We will have more soon on the 383k taxpayer funded “free home” that has erupted in to a firestorm. Looks like it is now closer to 500k, if not more.
We will have more soon on the 383k taxpayer funded “free home” that has erupted in to a firestorm. Looks like it is now closer to 500k, if not more.
The Williamson County River Ranch County Park will soon have a new addition thanks to a 3-1 vote of County Commissioners on Tuesday.
A 2 minute discussion in Commissioners Court was initiated on item #28 Tuesday regarding the build of a $382,171.75 custom home with your tax dollars. Why is this important? The home is being built on the park for a county employee to live in rent free.
The excuse for the build was having an employee be “onsite” to watch over the park. Many of our MUD’s contract with the Sheriff’s Department for added patrols so why not utilize them and save money? A park employee, even if they observed criminal activity, could do nothing but call 911 and have the Sheriff’s deputies respond.
The most disturbing part of the interaction was describing the build as not being “elaborate”. $382,171.75, for a custom home ranks as “elaborate” to most who are paying for a home with their own funds and not tax dollars.
While the vast majority of Williamson County residents struggle to put gas in their car or make their mortgage payment for their own modest home, we are now taxed with this boondoggle. And we wonder why Williamson County is 1.3 billion in debt.
Today, Frank Leffingwell attacked several highly respected Williamson County Republican Elected Officials, smashing the Reagan 11th commandment in the process. In an email blast sent by Leffingwell, he said his opponent: “is frighteningly unqualified but desperately wants the job to move up the political food chain.” He went on to again falsely attack Gravell about Senate Bill 2, except this time, invoking our great state Senator from Williamson County.
During the last session of the Texas Legislature, Bill Gravell joined liberal organizations and anti-taxpayer groups to oppose Senate Bill 2, a bill co-authored by our own state senator, Charles Schwertner.
What Leffingwell again failed to be truthful about, he himself opposed Senate Bill 2. What he also fails to mention, Gravell never opposed Senate Bill 2 penned by Senator Schwertner. Gravell opposed an early draft from the House and shortly thereafter rescinded the opposition. Leffingwell in fact amped up his opposition to the actual bill authored by Senator Schwertner with the resolution he seconded and voted to approve.
Leffingwell also continued his misrepresentation about Gravell opposing border security. No need in covering that again since Leffingwell’s assertions were completely dispelled in our last story.
Then came the most damning statement from Leffingwell. He attacked Sheriff Robert Chody, District Attorney Shawn Dick, County Attorney Dee Hobbs, Pct. 1 Constable Vinnie Cherrone, Pct. 3 Constable Kevin Stofle and Pct. 4 Constable Marty Ruble, all of which support and endorse Gravell.
Have you noticed that my opponent’s biggest endorsements are from county department heads whose budgets are set by the county judge and commissioners court?
(For clarification, they are elected officials, not “county department heads”.)
Leffingwell goes on to accuse Gravell of making “expensive promises” to the budgets of the sheriff and other departments.
One person close to the situation stated: “If calling them “cronies” wasn’t bad enough, Leffingwell now calls their integrity and ethics in to question, essentially accusing them of bribery by selling their endorsement for ”promises” of a bigger budget? Is he (Leffingwell) also saying Gravell bribed the highly respected and beloved former Williamson County Sheriff Ed Richards for his endorsement? The Georgetown Police Officer’s Association? Granger Police Chief Bob Shelton? Florence Police Chief Adam Marsh? Georgetown Police Officers Association? Hutto Firefighters Association? Liberty Hill Police Officers Association? Taylor Firefighters Association? Taylor Police Officers Association? Leander Firefighter’s Association? This is despicable. Gutter politics doesn’t even begin to describe this behavior. Then again he said on the radio this morning he doesn’t even know the Sheriff, but I do, and questioning his integrity makes me sick!”
In fact, every Public Safety/First Responder organization and every elected or appointed Law Enforcement official in Williamson County endorsing in this race has endorsed Gravell.
