After a two-week trial, a former Richardson mayor was convicted for bribery charges connected to her affair with a land developer.
Laura Maczka served as mayor of Richardson from 2013 until 2015, when details of her affair with a local real estate developer led citizens to demand she step down from a newly-elected term in office. In May of 2018, she and her now-husband Mark Jordan faced seven counts in their indictments, for which a trial began Feb. 25 in Sherman, Texas, about one hour north of Dallas. They pleaded not guilty but were convicted on four charges on March 7.
Indictments against Maczka and Jordan centered around the benefits Jordan allegedly offered — money, home renovations, vacations and a paid position with his business JP-KBS Richardson Holding — for her political support behind a certain development project. The development, a housing complex called Palisades, was controversial and highly contested in Richardson, according to a Department of Justice press release. It included the construction of more than 1,000 new apartments. Maczka declared during her campaign that she would oppose the development but voted in favor of it.
UTD computer science alumnus Miguel Salinas lived in the Palisades apartments, which he said were relatively empty while he lived there between August 2017 and August 2018. He said he wasn’t surprised that Maczka was convicted in the corruption case.
“I think it’s particularly bad because of the hypocrisy from the mayor, campaigning against this exact thing,” he said. “Certainly, we’re taught growing up that taking shortcuts never leads to any good. You shouldn’t be able to buy your way out of the law.”
ATEC graduate Raul Velazquez, one of Salinas’ roommates at the Palisades, said he was disappointed by Maczka’s actions.
“I have no words, really. As a public figure, you should stand by your community and represent their concerns, but from what she has done, she has failed at that,” he said. “Especially when her platform stood against it. She never followed through.”
U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown helped produce a Department of Justice press release on the bribery case.
“These are the kinds of things that make the public distrust government officials,” Brown said in a statement. “Public servants should not be for sale, and this indictment clearly indicates that that Ms. Maczka’s vote was for sale, and Mr. Jordan certainly was willing to buy it.”
According to the Department of Justice press release, Jordan allegedly paid Maczka more than $58,000 in cash and checks as well as over $24,000 worth of renovations for her home. He also allegedly funded expensive vacations and offered her a job with double the pay for that particular position.
Maczka and Jordan’s defense attorneys, Jeff Kearney and Dan Cogdell, declined to comment for this story but said in their court defense that the zoning changes would have passed regardless of Maczka’s decision. With her affirmative vote, the Palisades project received a 5-2 victory.
They also told jurors that Maczka and Jordan’s relationships was “a love affair, not a bribe.”
“It’s an immoral choice,” said Cogdell in court. “It’s not a federal felony.”
Maczka’s attorney said during the trial that Maczka’s relationship with Jordan did not affect her vote on the Palisades development.
“When she looked at the Palisades project, she didn’t see Mark Jordan,” he said. “And when she looked at Mark Jordan, she didn’t see Palisades.”
Lead prosecutor Christopher Eason said during the trial that lies covering up corruption were not connected to lies about their affair.
“At this point she wasn’t cheating on her husband,” he said. “She was cheating on the city.”
In 2015, the city of Richardson began its own non-criminal investigation into the relationship between Maczka and Jordan. Although the city’s statement on Maczka’s indictment says the investigation found no violations of city and state ethics, the resulting report was later given to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit for further review. A later investigation found seven counts on which to indict Jordan and Maczka, including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery.
Brown, the U.S. Attorney, said in a press release that the relationship undermined public confidence in government.
“This was more than an ethical violation,” he said in the release. “This was absolutely criminal. We need juries that recognize public corruption for what it is and support prosecutions that attempt to hold accountable those that cheat. This jury certainly did that.”
After closing arguments on March 5, the jury began discussing a final decision. After two days of deliberation, the jury found Maczka and Jordan guilty on four counts. They face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Their sentencing date has not yet been announced.