Agreeing to Disagree

Harris County’s AAA bond rating is the subject of conversation at Commissioner’s Court. While everyone agreed that the designation was good, one commissioner didn’t agree with County Judge Ed Emmett comments on how much lawyers make in the sale of bonds. Pat Hernandez has the story.


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A credit rating lets lenders and investors know how likely it is that a borrower can pay back a loan. A rating of triple-A , like in the case of Harris County, means there is little for lenders to worry about. County Judge Ed Emmett says it is an involved process.

“A lot of public officials don’t always understand exactly what goes into a bond sale or a bond refinance. You end up with a bond counsel, and a disclosure counsel, and an underwriter’s counsel, and all these lawyers, and my point was, at a time when engineers and contractors are cutting back the fees they charge, and we’re saving a lot of money on building the Beltway on the northeast side for example, then I wanted to get to the question. Unfortunately, it kept getting interrupted.”

Emmett wanted to ask if law firms involved in the sale of bonds would be willing to lower the fees they charge the county. He was concerned about the same law firms that show up for the sale of bonds, saying that it needed
to be an open process. It was Commissioner El Franco Lee who interrupted Judge Emmett.

“Making sure that the process of selection stayed pure and stayed according to state law in local government code. I thought I had made that clear in open court.”

Commissioner Lee says he agrees with Judge Emmett when it comes to saving taxpayers money.

“Everybody in this atmosphere ought to be sharpening their pencils to bid if they want to win these jobs. As long as we keep it true and competitive, the taxpayers will benefit.”

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