Just last week Leffingwell sat on a stage in front of 300 Sun City Republicans and promised to abide by the Reagan 11th commandment. But as we have seen this entire campaign, he never has. After many calls for him to stop the attacks, Leffingwell has only doubled down and has yet again attacked an elected Republican Sheriff, an elected Republican District Attorney, an elected Republican County Attorney and three elected Republican Constables.
Many are now saying this is just another example of Frank Leffingwell’s inability to be an effective leader, and more importantly, his incapability to tell the truth.
A quick reminder for Mr. Leffingwell, Rule 8.02. Judicial and Legal Officials (a) A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory official or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office.
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” – Albert Einstein.
The Austin American Statesman is now reporting Frank Leffingwell was not truthful in a December 2017 press release when he attacked his opponent over “tax payer funded junkets”. On Friday, we reported how Frank Leffingwell was yet again not truthful with the public about his own stance on Senate Bill 2.
On July 25, 2017, at a Round Rock City Council meeting, the council unanimously approved resolution R-2017-4650 to oppose certain bills in the special session, Senate Bill 2 in particular. Leffingwell not only voted in favor of opposing Senate Bill 2, something he attacks Gravell for, he SECONDED the motion to issue the resolution.
Now the Statesman confirms Leffigwell lied in his December 2017 press release. In that release, Leffingwell stated “He (Gravell) even bills the taxpayers for stays in fancy hotels in South Austin, in spite of the fact it’s against county policy.” Below is a quote from the Statesman.
Leffingwell said in December that Gravell had wasted taxpayer money by staying at a South Austin hotel for a conference….County records show that Gravell did not bill the county for his stay at the South Austin hotel.
Leffingwell also said Gravell testified against the state’s mission to move Texas Department of Public Safety officers to the border area at a legislative committee hearing in September 2016, saying he wanted to end it because of a “perceived loss of revenue” to his court.
We located these two news videos that detail exactly why Gravell testified in the manner he did, not as Leffingwell states with his “perceived loss of revenue” rhetoric.
And finally, in Leffingwell’s December 2017 press release, he railed against Gravell for taking “tax payer funded junkets”. He stated a person who does this “does not qualify as any kind of conservative in my book”. This morning, we were provided several documents showing Leffingwell has recently taken multiple tax payer funded trips to Washington DC to “advocate”; trips that cost Round Rock tax payers thousands of dollars. We will have more on this soon.
In a media interview last week, County Judge candidate Frank Leffingwell once again attacked his opponent Bill Gravell for his opposition to an early draft of the House (not SB2) legislation related to property taxes, opposition which was later rescinded in early March by Gravell.
Leffingwell stated “Mr. Gravell joined Democrats by opposing Senate Bill 2, which would have capped how large a percentage tax increases a city can collect at 4%, while conservatives supported it”.
Why is this important you may ask? On July 13, 2017, the Round Rock City Council held a budget workshop where members of Round Rock City Council issued their criticism of Senate Bill 2.
Then, on July 25, 2017, at a Round Rock City Council meeting, the council unanimously approved resolution R-2017-4650 to oppose certain bills in the special session, Senate Bill 2 in particular. Leffingwell not only voted in favor of opposing Senate Bill 2, he SECONDED the motion to issue the resolution.
WHEREAS, Texas Governor Greg Abbot has called a Special Session of the Texas Legislature to begin on July 18, 2017; and
WHEREAS, the City Council for the City of Round Rock (“City”) requests that the Williamson County delegation oppose certain legislation that is harmful to the City and its citizens; and
WHEREAS, the City Council strongly believes that local issues are best addressed by local duly elected representatives, and not by representatives elected to the state legislature and state-wide office holders; and
WHEREAS, the City Council wishes to authorize the City’s representatives to oppose any legislation that limits the existing authority of the City to govern its own affairs and oppose the imposition of any state mandates that do not provide for a commensurate level of state funding, Now Therefore
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ROUND ROCK, TEXAS,
That the Williamson County delegation be requested to assist the City with the following legislative proposals, and that the Mayor, Councilmembers, City Manager, City Attorney, City staff members, and the City’s legislative representatives be authorized to testify on behalf of the City for or against the following proposals as appropriate:
Property Tax – To oppose any change that reduces local control of the procedures for adopting, assessing, and spending local property tax revenues.
