What is SOAH?
The State Office of Administrative hearings (SOAH) has functioned like a court system for cases brought against state agencies since 1991.
Now, SOAH plays a critical role in approval of garbage dumps in Texas. They’re also responsible for enforcing punishment handed down by the TCEQ against violators of Texas environmental laws. SOAH’s site states the office “continues to serve as an independent, neutral forum for the State of Texas, providing a fair and efficient hearings process and the opportunity for alternative dispute resolution.”
SOAH’s original purpose was to provide an administrative law judge (ALJ), also known as a hearing officer, for agencies who didn’t have one solely dedicated to matters related to contested cases before state agencies. Other agencies that are not required by the statute to use SOAH have contracted to have SOAH’s ALJs conduct their hearings. Since its creation SOAH has gained additional jurisdiction to conduct hearings for other agencies.
The Administrative Law Handbook states the mission of SOAH “is to ensure that contested case hearings are conducted fairly, objectively, promptly and efficiently, and that they result in quality and timely decisions.” According SOAH’s site, “On average, SOAH hears cases for over 50 state agencies and conducts approximately 30,000 hearings per year.” Notably, administrative law judges make the decisions in cases brought before the office.
If the TCEQ granted a preliminary permit in say, a garbage dump fight, citizens wishing to fight the permit issuance would go to SOAH for a contested case hearing.
In Caldwell County, opponents of the planned 130 Environmental Park continue their legal battle to overturn the decisions of SOAH and the TCEQ, claiming critical mistakes were made. SOAH is accused of ignoring evidence engineers hired by Green Group even destroyed records to hide the truth.
Read the 550 page appeal yourself.
Dolcefino Consulting’s investigation has raised some questions about the impartiality of SOAH and its administrative law judges.
Twelve of the administrative law judges that are currently working for SOAH actually worked for TCEQ first.
Date Licensed: November 2, 1990
Qualtrough also worked as a lobbyist for many years. Peek into her activity while at Potts & Reilly, LLP:
The Merco/Sierra Blanca Connection
According to the Texas Tribune, Qualtrough makes $132,000 per year.
Other noteworthy cases involving Qualtrough include:
Effective Environmental Inc
Sharps Environmental Services Inc
Moyses Escamilla and M&M Waste Inc
Fuel Centers Environmental Management, LLC (dba Fuel Center of Legacy)
163 TCEQ cases between Bell and Qualtrough
Here’s Kerrie Qualtrough’s application to SOAH.
Date Licensed: November 2, 2007
Administrative Law Judge Since 2015
According to the Texas Tribune, Frazee makes $128,000 per year.
Take a look at the outcomes from hearings involving Frazee and her former employer, the TCEQ:
Case History Involving TCEQ
Here’s Frazee’s application to be an Administrative Law Judge with SOAH.