KEMAH — Mayor Bob Cummins said the FBI and IRS are conducting some sort of investigation that involves property transactions that occurred during the tenure of former Mayor Matt Wiggins.
The former mayor denied any wrongdoing and said federal authorities haven’t contacted him.
Cummins said investigators with the two federal agencies descended Wednesday on Kemah City Hall as part of a federal grand jury investigation into real estate dealings after Hurricane Ike.
He said he posted the statement on the city’s website Thursday night after being contacted by reporters about the investigation.
He said he declined to comment to the others, but confirmed to The Daily News his statement and provided a few more details.
Shauna Dunlap, the FBI Houston office spokeswoman, said agency policy prohibited her from confirming or denying if there was an ongoing investigation. IRS spokeswoman Arnita Jackson also declined to confirm or deny her agency’s involvement.
Reached Friday, Cummins said he wasn’t at city hall when the federal agents arrived, but was informed by staff that the records taken were “property files” from 2008 through the end of Wiggins’ term as mayor. Wiggins had been accused of using his position as mayor to have the city condemn properties that he would later purchase.
Wiggins was also accused by Delores and Jose Lara who claimed the former mayor took advantage of his position as a city councilman to deny the rebuilding of their Ike-damaged house, a property that Wiggins had sought to purchase. They claimed that without the prospect to rebuild, they made a deal with Wiggins to trade their property for a less valuable place.
Wiggins has steadfastly denied the accusations.
Cummins said he went to city hall Thursday to review what records the federal agents seized.
He said a federal subpoena prevented him from discussing the matter further.
In his online statement, Cummins was more direct.
“Two years ago there were media reports alleging the former mayor used the power of his office to gain properties from hurricane victims,” Cummins wrote. “The ethics controversy was one of the reasons I decided to run for mayor.”
Wiggins denied those allegations then and maintains he did nothing wrong. The former mayor sued several people in town, claiming defamation because of those news reports.
Wiggins said federal authorities have not contacted him nor has he been told he is the target of an investigation.
“In the two and a half years that these accusations have been going on I have never been contacted by (federal authorities),” Wiggins said. “That leads me to believe it is not me that’s being looked at, but someone else.”
Wiggins said from what he understands, Cummins is exaggerating the situation.
“Having a pair of agents come to city hall isn’t what I would call descending on city hall,” Wiggins said.
He accused Cummins of using the records seizure as a way to attack his character and said the statement was a pre-emptive strike before some of the defamation lawsuits are set to be heard in court next month.
In August, a Galveston County jury ruled against Wiggins in a defamation lawsuit against the Laras.
Next month, Wiggins’ lawsuits against Arnold Shields, Sylvia Streeter, Chadwick Jones and Linda Ward are scheduled for trial.
Cummins and Wiggins ran against each other twice for mayor. The first time was in 2011 when Cummins defeated the incumbent mayor. The second time was in May, when Wiggins lost in a challenge to regain the city’s top post.