So once again, it has been discovered Leffingwell has not been truthful in his attacks. First it was “junkets” that was proven to be false, then false attacks regarding border security and now this bombshell revelation.
This leaves us to ask; did Leffingwell finally admit to being a Democrat with his quote “Mr. Gravell joined Democrats by opposing Senate Bill 2” or is this just more political rhetoric, false accusations and spin from a politician who claims not to be a politician. One thing for certain, Frank Leffingwell was yet again not truthful with the public about Gravell or his own stance on Senate Bill 2.
On Saturday, an article was published in error stating: “Dell Technologies threw its support behind Frank Leffingwell…”. Fact is, Dell Corp OR Dell Technologies Corp has NOT endorsed Frank Leffingwell. Why is this important to point out? In fact, it was Dell Technologies Political Action Committee (a member based association PAC ) who endorsed Leffingwell, not Dell Corp or Dell Technologies Corp. The PAC is NOT affiliated with Dell Corp or Dell Technologies Corp.
According to Dell, the PAC is a separate entity that is: “supported solely by voluntary contributions from eligible employees and spouses of eligible employees who collectively choose to allocate those contributions to U.S. federal candidates and committees. Dell PAC’s spending reflects company and employee interests and the values of the company and not those of individual officers or directors.”
Looking at the PAC’s donor list below is quite alarming if you are a Republican, especially those with “conservative values”. The PAC has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past few years to these liberal candidates listed below and others:
Liberal California Congressman Tony Cardenas
Liberal Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Lea Sinema
Liberal San Antonio Congressional hopeful Joaquin Castro
Liberal California Congressman Marian Elaine “Mimi” Walters
Liberal California Congressman Eric Swalwell
Liberal Florida Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy
Liberal Illinois Congresswoman Robin Kelly
Liberal Massachusetts Gongressman Jim McGovern
Liberal New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Luján
Liberal New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
Liberal Arizona Congressman Ruben Marinelarena Gallego
The liberal Political Action Committee – Visionary PAC
The liberal Political Action Committee – Future Forum PAC
The liberal CHC BOLD PAC which describes itself on its website as: “Bold PAC is the fastest growing Democratic Political Action Committee. It champions progressive Democrats fighting for change.”
Liberal Congressman from New Jersey Cory Booker
Liberal Congressman from Massachusetts, Joe Kennedy. That’s right, the same liberal Massachusetts congressman who gave the Democrat rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union address last week.
And these three who need no introduction: Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Jim Clyburn.
We have been forwarded several emails regarding a forum between the County Judge candidates that will take place in a few weeks.
The email is requesting questions that are to be asked of the candidates be submitted to Lisa Birkman. Several have expressed grave concern given Birkman’s public support of Frank Leffingwell for County Judge.
One person emailed” “How can this be a fair process when Lisa Birkman has given at least $1,500.00 to Leffingwell, is block walking for him and posts on her Twitter her support and is openly against Bill Gravell. She is not supposed to be openly supporting anyone in her position and now wants the questions in advance?”
Another stated: “The fix is in. They want me to send questions to Lisa Birkman so she can hand them over to Frank? No thanks.”
One stated: “In order to maintain the integrity of this forum and not give any appearance of impropriety, Ms. Birkman should consider removing herself from the process.”
And finally, one emailed: I have no problem submitting my question to Lisa. ‘Why did Frank Leffingwell call the Sheriff and DA a crony?’ I’m sure that won’t make the cut.”
We will follow up on this important development soon.
Frank Leffingwell has scored another “Pinocchio” with his latest false attack against his opponent. First it was “junkets” now it’s “He has proposed building a wall around Williamson County, effectively shutting down economic development.”
Today, Leffingwell released a statement stating:
“He (Gravell) has proposed building a wall around Williamson County, effectively shutting down economic development.”
