Last week, a contractor chosen by Hidalgo County Commissioners Court had several of their offices raided by federal law enforcement.
On Wednesday, April 26th, Dannenbaum Engineering Corp. offices in Houston, Laredo, San Antonio, and McAllen were raided by the FBI. The FBI failed to comment on their ongoing investigation, but according to a series of close-up pictures taken by KGBT-TV, it appears they are investigating Louis H. Jones Jr.– principal and director for the company’s South Texas Region. As manager of the South Texas operations, Jones has led a number of major tax-funded infrastructure projects including toll roads, international bridge structures connecting Texas to Mexico, and expressed interest in the border wall project.
The Hidalgo County Commissioners Court currently is in deliberation and continued negotiations with Dannenbaum Engineering Corp. for the provision of “Program Management Services” for the design and construction of a new Hidalgo County Courthouse. The project is estimated to cost up to $150 million, drawing attention from local taxpayers. Unfortunately for the taxpayer, there still remains a lack of transparency and agreement amongst the commissioners as they have failed to deliver a detailed estimate, and have tabled further discussions in public meetings.
This is not the first time the Dannenbaum Group has been under investigation along the South Texas border. In 2005, the Brownsville Navigation District filed a lawsuit, as the city paid $15.4 million in an incomplete international commercial bridge. During the same time, they were investigated in El Paso County after it was alleged they bribed at least two local politicians.
The Dannenbaum Group is the Principle Manager of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority (HCRMA), an agency that has pitched over $1 billion investments in toll roads under development throughout Hidalgo County. In addition, HCRMA is organized by Texas Transportation Commission and the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court. According to images published by a local CBS news affiliate, agents were seen carrying boxes from the McAllen office titled, “HCRMA.” Documents referring to “El Pico” were also reportedly spotted, which refers to El Pico Surface Water Treatment Plant in Laredo, another project constructed by Dannenbaum Group
Hidalgo County taxpayers should communicate their concern to county officials on Tuesday’s Commissioner’s Court meeting.