City officials claim story in Victoria newspaper filled with misleading, inaccurate information
by Coy Slavik, Advance-Guard Editor
Sep 11, 2013 | 84 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GOLIAD – Goliad City Administrator Larry Zermeno said Monday that a story in the Victoria Advocate claiming the City of Goliad and the Goliad Municipal Development District had mismanaged funds and engaged in poor lending practices was not accurate.

The front-page story written by Advocate reporter Caty Hirst went into detail about the MDD and city council granting loans to city council members. Three of the loans are delinquent and one went into default.

The story claimed the MDD collected $525,624 in sales tax and spent more than $1 million during the same period.

Zermeno was the city’s finance officer in 2010 when he said he discovered discrepancies in the MDD books. He said he has spent the last three years trying to get the problems corrected.

“We know where our loan balances are,” Zermeno said. “There’s no question what each balance is. We’ve never been more current.”

Zermeno said he felt the story made him look like he was passing the blame to city council and the MDD.

“I have stood up over and over again in council and said that I’m responsible for everything that goes on here,” Zermeno said. “I told the reporter that more than once. Reflecting back and rereading the article, she sort of tailored her questions. She was leaning her questions to get the answer she was looking for.”

Zermeno said he is confident the upcoming audit in November will be clean.

“Over the last two years, we really couldn’t get our audits started until January or February, which is four months after the end of the (fiscal) year,” Zermeno said. “This year, we’re scheduled to start six weeks after the (fiscal) year end (Sept. 30). We’re prepared for it. The books were in array but we’ve come a long way with getting that cleaned up.”

Zermeno said the $1 million figure was misleading.

“What she is referring to is all the money that has gone through the MDD. She is considering that a waste or loss of money. MDD has not lost a dime in loans. Loans were in default, but all loans are currently being collected on. There’s one loan that is a month behind.”

Advocate Editor Chris Cobler stood by the story when contacted by the Advance-Guard on Monday via e-mail.

“Yes, we stand completely by the story,” Cobler wrote. “Neither the city administrator nor any other Goliad city official has contacted us to challenge any part of the story since it published Sunday. Instead, we have heard from many appreciative Goliad residents.”

Zermeno said he and City Attorney Terry Baiamonte were preparing a news release Monday to answer the story’s allegations.

“But once a story goes in print, it stays in peoples’ minds,” Zermeno said.
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