After fact checking this, we discovered that Leffingwell was referencing a speech given by Gravell on December 2 and has again blatantly lied about what was actually stated. On December 2, Bill Gravell spoke to a large crowd of supporters, announcing his intention to run for County Judge. In the closing of his speech, Gravell stated “we do need a border, but that border needs to be between Williamson and Travis County”. A line referencing the influx of liberal democrats moving in to Williamson County, not a”shutting down economic development” as Leffingwell stated.
It seems Leffingwell would want the same given his own city council has lost so many seats once held by conservatives to liberal democrats over the past year. Or does he?
At no time did Gravell propose “building a wall around Williamson County”, so once again, Leffingwell maintains his title as #FakeNewsFrank.
As reported previously, on December 13th, Frank Leffingwell issued a press release stating Bill Gravell was nothing more than a “youth pastor-turned-professional-politician and a showman”. In the same press release, Leffingwell also attacked Gravell’s supporters calling them “court house cronies” saying the “stakes are too high to let them succeed”.
The controversy is only deepening with several elected officials including Sheriff Robert Chody, Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick, and now others, taking to social media denouncing Leffingwell’s attacks and negative campaigning.
Yesterday, Sheriff Robert Chody again posted regarding the personal attacks against him and others waged by Frank Leffingwell. Many (including other elected officials) also responded to Chody’s post voicing their disapproval of Leffingwell’s constant negative campaign tactics.
This is the picture where I and many other elected officials were deemed “cronies!” Straight from the letter sent out to voters. BTW, this is for simply endorsing and supporting a qualified candidate. Again, I will not tell you who to support because that is your decision to make freely.
Silence is endorsing tactics such as this and I will not allow myself or other fellow elected officials whom the people voted for to be called names for merely showing our support for a candidate that has served WilCo honorably. I support Judge Bill Gravell
The Democrats are waiting to pounce this November and are watching closely, especially given the many recent losses of conservative seats to liberal Democrats in the Cedar Park and Round Rock city elections.Several have stated those in the Republican Party better get their act together and demand Leffingwell immediately end the attacks and negative campaigning.
Unfortunately for the Republican Party, it doesn’t appear Leffingwell is listening, and the Democrats are enjoying every second.
On December 1, 2017 Frank Leffingwell issued a press release headlining “Leffingwell Campaign Hits Its Stride Ahead of Gravell Announcement”.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 1, 2017 ROUND ROCK, TX – After just under two months of campaigning for Williamson County Judge, Republican attorney and businessman Frank Leffingwell announced today that he has surpassed the $100,000 mark in total fundraising.
Campaign finance reports just released reveal a much different story.
Based on his campaign finance report, Leffingwell raised a little over 69k during that “two month period”, nowhere near surpassing “the $100,000 mark in total fundraising” as he claims he had done on December 1.
Of the “total fundraising” Leffingwell raised in “just under two months”, $11,313.25 of that total was actually funds transferred from city council campaign coffers he raised years earlier. The funds in his city council campaign account, which have been sitting stagnant since 2015/2016, were transferred to his county judge campaign account as a “political donation” on October 2, the same day he filed for County Judge.
Given Leffingwell was over 30k shy of the 100k mark he said he surpassed on December 1, this has left many asking why would he not be truthful in his December 1 press release, grossly inflating the actual amount raised.
Now, questions are being raised about Leffingwell’s denial that he used disparaging names toward those who support his opponent, Bill Gravell. Sources tell us a prominent Republican confronted Leffingwell this past week asking him how he could expect to work with other elected officials (if he were elected) after calling them disparaging names such as “crony”. Leffingwell reportedly responded, “I never said that”.
On December 13th, Leffingwell issued a press release stating Bill Gravell was nothing more than a “youth pastor-turned-professional-politician and a showman”. In the same press release, Leffingwell also attacked Gravell’s supporters calling them “court house cronies” saying the “stakes are too high to let them succeed”.
Another prominent Republican stated, “This guy lies about his opponent, his campaign finance and even about calling people names. What else is he not being truthful about? If he can’t be truthful as a candidate, how can he be trusted as our County Judge? It is beyond me how anyone in our party can support this guy. He not only disparages other Republicans, he can’t tell the truth.”
