Brigid Shea Received $500,000+ in City of Austin Contracts, Bid on Water Treatment Plant

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Yesterday, at a forum for Austin's Mayoral and City Council candidates, Mayor Lee Leffingwell asked a question of challenger Brigid Shea regarding how much money she has received in city contracts awarded to her since leaving the council in 1996. This question has been slowly circulating in conversation among city activists and the press and it's somewhat surprising (given the information we are posting today) that no one one has publicly written on this topic.
In response Leffingwell's question, Shea replied “Less than the Mayor makes… about $40,000 a year.” 
Based upon information publicly available, we have been able to account for over $500,000 in City of Austin contracts that have indeed been awarded to her consulting firm Shea & Associates as a subcontractor on a number of the city's major water and wastewater projects. We have compiled these contracts below (amounts with an * are estimates based upon the % of the total allocated to the subcontract).  
Project Date Considered  Dates Covered  Amount  Source 
Clean Water Program 10/11/01 2001-2009 $434,050  Link
Clean Water Program 10/11/01 2008-2009 $38,500  Link
Barton Creek Lift Station 11/21/02 2002 $38,500  Link
Watershed Engineering 01/25/07 2007 $17,750*  Link
Waller Creek Tunnel Unknown 2010 Unknown  Link
S I-35 Water/Wastewater 11/08/07 (not approved) 2007 $30,000*  Link
Travis Water Treatment Plant 04/04/02 (not approved) 2002 $45,500*  Link

Let me first say that for a candidate who has put transparency and environmental policy front and center in her campaign, particularly after last year's heated city council election on similar issues, it is surprising that this information hasn't yet been reported elsewhere. Maybe that speaks to the apparent lack of energy among city voters as is being reported by the campaigns who in the field already. It is true that we have seen lower participation in organizational endorsements as compared to those held last month for the Democratic primary. With redistricting messing up the election calendar, this very well could be a case of voter fatigue.

But even if that's true, it is our responsibility in the media to write about the facts regardless of how disinterested the electorate might be. And the facts in this case include a very major one that hasn't yet been talked about.

Take a look at the last line in the chart above. Do you see a project that sounds familiar? 

Brigid Shea participated in the losing bid to build Austin's 4th Water Treatment Plant as a sub-consultant for communications and public relations.The competing bids can be downloaded HERE and I've highlighted the key line item from the document below.

Brigid Shea Bids on Water Treatment Plant 4

As a public relations sub-consultant, Shea would have been tasked with advocating on behalf of the Water Treatment Plant. That includes supporting its construction, arguing for the need to increase in water treatment capacity, and advancing many of the same arguments made by supporters of WTP4 in last year's divisive council election.

The proposal to Council for this contract itself states the following.

“The City currently operates three surface water treatment plants to meet the needs of the City's residents and businesses: Green Water Treatment Plant, Davis Water Treatment Plant and Ullrich Water Treatment Plant. The City needs future incremental water treatment and distribution system capacity expansions to meet projected water demand growth.

To participate in a bid on a project, particularly in the role of communication and public relations, one would assume that the bidder supports the project. Yet, in response to this year's Austin Neighborhoods Council questionnaire, Shea appears to engage in some historical revisionism. 

Brigid Shea Contradicts Her Prior Support of Water Treatment Plant 4

Supporters of Shea confirmed her position nearly 2 months ago in this February 9th story in the Austin Bulldog about her campaign kick-off.

“She spoke out against Water Treatment Plant 4,” Bunch said of the major construction project that Mayor Leffingwell voted for and was authorized by a narrow 4-3 margin. Randi Shade also supported the project, a factor that may have contributed to her defeat by Kathie Tovo.

Neil Carman, clean air program director for the Sierra Club’s state Lone Star Chapter, said he supports Shea, “Because I want to see a change at City Hall. … “Instead of putting money into a new water treatment plant, we should have invested in conservation and reuse to get the most out of the water we’ve got.”

Brigid Shea's words against the construction of a new Water Treatment Plant in 2012 contradict her actions in support of its construction in 2002. Given how central this issue was in last year's elections, on its own merits as well as in the larger context of Austin's utilities and capital spending, it is only fair that voters have the access to the facts. At the very least, they are owed some sort of explanation by Shea on what she believes and when she believed it.


About Author

Former Publisher & Owner of the Burnt Orange Report. Political Thinker, Digital Explorer, and Time Traveler.


  1. No Comment?
    From anyone? I mean, I didn't think this would get 167 comments but maybe I have overestimated the level of attention and interest being paid to this election. I seriously hope that turnout in a “Mayoral Year” isn't trying to compete for a place on Austin's Top 10 List of lowest turnout elections.  

  2. Robin Cravey on

    A fundamental difference
    This story illustrates one of the fundamental differences between Lee and Brigid.

    Brigid has been around a long time, since she was a staffer in the glory days at SOS.  She served in city hall as a councilmember for one term.  Since then, she's been a consultant for the city, and done a creditable job on the contracts she won.

    I suppose she has no obligation of loyalty to the water treatment plant project, a contract she didn't win.  Still, it's interesting to think that if she had won the contract, she would be ably advocating for the project today.

    Lee has been around a longer time, as an Austin native.  He gave long and selfless service as chair of the Environmental Board.  On the council, Lee has continued as basically a public-spirited citizen, visionary, yet steady and dependable.  For Lee, serving as mayor is not a career move.

  3. Shea Response, Would like to read
    Hear that Brigid issued a release to the media today that explains all of this, but I can't find it online, yet.  Sure would like to read…”the rest of the story”…and not just an out of context Leffingwell partisan hit piece.

  4. The real response
    should come from her supporters. I don't think Shea is anywhere near as crazy or just disingenuous as the ANC; it's the ANC that should have to answer this.

    • Shea did a response yesterday, but…
      …apparently it was shared with the MSM.  I am told it rebuts all the out of context conjecture of this article.  Maybe why you don't see it being picked up as a legitimate story.  

      ANC's endorsements were correct.  They endorsed the candidates who are not bought off and who don't lie to them from one year to the next.

      • Funny.
        Here we are the following Monday, and still no respose available anywhere.

        Par for the course for the folks at the ANC. Divert, distract, demagogue, deny.

    • Yes.
      And you should consider that Barbaro's wife is highly entangled with the ANC. This is not the first time the suppoedly silent publisher has popped up to defend one of the ANC's designated candidates.

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