What the heck is going on in Celina, Texas? That’s the question that hit me a few weeks ago when I made my first stop in that town. I’ve lived in Dallas for 42 years but never had a reason to visit. Then, in mid-November, a work errand took me 50 miles north. The charming downtown was bustling with a festival called Celina Craft & Cork. A few blocks away, I ran into two friends, Ben Rogers and Skin Wade, of The Ben and Skin Show on KEGL. The reason I ran into them is because they are part owners of a brewery called Rollertown Beerworks, and they were standing in front of the brewery when I sauntered up. They’ve got big garage doors that were rolled up. Folks were seated at picnic tables, with lots of social distance. Great place. It was hopping.
“How many people live in Celina?” I asked Ben, who lives up there.
“Hang on,” he said. “The mayor’s here. I’ll ask him.”
I forget the exact numbers. Something like 12,000 people, and the mayor told him he expects the number to double in five years.
A few minutes after the exchange, the mayor got up to leave, and Ben introduced him to me. His name was Sean Terry. Big dude. Bald noggin. I’d later learn that he was a punter for the Aggies, back when A&M was in the Southwest Conference. Mayor Terry and I bumped elbows. I didn’t think about him again until last week, when I heard the FBI had raided his house.
Now then. A public affairs officer for the FBI named Melinda Urbina tells me that they don’t like the word “raid.” That makes it sound like they rappelled out of Apache helicopters and came in with laser sights lighting up Terry’s center mass. That’s not the case. Urbina says agents were “lawfully present” at Terry’s residence on December 1. They executed a search warrant and removed items from the location.
That’s all the feds will say. They are always tight-lipped about their work. So I hasten to point out that Mayor Terry has not been charged with a crime or indicted or any of that. I called his cellphone earlier today and left a message saying I wanted to ask him questions about the FBI’s visit to his house. If I hear back from him, I’ll update this post.
Here’s the thing, though: it turns out that wasn’t the first time I’d laid eyes on Mayor Terry. That pleasure was afforded me back on July 28, when, at the suggestion of a man named Kyle Bass, I’d attended a Farmers Branch City Council meeting. This takes some explanation. Bear with me.
Bass runs a hedge fund that made bets against a real estate investment trust called United Development Funding (UDF). He published material online that called into question UDF’s business practices. In 2016, the FBI raided — ahem, was lawfully present at — UDF’s offices in Grapevine. UDF sued Bass for defamation. Meanwhile, UDF’s largest borrower, a residential developer called Centurion American, has continued its work on projects all over North Texas, though at least one of them hasn’t progressed as quickly as stakeholders would like. That would be the $1 billion Mercer Crossing, in Farmers Branch.
At that July City Council meeting, Centurion American’s president and CEO, a man named Mehrdad Moayedi, had come to explain why construction was taking longer than anticipated and to ask for more time. Centurion American’s chief operations officer was also there to address the Council. His name is — you got it — Sean Terry. This is when I first saw the mayor of Celina.
Steve Brown at the Dallas Morning News wrote about the results of that meeting. To judge from his report, everything at Mercer Crossing was in good shape. Dredging a lake had slowed things down. But now things were moving. “I’m trying to do something nice,” Moayedi was quoted as saying. “My loan is in place, and I’m ready to start.”
I read that story at the time and thought, How could Steve Brown write that story and not mention the crazy thing that happened during that Farmers Branch City Council meeting? I’ve never seen anything like it. After Moayedi and Terry made their case to the Council, before the vote was taken on Mercer Crossing, the mayor of Farmers Branch, Robert Dye, accused Councilman Terry Lynne of not being on the level.
You can watch the entire meeting here. But here’s how the crucial exchange went down. For context, Councilman Lynne had earlier called into question Mayor Dye’s expertise as a commercial real estate developer.
Dye: “I am very frustrated that you came for me and questioned my job and kind of my aptitude to things. It’s sad that it’s come to this point because, you know, it’s hard for me to sit up here and listen to you talk about [Mercer Crossing], knowing that you are bought and sold. And that is –”
Lynne: “Mayor, if you want to have a discussion about that, that’s a pretty serious accusation right there.”
Dye: “Yes, it is.”
Lynne: “And I certainly resent that remark. What I’m trying to get to is a completed project, just like everybody else here. … For you to say something like that is slanderous, at the very least. And, you know, we can consult attorneys if you want. … This was a billion-dollar development going in out there. This is a big thing for our city. And for you to minimize –”
Lynne: “– me, or any other council member for what they say because they don’t agree with you, is absolutely wrong. And if you continue to do that, you shouldn’t even function as mayor.”
Dye: “I’m fine with that. I said what I needed to say. It’s been a long time coming. So, you come for me, bro, I’m coming back.”
I left a message on Dye’s cellphone this morning, telling him I wanted to ask him what he meant when he said Lynne was “bought and sold” on the Mercer Crossing deal and whether that alleged buying and selling might have had anything to do with the FBI’s paying a visit to the home of the COO of the company that is building Mercer Crossing. I’ll update this post if I hear back from him.
I’ll close by making it abundantly clear that I am not making any accusations here. Well, that’s not true. I am definitely accusing Rollertown Beerworks of making some damn good beer. But beyond that, I have no idea what’s going on up in Celina. Crazy place. I hope to get back there soon.