Many are asking why Leffingwell would blatantly lie about calling others disparaging names in his December 13th press release and fund raising totals in his December 1 press release given this could be so easily disproven by his own words. We will leave that for Mr. Leffingwell to explain.
Last week, the District Attorney and County Attorney both took to social media denouncing a press release from Frank Leffingwell. In the press release, Leffingwell personally attacked the County Attorney, District Attorney, Sheriff and anyone else who supports Judge Bill Gravell. Today, Sheriff Robert Chody weighed in on the matter.
“I assure you if a candidate I supported called fellow current elected officials names that I would publicly denounce the name-calling. Considering I was one of those called a name by a candidate running for county Judge (and it wasn’t Bill Gravell) I find it concerning that many are standing on the sidelines being silent on the matter. Silence is the same as endorsing this type of political rhetoric. So if you are a public office holder supporting this candidate or person supporting consider denouncing the name calling. Support who you will. #ThisSheriffIsNoCronie”
Leffingwell also personally attacked Gravell in his press release stating Gravell was nothing more than a “youth pastor-turned-professional-politician and a showman”. In the same press release, Leffingwell also attacked Gravell’s supporters calling them “court house cronies”. Since then, many have used the hashtag #Cronies to express their support of Gravell. One local company created a tumbler with Gravell’s logo on one side and the hashtag “#Cronies” on the other. They also posted a video in support of Gravell. (below)
Now, former commissioner Lisa Birkman is launching her own attacks against Gravell. First she conducted a stealth open records request on Gravell, and oddly enough, received the same information Leffingwell cited in his attack press release a few weeks later. This has left many to ask if the information Leffingwell cited was provided directly by Birkman: information that has since been proven to be false and misleading.
If that wasn’t enough, according to sources, Birkman has submitted yet another open records request against Gravell. Many are calling her “opposition research” nothing more than a “political fishing expedition” that will do nothing more than cost taxpayers even more money to fulfill.
Strangely enough, Birkman sent an email this morning urging everyone to follow the “Reagan 11th commandment” and not attack other Republicans. But just an hour later, Birkman sent out an email attacking Gravell. Even more hypocritical, Birkman wrote an op-ed piece for the Wilco Sun a few months ago denouncing “bullies” in politics and “negative campaigns”, the same behavior she now practices.
Given Birkman’s outward support of Leffingwell and her attacks again Gravell, many are now very concerned she is using her position as Vice President in the Georgetown Area Republican Women’s group to manipulate an upcoming debate of candidates. Several have expressed their concern of her involvement in coordinating these debates and have stated if she has the debate questions prior, it’s not very difficult to see the writing on the wall.
In all, it’s clear based on the below screen shots; the Sheriff, District Attorney, County Attorney and many others are outraged.
One person commented on Chody’s post saying, “The wife of said candidate attacked me a few weeks ago for being a Gravell supporter…”
Another stated, “She told me this wouldnt be Leffingwells full time job. Im not sure what he is running for.”
Another stated, “I was really hoping this would be let’s run on the issues election, well that certainly did not happen. Mr. Leffingwell this is not a part time job, so you might be in the wrong race.”
And finally, one commented, “There’s a good reason why some people resort to name-calling or mud-slinging instead of focusing on the issues.”
Leffingwell has doubled down on his attacks, now personally running paid ads on facebook attacking Gravell. And oddly, in his ads, Leffingwell states he is “not a politician, but a problem solver”. In the words of one “court house crony”, “Leffingwell is an elected politician from Round Rock. He is trying to paint himself as a ‘businessman” and not a politician to hide from his liberal record AS a politician. And if his idea of ‘solving problems’ is to raise taxes every single year and attack anyone and everyone who has a differing opinion than he does, heaven help us. His attacks are an embarrassment to the Republican Party.” When asked about Lisa Birkman’s involvement, this person stated: “No comment. I refuse to make the irrelevant relevant.”
