Conflicting documents presented as evidence in American Precision Ammunition's federal lawsuit against the City of Mineral Wells are being called into question.
A signed tax abatement agreement offered by the company varies greatly in content and style from four versions on file with the city, Palo Pinto County and Palo Pinto County Hospital District, which all approved 10-year tax abatement agreements with the ammo maker in July 2016.
Precision Ammo's version of the tax abatement agreement even conflicts with a June 2016 letter signed by company CEO Matt Campbell, where he outlines promises that match performance requirements specified in the versions filed with the entities.
The company's tax abatement exhibit contains a number of substantial changes, deletions and additions when compared to the other documents on file. It is that document that is believed to be the subject of a current criminal investigation.
The version submitted by APA through its attorney, Luke Beshara, of the Fort Worth law firm Patel Gaines PLLC, includes the same signature page as the one on file at City Hall with the signatures of then-Mayor Mike Allen, former City Clerk Juanita Formby and stamped with the city's seal, dated July 5, 2016. It also includes Campbell's signature, which is dated June 30, 2016.
But the version touted by APA has a number of key inconsistencies compared to the one filed by the city and presented city council, an unsigned copy of which can still be accessed through city council meeting archives on the city's website. The copies of both versions are filed as exhibits with the lawsuit.
The tax abatement agreement presented by the ammo company similarly doesn't align with the tax abatement agreements approved by Palo Pinto County commissioners a week later, on July 11, 2016, and signed by then-County Judge David Nicklas. It also doesn't match the agreement approved a couple of weeks later by the Palo Pinto County Hospital District and signed Aug. 1, 2016, by then-board president J.C. Colton and board Secretary Richard Dennis.
The city, county and hospital district signed agreements are each identical, with the exception of the entities' names at the top of the first page and the signatures on the last page. Campbell signed each of the agreements.
Precision Ammunition vice president Gary Phillips declined to comment when contacted Friday morning.
"I am going to have it to pass it on to our attorney and see how he wants to respond," Phillips said.
The ammo company filed suit in federal court on Tuesday, naming as defendants the city, Mineral Wells Industrial Foundation, Mineral Wells/Palo Pinto County Area Growth Council, Steve Butcher and Jacob Smith.
Carrying a copy of the nearly 200-page petition and exhibits, Mayor Christopher Perricone informed council of the lawsuit's filing at the close of its Tuesday regular session. None of the defendants have been served official notice as of Thursday afternoon.
Perricone, who earlier this month filed his own lawsuit against the city in a Parker County district court, was behind investigations into the city's, Industrial Foundation's and Area Growth Council's dealings with APA. City council in 2018 halted his use of official resources to continue the investigation.
Perricone responded to a request for comments by asking for questions submitted in writing, which the Index promptly emailed Perricone at his official account. There was no response from the mayor.
It is believed – though officials will neither comment nor confirm – that the tax abatement agreement submitted by the ammo company in its lawsuit is the same document forwarded by city council to the district attorney's office for investigation as an altered document. The DA's office has the complaint and, according to sources, prosecutors with the Johnson County district attorney's office were appointed as special prosecutors to investigate and potentially present its findings to a grand jury.
Beshara said he welcomes a criminal investigation.
"That is the million dollar question," Beshara said. "How do we have two different versions? It is our belief somebody has been altering city records."
He said after months of investigating, he believes he has seen "lots of inconsistencies" in city documents. Beshara said he is reluctant to comment about his suspicions of altered documents before witnesses are put under sworn oaths and can be deposed or testify.
"I welcome a criminal investigation of this because I believe a crime has been committed," the attorney said. "As a citizen of the state of Texas I think there should be an investigation. We have to get to the bottom of it."
In the lawsuit, the differing documents are mentioned and alleges "the City, acting through unknown agents, committed a criminal offense ..."
A recent statement that the $150,000 in infrastructure monies were promised to APA as part of the city's tax abatement agreement led the Index to review the agreement. The $150,000 "gift" is not part of the tax abatement agreements on file with the city. It is included twice in APA's version of the agreement, along with numerous other changes.
City officials have long contended that the $150,000, which was budgeted and set aside for the project, was intended for to cover the city's costs to upgrade water and sewer lines along the company's 84-acres of land along Ellis White Road gifted it by the Industrial Foundation. It was there the company said it would build a new multi-million manufacturing plant and laboratory. At one council meeting, Campbell spoke and asked council to use the monies for the infrastructure improvements.
Council and the city declined to move forward with the Ellis White Road utility improvements until construction was underway.
The company soon changed its plans and acquired a building on Garrett Morris Parkway at U.S. Highway 180 East owned by the Industrial Foundation and previously occupied by the Perry Equipment Co. The Ellis White Road land is now marketed for sale, at a listed price nearly double what MWIF paid for it. City council last year terminated the tax abatement agreement.
Three years later, Precision Ammunition has been unable to go into full-scale ammunition production. The company today is able to fulfill some orders and is relying on sales of ammo-loading machines designed and made by Campbell.
The differences between the tax abatement documents – the identical ones on file with the city, county and hospital district – and the one presented as evidence by APA are striking.
As stated above, $150,000 to APA for infrastructure improvements is not contained anywhere in the tax abatement agreements signed by the city, county or hospital district. In the APA version, that is mentioned twice.
Several definitions are changed in the documents. The city contract refers to 88 acres of land while APA's states 84 acres. Definitions of personal property are changed as are definitions of required improvements.
In the city's version, required improvements include a new $15 million manufacturing facility. In the APA version, the required improvements call for construction of a laboratory and/or storage facility and addition of new personal property with a combined capital investment of just $200,000.
Various language, dates and numbers continue to differ between the two documents. The city's contract called for the the company to hire 200 full-time employees during the agreement's term, including 50 full-time employees by the end of 2016. That never happened, nor has the company ever come close. At one time some employees worked at the plant and in a now-closed pro shop.
However, the APA version of the agreement says it would hire five full-time employees by the end of 2016 and 31 full-time employees by the end of the agreement's third year. That would be followed by 50 employees by the end of the fifth year.
Even the agreement's terms are stated differently. The city's contract states the agreement would take effect at the time it was signed and executed by all parties and run for 10 years. APA's version states the agreement took effect Jan. 1, 2017.
Language under the contract's default clause also differs between the two documents. Also, paragraph formattings are different in the APA version and the others on file, along with some other inconsistencies.
The original tax abatement agreement was drafted by Butcher and sent to former Mineral Wells City Manager Lance Howerton. It was placed on the agenda and in council's agenda packet for its July 5, 2016, meeting.
Also included in that council packet is a signed letter dated June 20, 2016, from Campbell on company letterhead affirming the company's intentions to build a $15 million production facility on Ellis White Road and attain employment levels as described in the city/county/hospital district version of the agreement.
The council's July 5, 2016, agenda packet included maps and more specific company performance expectations, such as revenue generated and facility construction costs and specifics as well business proposal information from the Area Growth Council.