Texas Central’s attorney Robert Neblett of Jackson Walker LLP characterized the September 29 letter by landowners along the proposed route as a “diatribe … on the alleged problems with the project.”
He claimed the landowners’ letter, which recited a variety of concerns about the viability of the project, was a “public relations exercise … intended to interfere with [Texas Central’s] current and prospective relationships with lenders and investors, more than attempt at a constructive dialogue.”
The landowners’ original letter posed a series of 20 common questions asked by landowners about the project and its future.
They included questions about Texas Central’s leadership, when it expects to begin construction, its fundings, and a method for unrepresented landowners to reach the company with questions.
It also reviewed various issues related to the rail project that have arisen over the last year including the resignation of CEO Carlos Aguilar, increased costs and need for funding, and the failure to submit an application as required to the Surface Transportation Board.
In June, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in Texas Central’s favor on the issue of eminent domain authority as an interurban electric railway.
Neblett didn’t answer any of the questions posed, but instead said they had “no legitimate purpose” and “little or nothing to do with individual issues relating to your clients’ desire to sell” their property to Texas Central.
He also claimed that the questions asked for “proprietary and confidential business information.”
However, according to the landowners’ attorney Patrick McShan of Beckham Portella, in an email on July 19, Neblett asked for “a list of common questions [your clients] have” so that Texas Central could be “efficient” in responding to those questions.
“You mean to tell me you can’t give me a name and number of a person at Texas Central who unrepresented landowners can call if they have questions concerning the Project or its potential impact on their property? You can’t tell me who is in charge of Texas Central?” McShan wrote in reply.
The September 29 letter had also alerted Texas Central that landowners may pursue a Rule 202 investigation of possible claims against the rail company. A Rule 202 petition would allow the landowners’ attorneys to depose Texas Central either orally or through written questions to ”investigate a potential claim or suit.”
Neblett called the threat an “improper and abusive use of the rule” because there is no legal claim for the landowners to investigate regarding Texas Central’s plans to construct the high-speed rail.
Neblett closed by emphasizing Texas Central’s commitment to the continuation of the project.
“[Texas Central] is committed to making this transformational project one that Texas will be proud of, as it would provide an economic boost in all counties which it crosses, bring a world class transportation system to two of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country, and will do so in a manner that causes as little disruption as possible to landowners,” Neblett wrote.
McShan questioned the authenticity of that declaration.
“I understand that Texas Central will continue to claim until it is blue in the face that it treats landowners fairly, despite a mountain of contrary evidence,” he wrote.
He closed by again asking Neblett to answer the submitted questions.
“If Texas Central’s ‘time and energies remain focused’ on its goal of providing high-speed rail in Texas, why can’t you answer these simple questions?”
Copies of the letters between Neblett and McShan can be found below.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.