Frisco’s mayor is lashing out at Texas Scorecard over an article detailing his alleged conflict of interest surrounding a proposed PGA development while confirming he will recuse himself from a vote on the matter. Sources close to the deal say the project could receive up to $100 million in taxpayer subsidies from the city.
On May 30, 2018, Texas Scorecard published a story regarding Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney and the planned “Panther Creek” development. The project would include a new headquarters for the Professional Golfers Association of America.
Sources close to the deal made the following allegations regarding it:
- Cheney intended to recuse himself from a vote on the PGA deal, due to a conflict of interest.
- The conflict involved two organizations close to Cheney, Stillwater Capital and The Associates, both of which are owned by Robert Elliott.
- Stillwater Capital is raising private capital for the PGA development, and may profit off the deal.
The PGA is coming to Frisco, but the city is still in final negotiations. The secretive details of the city’s “incentive” package have not yet been made public.
Cheney declined to comment prior to publication of Texas Scorecard’s article. On June 7, he responded to a second request for comment by threatening to sue Texas Scorecard for defamation, with the explicit objective of uncovering our “co-conspirators,” sources, and supporters. Cheney did not deny his intent to abstain from voting on the development, or his alleged conflict.
In an odd reversal, his attorney sent Texas Scorecard a letter on June 11 confirming Cheney’s intention to recuse himself from the deal.
“I can confirm that Mayor Cheney intends to recuse himself from the vote at issue,” Cheney’s attorney wrote.
The attorney danced around the conflict allegation, stating a recusal could indicate either a direct conflict of interest or a “proactive step” to avoid the “appearance of a conflict.” The attorney did not state which ground for recusal applied to Cheney.
But city records obtained by Texas Scorecard on June 13 show Cheney disclosed a conflict of interest with an issue before council and his employer, The Associates, as originally alleged by our sources. In an affidavit he filed on December 5, 2017, Cheney wrote:
“Upon the filing of the affidavit with the City Secretary of the City of Frisco, Texas, I affirm that I will abstain from voting on any decision involving this business entity and/or real property and from any further participation in this matter whatsoever.
Partner with Stillwater Capital, Robert Elliott, is also the broker for the Associates, my employer.”
The following facts about Cheney and the PGA deal are confirmed:
Cheney has served on Frisco City Council since 2007. For up to five years, city officials have been involved in secret deliberations over a tax-funded plan to bring the PGA to Frisco. Cheney was elected mayor in May of 2017, loaning his own campaign nearly $100,000, much of which is still outstanding.
In November 2017, a company owned by real-estate broker Robert Elliott—The Associates—acquired and/or entered a business relationship with The Cheney group. Cheney is listed on The Associates’ website as a “Broker Associate, CPA.” This move occurred six months before Cheney’s colleagues would finalize negotiations on a deal giving hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds to the same development from which Cheney’s employer allegedly stands to profit.
Cheney, through his attorney, denies a legal “merger” between The Cheney Group and The Associates has occurred and denies he has an ownership interest in The Associates. Cheney filed a conflict of interest affidavit in December 2017, disclosing a conflict between his employer and an undisclosed deal before council. Cheney pledged to abstain from “any further participation in this matter whatsoever.”
Cheney never publicly disclosed the nature or extent of the conflict, or to which deal specifically the conflict relates. The December agenda item he refers to in his filing is ambiguous and reads “executive session.”
Leading up to the summer of 2018, negotiations on the PGA deal have repeatedly taken place in executive session and details have been sealed from the public. The particular meetings where the deal has been discussed are unknown, because the meeting agendas do not name which proposals are discussed in executive session.
Texas Scorecard is continuing to investigate Frisco’s secret PGA deal. With regard to Cheney’s threatened lawsuit, as it has successfully done in the past, Texas Scorecard will vigorously defend the confidentiality of its sources, subscribers, and supporters from unlawful and malicious litigation and other harassment.
Frisco taxpayers may be left wondering why Cheney refused to comment on the allegations prior to the May 30 article, why neither he or his lawyer acknowledged the conflict of interest disclosed in December, and why he lashed out at Texas Scorecard to target sources for the allegations contained in the article, which were later confirmed to be wholly credible.
Is the mayor being paid by Elliott, Stillwater Capital, The Associates, or some other party to help broker the PGA deal? Does the mayor stand to benefit financially from the deal in any other way? Only Cheney can answer these questions.