It looks like we are in for a long 60 days of Leffingwell and his surrogates stooping to gutter based politics filled with wild accusations and blatantly false and vicious attacks. Mr. Leffingwell doesn’t think the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct – State Bar of Texas rules apply to him. According to sources, he may soon find out differently.
Apparently former Pct. 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman, one of Frank Leffingwell’s biggest supporters, has decided wasting almost 1 MILLION in tax dollars defending her illegal actions wasn’t enough. Now it appears, according to sources, she is racking up the taxpayer-funded bill conducting multiple open records requests on her arch-rival Bill Gravell in hopes of finding “dirt”.
Birkman was found guilty last year of violating a man’s 14th Amendment constitutional rights while she was Commissioner, costing taxpayers close to 1 million dollars in legal fees. That case is still ongoing and the legal fees footed by taxpayers continue to mount.
A few weeks ago, Frank Leffingwell issued a press release attacking his opponent Bill Gravell. Ironically, a few weeks prior to this attack, Birkman submitted an open records request on Gravell and received the same information Leffingwell cited in his attack press release. Information that has since been proven to be false and misleading. Leffngwell’s false attack even drew rebuke from the County Auditors office according to sources. This leads us to ask, did Leffingwell receive the information from Birkman? Birkman is not shy about her support of Leffingwell and Leffingwell is proud to list her as an endorser.
Even after being found to be completely false, Leffingwell doubled down on his attacks putting out another email last week stating:“Bill Gravell, has a record of fiscal waste and mismanagement, enjoys using tax dollars for junkets around the country”. Given this attack was proven to be false, many feel is a direct slap to the face of the Chief Justice of Texas.
One “junket” Leffingwell describes was Gravell beingnnominated by the Chief Justice and Administrative Director – Office of Court Administration of the State of Texas with the recommendation “Chief Justice Hecht and I would like to nominate Judge Bill Gravell, Jr., Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3 of Williamson County from Texas for the Coaching and Mentoring Judges program. Judge Gravell is on the Texas Judicial Council and is a leader among the judiciary.”
Another “junket” Leffingwell spins, he also unknowingly attacked the County Clerk, District Clerk and IT Director when they, along with Gravell, attended a training seminar for implementing technology in Williamson County courtrooms that would ultimately save taxpayers hundreds of thousands a year.
Many are now asking, what next? Will he also attack Gravell for being appointed to the Texas Judicial Council by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht? Gravell being chosen one of 24 county elected officials in the entire state to attend the Texas Association of Counties leadership school? Gravell serving on the teaching faculty for Judges in Texas? Or possibly serving as chairman of the Data Committee for the Office of Court Administration and the Criminal Justice Committee?
Or perhaps Gravell’s office receiving the award for “Collection Improvement Program of the Year in Texas”. His office being chosen by Tyler Technologies’ to receive the national “Public Sector Excellence Award”? Or maybe Gravell’s office being chosen as the first court in Texas to receive the national “Innovation in Business Process in America” award for contributions to the judiciary in technology and court business processes. Or possibly, being nominated by the Chief Justice and chosen as the “2017 Judge of the Year in Texas”?
Leffingwell also personally attacked Gravell in his press release stating Gravell was nothing more than a “youth pastor-turned-professional-politician and a showman”. In the same press release, Leffingwell also attacked Gravell’s supporters calling them “court house cronies”. Calling the Sheriff, District Attorney, County Attorney and several other Republican leaders and anyone else who supports and endorses Gravell a “crony” is quite disturbing and many have taken offense to the statement. Over the holiday break, the District Attorney and County Attorney both made it clear they weren’t pleased with the attacks. Since then, many have used the hashtag #Cronies to express their support of Gravell. One local company apparently created a tumbler with Gravell’s logo on one side and the hashtag #Cronies on the other. Below is a screen shot from County Attorney Dee Hobb’s facebook page:
Leffingwell closed his latest attack email stating “Bill Gravell typifies everything that is wrong with politics today and everything I fight against as a Republican.” Ironic given Leffingwell, as a “Republican”, has voted to raise taxes every year he has been in office and has added tens of millions in debt to the citizens of Round Rock since being elected, while Gravell and his staff were winning state and national awards for the conservative business practices implemented in his office.
