McAllen paid Enrique Iglesias $485,000 at 2015 holiday parade

New Texas law allowed for release of previously secret contract

Enrique Iglesias performs December 5, 2015, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

The city of McAllen paid singer Enrique Iglesias $485,000 for his performance at the city’s 2015 holiday parade, the city disclosed on Tuesday, ending more than four years of city officials keeping the contract private.

The contract also revealed that the city chartered a flight to fly in Iglesias from Guadalajara, purchased 24 hotel rooms for two nights and provided and paid for sound, lighting, special effects and a runway at the 2015 concert.

The release of the contract comes days after a new law went into effect following bi-partisan legislation that was voted through the Texas legislature in 2019. Before Senate Bill 943 became law on Jan. 1, a 2015 Texas Supreme Court decision allowed local and state officials to conceal from the public certain information about how taxpayer money was spent on outside contracts.

The Iglesias contract became infamous statewide as officials pointed to McAllen as an example of public entities abusing the loophole in the law to hide public money. And the release of the contract on Tuesday, which came following a Texas Public Information Act request, provides the first example for how public entities could react to requests with the new law in place.

“It became the most prominent example of why this law was needed,” said Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. Shannon added: “This was one that spoke to so many people across this state because it was just so obvious that the public had a right to know how this money was spent.”

News outlets across the state wrote about McAllen’s handling of the Iglesias contract, and a headline for a Dallas Morning News editorial, which mentioned McAllen’s Iglesias contract at the beginning of the piece, read: “Texas court ruling lets government keep contracts secret, inviting corruption to fester.”

In 2019, when legislation to close the loophole was voted through the Texas legislature, a Texas Tribune headline read: “A loophole helped McAllen hide how much it paid Enrique Iglesias. The Texas House on Wednesday moved to patch it.”

Mayor Jim Darling, on the night of the February 2016 city commission meeting where it was disclosed that the city lost $765,000 on the 2015 parade, told reporters, when asked, that he didn’t remember how much the city paid.

In the weeks following the revelation that the city lost a significant amount of money on the parade, Darling and City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said that the city would look to hire a promoter for future concerts: “We won’t go forward as a self-promoter again,” Darling said.

The city has appeared to have learned its lesson, working with various sponsors in the following years. The 2019 parade in December attracted more than 250,000 people and included telenovela stars and Dallas Cowboys players. The event was “presented by HEB” and “powered by Bert Ogden & Fiesta Dealerships, Budweiser, Reliant and Driscoll Health System.”