by JENNIFER BIUNDO
A lawsuit challenging Austin Community College’s entry into Hays County could die on a technicality, following a judge’s ruling that plaintiff Ray Wolbrecht must come up with a $3 million bond within ten days to keep the suit in motion.
“It’s nothing but a tactical ploy under a very unfair and absurd law,” said Wolbrecht’s attorney, Billy McNabb. “It’s going to kill the Wolbrecht lawsuit.”
After Hays CISD voters approved the annexation measure at the November polls, Wolbrecht filed an election contest suit against ACC on December 10, arguing that the college failed to accurately inform voters of the full tax impact they could face after annexation, as required by law.
ACC attorneys responded by filing a bond validation lawsuit in Travis County on Dec. 22, seeking to affirm the expanded boundaries of the taxing district and approve a debt issuance to get the funds to start construction of a new campus in Kyle.
With the bond validation suit in place, on Jan. 7 ACC attorneys successfully asked Travis County District Judge Rhonda Hurley to consolidate the two lawsuits. The next week, ACC also successfully asked that Wolbrecht be required to put up a $3 million bond to continue the suit.
“The reason he will have to provide such security is to cover any damages or increased costs to ACC and its taxpayers caused by his continued participation in the case, which would have the effect of delaying further the issuance of the debt needed to construct the Hays Campus,” said ACC attorney Cobby Caputo in a written statement.
ACC has blamed Wolbrecht’s lawsuit for causing the school to miss out on more than $20 million in interest reduction from the federal Build America Bond program, which provides federally subsidized low-interest loans to governmental agencies. The program expired at the end of 2010, just three weeks after Wolbrecht filed suit.
McNabb called the ruling “absurd” and said his client would challenge it at the appellate level.
“You took an entirely different type of lawsuit and had it consolidated with the bond validation suit,” McNabb said. “Mr. Wolbrecht is on the wrong side of a one-sided law that’s going to kill the merits of his lawsuit before we even get to it.”
ACC has announced plans to construct a $55.8 million, 100,000-square-foot campus in Kyle’s Plum Creek Development, with a target opening date of August, 2013. However, college officials recently stated that the loss of the Build America Bond interest reduction could result in a smaller campus scaled back by about $7 million.
JEN BIUNDO is a senior reporter at the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print