying the land around the complex. There had already been a flurry of real estate transactions and the sales prices were interestingly skyrocketing. Perhaps more evidence another use for the area had been leaked a long time before..

A draft press release was created and approved by the Dickinson EDC director, but at the last minute, hours before its planned public release Mayor Sean Skipworth put the deal on hold without explanation to the Kalkan family.

They say the mayor likely cost the city its best chance to lure in business.

The Kalkans hired Tony Buzbee.

In December Mayor Skipworth resurfaced and held a secret meeting with the founder of the company. A meeting arranged by La Marque City Councilwoman Kim Yancey. Her family’s church had brough property near Creekside and would have been part of the financial deal.

Everyone agreed to not talk about hard feelings in hopes of a new agreement.

The Kalkans presented a new plan. The city would buy the Creekside property and over 7 years pay them back the value of the property before that controversial May inspection.

At the meeting Dickinson city manager said, in an email Mayor Skipworth promised the plan would be put on the agendas of city council and EDC.

The family told us they believed it would be on the public agenda. Instead, the EDC talked about it in executive session, and they decided they didn’t want to spend the money.

We had been beating them up over the 13 million dollars they had already spent on mostly unused land.

And we’ve learned the financial details the city manager and mayor had reviewed were never shown to city council.

The Kalkans said they presented a third redevelopment plan in “good faith.” They would invest thirty million dollars redeveloping the apartment complex and the city would come up with 10 million dollars in grants and incentives to help.

So, the mayor’s sudden decision last year to block the transformation of Dickinson for about 750 million dollars was now down to just fixing up the apartments and nothing else.

And the Kalkans say it wasn’t their fault. They had received praise from the city manager. Then there was the March city council meeting, it passed and no Creekside on the Agenda.

Fifteen months and the city manager had told the Kalkan representative something in a phone call that raised alarm bells.

The accessed value of this property once valued at 30 million had now gone from 13 million to one million.

It suggested to the family that the city was monitoring the deteriorating financial decisions of the Kalkan’s investment.

Was the plan to just take their property all along for a song.

That’s what led to the demand letter sent to the city attorney last week.

Another letter sent to other city officials made it clear the wounds have festered.

“Ownership publicly ignored the improper events of early 2022, including the false and hurtful comments that members of ownership were “slum lords.” In fact, these “slum lord” comments continue to be publicly stated from the dais, as recent as this past month,” read the letter.

“The owners of creekside apartments should be ashamed of their actions and taken advantage of folks who had nowhere to go and were held hostage by slum lords. The city has not been sued by the owners of Creekside Apartments, it is doubtful that we will be,” said Councilman Jessie Brantley.

Remember those words and the mayors, because if the Kalkans now move ahead with that promised lawsuit, the city will have to defend those comments.

Whether you agree or not with them, it’s the kind of thing that may now jeopardize the city’s financial future.

And this likely won’t help.

It’s an e mail the kalkan family got back a week ago from the mayor. And these words may come back to haunt him too. Threatening to move forward with condemning Creekside. Calling the litigation threats frivolous.

“Dr. Kalkan has not regularly updated the city as he is required to do under the MOU,” read the email.

We know from public records that is demonstrably false. The Kalkan family kept updating the city even this year even after the building commission held a meeting in February to vote to stop even asking for updates.

And the mayor falsely claimed the Kalkan’s second redevelopment proposal early this year was a non-starter. The idea the city would buy the Creekside property and pay the Kalkans the value over seven years.

The mayor in the email says the property would then be owned again by the Kalkans, but we’ve seen that plan and that’s simply not true.

We don’t care what the city decides to do, but that meeting in January both the mayor and city manager said they liked the Kalkan’s proposal.

The family says they have proof of this, but they refuse to let us show it to you.

Notice this email from the mayor does not include members of city council, keeping them in the dark (once again) about the growing legal war clouds in the city.

How long will city council let that continue?

I want folk to remember, it’s the mayor of Dickinson who has picked a fight with us, like hes done with lots of folks. And you know what? We don’t like bullies.

“Someone has hired an investigative reporter to do a hit piece and do public information requests,” said Skipworth.

Mayor Skipworth exposed his disdain for state transparency laws even before our first story more than two years ago. And then engaged in a campaign to withhold public records, that’s why we first sued. And sadly, that secrecy continues even today. One of the reasons a thousand people signed a petition to recall the mayor.

A petition city council refuse to accept. That will likely go to court too.

“ The city of Dickinson just continues to violate the Public Information Act, and in addition the violating the Public Information Act they now violated the Texas Open Meetings Act. And that can’t stand, so we had to amend out lawsuit to hold them accountable,” said attorney Kelsey Galbraith.

We have now filed a much bigger lawsuit over transparency, accusing the city and the Dickinson Economic Development Corporation of systematic violations of state law. Including the Texas Open Meetings Act.

“I’ve gone back over two years of your agendas and your minutes I can find an illegally in almost every meeting that’s been held,” said Wayne Dolcefino at a city council meeting.

Last month I warned the EDC their meeting violated state law. Their public agenda failed to say why they were going into secret consultation with their lawyer.

“The meeting should be adjourned. You should issue a proper agenda and then come back,” continued Dolcefino.

“I appreciate the input from Mr. Dolcefino, one wonders where he went to law school,” said Nghien Doan in response.

The new city attorney thinks he’s funny.

I’ve tangled with a lot of arrogant city attorneys over the years but Mr. Doan, he’s quite the jerk. And he also doesn’t tell the truth to the citizens of Dickinson about the law in Texas.

“You’re absolutely allowed to go into executive session to talk to your lawyer, but what you’re not allowed to do is go into executive session to talk to your lawyer and not tell the people who elected you what you’re talking about,” explained attorney Kelsey Galbraith.

Before I left the EDC meeting the other day I warned them we wouldn’t stand for this illegality. That paying the Rusty Hardin law firm 500 dollars an hour to help them hide their secrecy is yet another example of why the mayor should be recalled and Jessie Brantley too.

And then council should fire the city attorney before he costs them anymore money.

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