Men's Breakfast Report, April 8, 2017
Men's Breakfast, July 2017
The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, July 8th with Wallace Shaw, City Attorney of Freeport. Wallace was raised in Freeport and went to the University of Texas for undergraduate work and law school. At the law school he studied municipal law as an elective, which was useful in his subsequent career. He got married in Austin and worked for a prosecutor there for a while. He then came back to Freeport where his family lived. He set up a law office in Freeport and for several months had almost no clients. He then worked as assistant district attorney for Ogden Bass and afterwards went into partnership with a couple of other layers. After this partnership dissolved he again became a solo practitioner. He got the position as city attorney of Jones Creek and of Oyster Creek. He got the position of city attorney of Clute which he held for forty-two years. He was recently replaced as Clute city attorney when he asked for a raise in pay. He holds the position of Freeport City Attorney, which he has held for 25 years. Wallace is no longer city attorney for Jones Creek and Oyster Creek.
A city attorney has two main functions. The most obvious, for civic minded citizens, is as a legal advisor to the city and city council. He is the person who puts the ordinances into proper legal language after council approves them. The second duty is to prosecute cases in municipal court. Wallace had had an associate performing these duties for a long time. However, since his Clute position ended his associate no longer works for him and is working independently.
Since Wallace was attorney for both Clute and Freeport there was potential conflict of interest. Only once did this become important. When Clute annexed Lake Barbara, the extra territorial jurisdiction of Clute became one mile from the borders of Lake Barbara instead of one half mile since Clute is a home rule city instead of a village. This meant that the extraterritorial jurisdictions overlapped. When Rhone-Polenc decided to build a plant in the overlapping area Wallace told both cities they had to hire separate attorneys to resolve the situation. They hired separate attorneys and negotiations dragged on for several months. One day the manager of Rhone-Poulenc called Wallace and suggested a meeting. Wallace and the Manager negotiated an industrial district for Rhone-Poulenc and a division of the industrial district payments to the two cities that was agreeable to both cities.
Wallace was not Freeport attorney when Freeport “annexed the world”, but still maintains the annexation. In the 1950s, before the state law was changed, cities could annex anything they wanted in the county. Freeport annexed a ten foot wide strip that surrounded the other cities in the county so they could not expand without Freeport’s permission. This was done in a secret session so the other cities did not see it coming. The legality of this is questionable. However, no city has been willing to pay the legal costs of challenging it in court so the strips stand for now. The strip does prevent Clute from expanding its M1 district eastward. The district is, however, not well developed, partially since much of it is outside of the levees.
Clute also suffered an annexation defeat from Lake Jackson in the 1950s. Clute was planning to annex part of Dow Plant B. The general manager asked Clute to hold off on this for a day so he could confer with higher management about a better deal. The council agreed to hold off. The manager immediately went to Lake Jackson which annexed a strip of land between Clute and Plant B in a midnight council session. This has permanently reduced Clute’s industrial district revenue.
Wallace discussed relations with the Port of Freeport. The port is taking over the East End of Freeport which reduces the valuations and tax revenue. It also reduces the land available for housing. There has been conflict over this for years. The urban redevelopment zone was also discussed. Mr. Wong bought it and announced plans for warehousing, light industry and residential housing. So far, nothing has been done. There is a time limit in the purchase contract but it has not expired. There are questions about increased truck traffic with warehouses that concern the city manager.
Wallace is also a deacon in the Catholic Church. Becoming a Deacon required three years of part time study, much of it in Houston. A Catholic deacon can perform many of the functions of a priest, such as give sermons and perform weddings. He cannot celebrate Mass. Wallace is a permanent Deacon which means that if his wife dies he cannot remarry. Wallace is officially beyond retirement age of deacons, but the bishop is allowing him to remain in office. Saint Mary’s has a new younger deacon to take some of the load.
The city of Freeport has a chaplains group for the spiritual needs of the city employees, especially the police, and of prisoners in the jail. Wallace has not been able to participate in this because of conflict of interest with his position as city attorney. The new deacon could participate. This would be desirable since many Freeport citizens are Catholic.
The members of the group had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast. The next meeting will be August 12th.