Lobbying is often associated with backdoor dealings that lead to legislation that isn’t always in the public interest, but the practice is just as commonly used by municipal leaders to ensure that cities like, say, Fort Worth have a seat at the Austin legislative table when billion-dollar packages are drafted.
Since the September 2019 passage of SB 65, state municipalities are required to publicly disclose contracts that funnel public funds to lobbying groups. With the general election on Sat, May 1, locals have been doing their civic duties and researching candidates with possible ties to city profiteering. The lack of a readily accessible link to city lobbyists caught our attention, so we reached out to Fort Worth Secretary Mary Kayser for answers.
“We do have the contracts in Laserfiche, and they are indexed with the following keywords: ‘lobby,’ ‘lobbyist,’ and ‘Texas State Legislature,’ ” she said, referring to the really long web link that is easily found by googling “Laserfiche Fort Worth.”
“Your request made me realize that we could make this easier, and we will be adding a ‘Lobbyist Contracts’ category on that page, so you can go to these easily,” she said in her email.
Kayser shared a document that lists 16 lobbying groups that have contracted with the city in recent years, including one with past ties to frontrunner mayoral candidate Mattie Parker, whose husband David Parker is listed as a director at Longbow Associates, an Austin-based government lobbying firm. Longbow’s $48,000 contract was created in 2014 and terminated in mid-2015.
Kayser’s commitment to improving transparency in lobbyist dealings via a readily accessible web link is important because of the ever-present threat of insider dealings at City Hall. Fort Worth’s $1.9 billion annual budget leaves ample taxpayer dollars at risk of being diverted toward special interests if Fort Worth’s staff and elected officials fail to handle city dealings legally, ethically, and with complete transparency.
In an email, Parker described the nearly seven-year-old agreement and how she plans to avoid any potential conflicts of interest if elected mayor.
“While I was working at a local law firm, David was hired in late 2014 as a local liaison to assist the city with some of their state advocacy and bill monitoring,” she said. “However, the city charter expressly prohibits a city employee or elected official’s spouse from being a city contractor, so we immediately terminated that arrangement in April 2015 when I was selected to go to work for mayor and council. His firm has had no other employee arrangements with the City of Fort Worth and will not if I’m selected to lead the city.”