MCALLEN, TX – A South Texas city used $485,000 in taxpayer money to pay singer Enrique Iglesias to perform at a holiday concert in 2015, according to contract details made public this week.
McAllen officials have been concealing Iglesias' contract terms, citing exceptions in the Texas Public Information Act. But a broad transparency measure that went into effect this week closed some of what critics called gaping holes in the state's open-records laws.
City Attorney Kevin Pagan said the law “no longer excepts from disclosure” Iglesias’ contract.
A bill Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson, of Austin, penned made many details of a contract between a private entity or person and government agency public, including cost, certain communications and bids, while also protecting trade secrets and proprietary information.
Iglesias' contract revealed that McAllen provided the artist with a chartered flight from Guadalajara, Mexico, purchased 24 hotel rooms for two nights, and offered him a variety of sushi and sashimi.
“Residents finally are getting to see how their taxpayer money was spent on this entertainment event," said Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.
The 32-page contract guaranteed Iglesias $485,000 for his one-hour performance at the McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium on Dec. 5, 2015, with half that sum paid in advance. The terms also call for Iglesias' crew to be provided a juicer with a “huge, plentiful selection of fruits and vegetables” including, beets, kale, watermelon and mint.
The city also paid for sound, lighting, special effects and a runway at the concert, the contract shows.
Two rulings from the Texas Supreme Court in 2015 significantly limited public access to certain government documents, including lucrative government contracts with businesses or performers such as Iglesias.
One of the court's rulings was in the Boeing Co. v. Paxton case, which made it easier for governments to conceal information about their business with private companies. It allowed governments to withhold information that could put the companies at a competitive disadvantage. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has repeatedly used that provision to justify withholding information.