Round Rock ISD’s controversial $508 million bond election has stirred up a slew of debate and, most recently, legal threats from one of the bond’s biggest proponents.
Clint Harris, a construction consultant who is involved with a pro-bond PAC, is threatening taxpayers opposed to the bond and tax increase—telling them to “pucker up” for his coming lawsuit, and that he’ll sue them for their “nest egg.”
When the half-billion-dollar debt package was first announced earlier this year, local parents and taxpayers raised concerns about the fiscal responsibility of the proposal: excessive cost estimates, misplaced spending priorities, and tax impact were among the top issues. To make matters worse, all of the bond’s critical and non-critical projects were lumped into one question on the ballot, forcing voters into an all-or-nothing decision.
In addition to the problems with the bond itself, many taxpayers raised questions about the motivation of a local political action committee promoting the bond. The Round Rock Forward PAC has raised nearly $50,000 to market the bond, with over 91 percent of the PAC’s financial donations coming from local construction and engineering businesses.
Harris, one of the PAC’s top financial backers, wrote an open letter on LinkedIn appealing to local contractors to donate and help pass the bond.
“Many of you are vendors of RRISD and would benefit directly from it,” he said.
Members of a local citizen group posted screenshots of Harris’ letter on their Facebook page. Harris has since deleted the letter.
The Round Rock Parents and Taxpayers, a community of district residents, pointed to the letter as concerning evidence demonstrating that special interests have gotten heavily involved in trying to pass the bond in order to financially benefit from it.
Harris did not like his letter being exposed. Shortly after it was posted on Facebook, he began threatening members of the taxpayer group with lawsuits.
“You guys messed with the wrong guy,” said Harris. “I have money and attorneys and actually will sue for the slander you have posted on this page. Pucker up. I warned you last year and I’m coming at you hard this time.”
Harris referenced last year’s $572 million bond proposal, which local contractors also spent thousands trying to pass. Voters soundly rejected that bond, yet this year’s package shares many of the same issues.
Harris kept commenting, threatening to sue numerous people on the page:
Every administrator on the page will be getting sued. Hmm…how much is this going to make me????? I’m betting on several million.
I’m going to own you guys. Trust me…there will be a civil suit filed.
Harris continued, bragging about his relationship with local judges:
Wilco Travis. I know all the judges. You guys are messing with the wrong guy! You will pay!
One response to Harris pointed out that the post simply showed the letter Harris himself wrote. Round Rock resident Pamela Oldham said, “They’re YOUR words—evidenced by screenshot of YOUR post on a public global media forum on YOUR page.”
Harris addressed Oldham in another comment.
Pam…. are you an administrator of the page? I’m betting you are. Hope you have a nice nest egg I’m going to own soon.
Good news is, you have an attorney to help you. Bad news is…it will still cost you to defend yourself.
Legal experts say Harris could find himself facing sanctions if he proceeds with filing suit against the local taxpayers.
“The Texas Citizens Participation Act allows people who are frivolously sued in an effort to chill their speech a right to recover attorney’s fees and sanctions against the plaintiff,” said Tony McDonald, general counsel for Empower Texans. “If Harris proceeds with suing these taxpayers, he will face an uphill battle to show a non-frivolous suit and avoid being sanctioned. I expect his improper claims of a special relationship with local judges will not help his case on that front.”
But beyond Harris’ threats, local taxpayers say the bond’s bloated costs are reason enough to reject it.
Marshall Sprigg, spokesman for Residents for Accountability and Transparency, said the new bond is two and a half to three times the $160-$200 million of critical needs the district proposed in December 2017, and that any surplus can be spent at the school board’s discretion.
“We don’t need to give a blank check to Round Rock ISD just because special interests want to get their hands on more taxpayer money,” he said. “We could come back with a reasonable bond that all of us can support, that will help the kids with the things that are high priority.”
Early voting is currently underway and continues through Friday, November 2. Election Day is November 6.