As stated before, we were hoping to see a good clean campaign but it appears Leffingwell by his own statements, and through surrogates, will continue stooping to gutter based politics filled with wild accusations and blatantly false statements. Then again, when you are running as a “Republican” but have the record of a liberal, voting to raise taxes every single year and piling on debt as a sitting city councilman in Round Rock, you sling mud to distract the public.
Oddly enough, Leffingwell should understand that violating the Texas Rules on Professional Conduct, specifically Rule 8.02. Judicial and Legal Officials, is a serious violation. (a) A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory official or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office.
But that’s not all Leffingwell has done. Stay tuned for the next report.
On December 7th, Frank Leffingwell was quoted in the Austin Statesman saying “A person who lives off the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars does not qualify as any kind of conservative in my book, especially one with a habit of taking taxpayer-funded trips to places like Reno, Nevada, and Deer Valley, Utah. He even bills the taxpayers for stays in fancy hotels in South Austin, in spite of the fact it’s against county policy.”
In response to Leffingwell’s quote, Gravell said: “My opponent would rather launch deceptive attacks in an effort to distract away from his own failed liberal record while raising taxes every single year he has been in office.… That liberal tax-and-spend mindset is truly detrimental to Williamson County and one we cannot afford.”
We looked in to this matter and found Leffingwell’s statements not only misleading, but also blatantly false.
Why was Gravell in Reno? Gravell was selected one of 16 Judges across America to attend the National Judicial College. Here is a summary of the course.
The National Judicial College (NJC) has received funding from the State Justice Institute (SJI) for an exclusive educational opportunity that will be limited. We are therefore seeking nominations from the Chief Justice and State Court Administrator of states that do not currently have a formal coaching program.
Please nominate one judge to attend the 4.5-day course and learn the fundamental concepts underlying the practice of becoming a mentor coach for other judges. The nominated judges will learn about the principles of coaching, have the opportunity for small group practice, gain an appreciation of how a mentor coaching program can positively impact judicial performance, and return to their states with a greater understanding of how to implement a formal coaching program.
As you select the nominees, please consider judges in whom you or others in your state see leadership potential.
Gravell was nominated by the Chief Justice and Administrative Director – Office of Court Administration for the State of Texas with the recommendation “Chief Justice Hecht and I would like to nominate Judge Bill Gravell, Jr., Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3 of Williamson County from Texas for the Coaching and Mentoring Judges program. Judge Gravell is on the Texas Judicial Council and is a leader among the judiciary.”
Was Gravell in Deer Valley? Yes. Who else attended? Wilco’s Director of IT along with the County and District Clerk. Why? They were at a training seminar for implementing technology in Williamson County courtrooms that would ultimately save taxpayers hundreds of thousands a year.
Did taxpayers pay for a stay in a “fancy hotel in South Austin”? No. According to sources, the Auditors office is highly upset at Leffingwell’s assertions that taxpayers paid for Gravell’s hotel room in south Austin and Leffingwell’s statement is 100% false.
Over the past few weeks, Leffingwell’s personal attacks have deepened. In a press release last week, Leffingwell stated Gravell was nothing more than a “youth pastor-turned-professional-politician and a showman”. He then attacked Gravell’s supporters calling them “court house cronies”. Calling the Sheriff, District Attorney, several other Republican leaders and anyone else who supports and endorses Gravell a “crony” is quite disturbing and very divisive for the Republican Party. Very reminiscent of being called a “deplorable”. This is extremely damaging especially given the recent losses of conservative seats to liberal Democrats in the Cedar Park and Round Rock city elections.
We were hoping to see a good clean campaign but it appears Leffingwell, by his own statements, is stooping to gutter based politics filled with wild accusations and blatantly false statements. Then again, when you have a record of voting to raise taxes every single year as a sitting city councilman in Round Rock and you don’t want that being exposed and the focus of your campaign, you sling mud to distract the public. But that’s not all Leffingwell has done. Stay tuned for the next report.
