Otto Explains Maritime Museum Money Mixup

The mystery of a seemingly abandoned nautical appropriation in the state budget became clearer Tuesday, with a key legislator saying the $200,000 intended for a non-existent maritime museum got tangled in a miscommunication.

La Salle's Expedition to Louisiana in 1684, painted in 1844 by Jean Antoine Théodore de Gudin. La Belle, left, sank in present-day Matagorda Bay.

The murky circumstances obscuring a seemingly abandoned nautical appropriation in the state budget cleared a bit Tuesday, with a key legislator explaining that it was all just a failure to communicate.

Lawmakers gave Del Mar College $200,000 for a maritime museum it neither has nor covets at the request of the official Texas Maritime Museum, which hoped to forge a partnership between the museum and the college. The college says it was never informed of the arrangement. 

After The Texas Tribune reported that no one would explain who had tucked the $200,000 into the budget, House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Otto, who had previously declined to comment, said the Texas Maritime Museum in Rockport requested the money.

“The Texas Gulf Coast and its maritime history are important to our great state, so funding was appropriated to Del Mar College to assist with operations at the Texas Maritime Museum,” Otto, R-Dayton, said in a statement. “However, it appears there was a breakdown of communication between the museum and the college regarding this endeavor."

“Well it’s certainly a surprise,” Del Mar spokeswoman Melinda Eddleman said upon hearing Otto’s explanation.

Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, whose district encompasses Del Mar College, said he had no knowledge of the budget item until the school's president called him in June asking why the state was giving Del Mar money for a maritime museum.

“Neither one — me nor the president of Del Mar — knew anything about it,” Hunter said Monday. “We were both taken aback.”

Gov. Greg Abbott, meanwhile, has vetoed the appropriation, though the legality of his veto is being challenged by the Legislative Budget Board.