Republican Texas Supreme Court candidate Rick Green is struggling to pay back a half-million-dollar loan from a South Central Texas town for a hotel renovation project. Green has also received a $25,000 grant to produce a promotional video for the city using clips from his reality TV show.
Green, who has billed himself a fiscal and social conservative on the campaign trail, borrowed $455,670 from the city of Gonzales in 2014 to renovate the Alcalde Hotel and Grill. But financial records submitted to the city and public meeting minutes show that Green has since been unable to make the monthly payments and has violated the terms of the agreement. In January, the city granted his request to restructure the loan and pay the interest alone for six months.
“If he defaults [on the loan]… the town would suddenly be in the hotel business,” said Erik McCowan, a Gonzales Inquirer reporter who has been covering Green’s business activities in the city. “It would make things harder for a legitimate business to obtain the same type of loan in the future.”
Green’s father, Richard Green Sr., who is part owner in the hotel, said they were working on a program to bring tourists interested in the hotel’s history and improve occupancy rates.
“I’m not worried about defaulting on the loan period,” he said. “ It’s not going to happen.”
Green, who more than a decade ago was state representative for Hays, Caldwell and Blanco counties, has earned a reputation for unethical practices. In 2001, he went before a parole board to represent a convicted Ponzi-scheme criminal who had lent Green’s company $400,000, and helped secure the man a reduced sentence. Green has also assaulted a legislator and lobbied for diet pills.
Now, Gonzales residents worry Green is preying on their small town.
Green purchased the Alcalde in 2013. The hotel, built in the 1920s, has 18 rooms and a fine dining restaurant. In his initial application for a loan with the Gonzales Economic Development Corporation (GEDC), which provides low-interest loans to local businesses, Green estimated the hotel and restaurant would bring in $28,000 and $24,000 respectively every month. As part of the loan agreement, the hotel and restaurant were also required to employ 15 people and keep their doors open throughout the year.
But in the last year the hotel hasn’t been bringing in enough business and Green has had trouble keeping the hotel afloat. In September, October and December, Green missed payments to the city.
Then, in January, Green abruptly raised the rent for the restaurant.
“They pulled the rug out from underneath me,” said Austin Brown, the restaurant’s former manager. “They wanted the revenue that I had in there. Or, they wanted it to fail. Or, maybe they assumed I was making more than I was.”
Unable to afford the higher rent, Brown left and the restaurant was closed for several weeks. By then the GEDC was aware that the hotel was in violation of its loan agreement, having closed the restaurant and no longer maintaining the required minimum of 15 employees on its payroll.
Closing the restaurant only further exacerbated Green’s cash flow problems. At a GEDC meeting, Richard Green Sr. blamed the oil bust for the lack of business and proposed a temporary fix. The Greens asked the GEDC to allow them to restructure the loan such that they could pay back the interest alone for six months. The council approved their request earlier this year.
GEDC president Genora Young, board member Larry Wehde and board chair Crissy O’Neal did not respond to requests for comment. GEDC board member Tommy Cox declined to comment.
The GEDC loan isn’t the only pot of money Green has received from the city. Last May, Green proposed creating a 20-minute video to promote tourism in Gonzales using clips that his reality TV company had already shot. Green is the president of Authentic American History Productions, which produces a reality TV show following Green, his family and comedian Brad Stine “in their investigations of America’s heroes, legends and legacies.”
The production company already had plans to shoot an episode focusing on Gonzales’ history and at the time of the committee meeting, cameramen had visited and filmed portions of the segment. In the application, Green claimed the promotional value for the city’s tourism industry was “incalculable” and that it would help fill up 500 to 600 rooms for a night over a year.
“Clearly, it is a commercial for his show, paid for by Gonzales tax dollars,” said McCowan, the reporter. “The video even opens with his name plastered on the front as the host.”
Green will face incumbent Paul Green in the primaries Tuesday. If he wins, he might hold even more sway over the city of Gonzales.To support journalism like this, donate to the Texas Observer.