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Must reads: Texas watchdog journalism roundup for Feb. 25, 2018

Carlos Uresti convicted in criminal fraud case
Credit: San Antonio Express-News

Welcome to the latest installment of the Texas watchdog journalism roundup, a series showcasing hard-hitting investigative stories in Texas that uncovered hidden facts, held officials accountable and demonstrated why journalism matters.

Uresti found guilty on all charges in end to salacious month-long fraud trial | The San Antonio Express-News

More than a year after the Express-News first revealed how state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, had persuaded a former client to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a Ponzi scheme, Uresti was found guilty last week of 20 felony charges in a month-long criminal trial. Patrick Danner, the reporter who first broke the story, covered the trial and was on hand for the verdict. Story by Patrick Danner and Guillermo Contreras

As Wolff remained free, others with fewer probation violations rearrested | KSAT 12 Defenders

Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff, who is on probation in a drunken driving case, remained free despite more than two dozen probation violations that included skipping breath tests. Records show 40 other DWI defendants on probation were arrested for similar violations, according to a months-long investigation by KSAT 12. Story by Dillon Collier

Record reservoir flooding was predicted even before Harvey hit Houston | The Houston Chronicle

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers knew heavy rains would overwhelm reservoirs and flood neighborhoods in Houston before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. But records obtained by the Houston Chronicle show the Corps did not share its predictions with the public. One lawmaker is already calling for an investigation. Story by Lise Olsen

Congressional candidate exaggerates background | The Victoria Advocate

Republican Congressional candidate Jerry Hall claims he’s “overqualified” for the job and touts a long list of credentials. But an investigation by the Victoria Advocate found there’s little support for his claims. Story by Marina Riker

Downtown nonprofit spent thousands of tax dollars to entertain, lobby | The San Antonio Express-News

Centro San Antonio, the troubled nonprofit organization that lost $291,0000 from an accountant suspected of embezzlement, spent taxpayer money on ritzy meals, cross-country trips and music festival sponsorships, according to financial records obtained by the Express-News. Story by Richard Webner

Too Big To Fine, Too Small To Fight Back | The Texas Observer

The Texas Observer analyzed a database of more than 300,000 records to determine the enforcement priorities of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The analysis found the state agency aggressively went after mom-and-pop gas stations while taking a softer approach with thousands of big-money industrial facilities. Story by Naveena Sadasivam

Women describe 14 years of Austin Opera maestro’s lewd talk, touches | The Austin American-Statesman

Seven women say a culture of permissiveness at the Austin Opera allowed conductor Richard Buckley to touch women inappropriately and engage in lewd talk. The women say executives and board members of the opera knew about Buckley’s behavior but failed to intervene because he was a star. Story by Andrea Ball

On Karolyi Ranch, gymnasts with Olympic dreams endured ‘perfect environment for abuse’ | The Dallas Morning News

The Karolyi Ranch in Texas trained the elite of the elite of U.S. gymnasts. But its severe, secretive training regimen created a culture of intimidation that enabled Dr. Larry Nassar, the women’s national gymnastics team doctor, to sexually abuse young gymnasts over nearly two decades, according to critics and two recently filed lawsuits. Story by David Tarrant and Terri Langford

Anti-Escobar PAC fails to report campaign spending on advertisements | The El Paso Times

A new political action committee targeting Democrat Veronica Escobar has spent $10,000 in advertising that went unreported to the Federal Election Commission — a possible violation of campaign finance laws. Escobar is competing with five other Democratic candidates for the seat of U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Story by Madlin Mekelburg

George P. Bush’s secret mansion is financed by an undisclosed loan from Texas donor’s bank | The Texas Tribune

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush took elaborate steps to hide his ownership of an Austin mansion. Financed with an $850,000 mortgage by a Republican donor’s bank that also employs Bush’s wife, the tony property doesn’t show up in Bush’s state-mandated financial disclosure report. After the Texas Tribune discovered the reporting lapse, Bush’s political director dismissed the reporting as “another absurd fake news story from the liberal media” — but the Tribune’s discovery later prompted the campaign to promise that Bush will amend his ethics filings. Story by Jay Root

Suicide and assaults: Which Dallas psychiatric hospitals have bad safety records? | The Dallas Morning News

Half the psychiatric hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have suffered at least one major safety incident since 2011, according to a review of inspection records and lawsuits. “Nearly anyone in Dallas could end up there in a crisis,” the Dallas Morning News reported. “If your teenage daughter starts cutting herself. Or your husband confesses he wants to crash his truck head-on. Or your son overdoses and ends up in the emergency room. In these emergencies, there is no easy way to check a hospital’s safety record.” Story by Sarah Mervosh and Sue Ambrose

Did I miss a good story? Contact me or leave a comment below. Don’t forget to sign up for blog updates and check out more watchdog journalism from the great state of Texas.