The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District this week began selling millions of dollars in construction bonds, but officials refused to acknowledge the fact or disclose the terms.
"If it is available, the bonding will be announced on the 21st," said SMART Chairwoman Valerie Brown, referring to a board meeting on Wednesday.
"The board ought to have an opportunity to see what is available to them before it is announced to the public," she said.
SMART critics, who are mounting an effort to have SMART's sales tax measure overturned, said it was another example of SMART not doing business in public.
"I am troubled at what I see as a lack of transparency," said Clay Mitchell, co-chairman of RepealSMART. "It is like the public doesn't need to know what is going on."
The district previously said it intends to sell $191 million in bonds to finance construction of its initial rail line between downtown Santa Rosa and downtown San Rafael.
On Thursday, there were 14 separate sales of variable rate SMART bonds, according to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, an industry self-regulating group. The initial interest rate was one percent, according to the agency's documents.
The specific value of the bonds was not available, but 13 sales were identified as more than $1 million each and one was for $300,000.
SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian was not available Friday to comment on the transactions.
The proceeds from selling $191 million will be $171 million, the district has said. It will be used for re-construction of the rail line and development of related facilities.
Bond holders are to be repaid with annual revenues from the district's quarter-percent sales tax. The notes mature in 2029.
The rail agency's financial plan calls for $360 million in funding raised primarily from the sales tax, but including other local funds and regional, state and federal money.
The bond sale is being handled in an unconventional manner because of the efforts of RepealSMART. Critics are gathering signatures with the hope of putting a measure on the ballot next year to overturn the that voters passed by a 70 percent vote in November 2008.
Officials say the $171 million from the bond sales will be put into escrow. If the repeal effort fails, the money will be released to pay for construction. If the repeal effort succeeds, the money in the escrow account will be returned to bond purchasers.
Brown, the SMART chairwoman, said a special meeting of the board will be held Jan. 9 to award a construction contract.
The SMART bond sales were listed Friday on the Electronic Municipal Market Access website that is maintained by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, an industry group that sets rules for municipal securities and operates under the oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission.