Posted: May 8, 2012 8:37 PM
Updated: Oct 2, 2012 8:50 AM
EDINBURG - The answers expected today in an Hidalgo County guardrail investigation didn't come. CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned it may take two or three more months to get the information.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS broke the story about apparent discrepancies in guardrail measurements back in March. We've waited since then to find out how much taxpayers overpaid for guardrails. A task force created to investigate the matter was expected to announce the final number today.
"At this time because of potential litigation, the commissioner's court is not at liberty to make any statements or any pronouncements," said Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra. "It's best that the county be protected and for us not to say anything."
The news stunned members of the Hidalgo County OWLS, a legal watchdog group.
"That's a PR disaster for this county. What happened to transparency? He's concerned about pending litigation? Oh, yeah. OK. Let's hide everything behind that. What a bunch of bologna," said Virginia Townsend, a member of the Hidalgo County OWLS.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS tried pressing the district attorney for details.
"We have not come to an agreement. We have differences. We don't have a final agreement. And the linchpin to this is the contract and the interpretation of that contract," said Guerra.
The county's contract is with Guerra Construction. The district attorney is not connected to the contractor.
Sources tell us the task force can't agree on whether to give the contractor credit for overlapping guardrails.
"I still need to look at one part of the contract deals with TxDOT specs. I don't have access to that document yet," said Guerra.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS asked Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia to explain the delay.
"They asked for more time, and the court went ahead and agreed to give them more time," he said.
Garcia said they didn't get a report from the auditor during today's meeting.
The OWLS are left wondering why. The district attorney denies using potential litigation as a way to hide the figures.
"No, no, it's not going to be hidden for long. We will put finality to it... probably in the next two to three months," he said.
Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner Joel Quintanilla said, "There's nothing to sweep under the rug here. This county and the entire commissioner's court and judge will do the right thing. And we will reveal this information as soon as we get it and it comes to closure."
An attorney for the guardrail contractor was in court today. He declined to comment.
The district attorney told us his immediate focus is reviewing the county's guardrail contract and correcting any problems with the wording.