Third Court of Appeals in Austin says Chambers County Commissioners have overstepped its authority
In 2014 a couple of politically connected oyster fishermen in Chambers County cut a deal with the Chambers Liberty County Navigation District (CLCND) County Commissioners to control 23,000 acres of Galveston Bay for their interests only.
A company called Sustainable Texas Oyster Resource Management, LLC, (STORM) would get a monopoly on oyster production in 23,000 acres of Galveston Bay for a small fraction of what it should cost. According to Dolcefino Consulting the negotiations were kept secret and no one else was offered a chance to play.
However the Third Court of Appeals in Austin has spoken.
The CLCND overstepped its authority when it gave a lease to STORM to control the harvesting of oysters, and the ruling has significant financial consequences. The navigation district may face huge damages for occupying the territory. The appeals court cites state law that anyone who unlawfully possesses a fish is liable for the value of the fish unlawfully possessed.
For CLCND that could mean millions in potential damages. For STORM it could mean trouble too. The company has tried to keep other oyster companies with state leases out of the area. They seek to control parts of the bay where public reefs are located.
Maybe it’s time for the Chambers County District Attorney to launch a criminal investigation into possible criminal violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act. There is evidence the Commissioners violated the law in their secret dealings with STORM.
“If the CLCND does not call an emergency meeting to stop this now, it is possible taxpayers in Liberty and Chambers County face a real risk of having to pay for this scheme,” says Wayne Dolcefino of Dolcefino Consulting.
This is the third ruling in recent weeks against the navigation district. There are already calls for the legislature to investigate the need for the agency.