“The court finds that the cumulation of evidence supports applicant’s claim of actual innocence. He has met his burden and established he is actually innocent of the offense for which he was convicted.
The court recommends the applicant’s claim of actual innocence be granted and that his conviction be set aside.”
The special election in Round Rock for City Council was held today. Early voting results show the Democrat candidate Hilda Montgomery beating Republican Hollis Bone badly in a major landslide.
Final result: Dem win by 14.
In 2014, Judge Bill Gravell spoke at the Republican Party County Convention. In what many view as a prophetic statement about the future of the Republican Party in Williamson County, especially in Pct 1, Gravell said “Republicans in Williamson County, especially in Pct 1, must see the reality of what is happening and take action now or we will pay dearly later”.
Gravell went a step further by challenging everyone in the room to go out and work to register new Republican voters in their precincts. In fact, Gravell returned to Pct 3, and with the help of Sun City Republican leaders, they registered thousands of new Republican voters. Pct 1 did not heed his warning and is now suffering the consequences.
Let the finger pointing and blame game begin.
ROUND ROCK, TX – Today, Conservative Military Veteran Lee Ann Seitsinger formally announced she will seek the Republican nomination for Williamson County Treasurer in the March 6th, 2018 primary election. Seitsinger is a successful small business owner and U.S. Navy veteran with a track record of achievement, conservative fiscal policies, and dedication.
“This isn’t about a career in politics. As a military veteran it’s about public service. We expect our elected officials to report for duty and show up to work every day for the taxpayers they serve. I am strongly committed to the position of Treasurer for Williamson County and will apply my conservative practices to the office I seek to serve. As your elected public servant, I will answer directly to you, the taxpayers of Williamson County, providing strict oversight and accountability for our county’s funds. That is why I am running for Treasurer,” Seitsinger said.
Seitsinger is the owner of Tula Properties, a real estate company based in Williamson County. As a successful business owner, she has managed millions of dollars in real estate contracts and has a proven track record in financial management, experience in strategic planning, budget development, expense oversight, marketing, and team training.
Prior to her successful career in real estate, Lee Ann proudly served our country in the U.S. Navy at various military installations and on overseas deployments. Seitsinger served as an Interior Communications Electronics Engineer, earned two good conduct awards, various service-related medals and was honorably discharged at the rank of E5.
Seitsinger also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Advertising Management from Bellevue University in Bellevue, Nebraska where she graduated with a 4.0 grade point average. She and her husband, Doug, are the devoted parents of one son and have proudly called Williamson County home since 2004.
Seitsinger concluded, “My pledge to the citizens of Williamson County is that I will go to work every day looking for ways to increase government transparency, eliminate wasteful spending and provide strict oversight of our county’s funds. I took an oath to protect and defend our nation and proudly served our country for over a decade. I now report for duty to serve the people of Williamson County and will faithfully execute the duties of the Treasurer’s Office. I humbly ask for your support and vote in the March 6th, 2018 Republican Primary election.”
One of our former contributors used to call March primaries the “silly season”. It looks like that may be exactly what 2018 is shaping up to be; several races that could have lots of fireworks.
First in Pct. 3 you have Deanna Lewis, a very popular conservative Republican who has announced she will be running for the JP 3 seat if Judge Bill Gravell runs for County Judge. Her opponent, a far left liberal Democrat and social justice warrior by the name of Katherine Kerr Kubatzky.
Moving to Pct. 4, you have a commercial land broker from Round Rock, Russ Boles, Round Rock resident Bobby Seiferman, and the only non-Round Rock resident and political establishment outsider, Heather Peal.
Then you have the State Rep race for District 52. That race features Jermey Story and the outgoing Rep. Larry Gonzales backed candidate, Round Rock resident Cynthia Flores. This one should be a bashing free-for-all before it’s over.
And just this morning, now you have another Round Rock politician who has just this morning decided to jump in to the County Judge race. No other candidates have “officially” announced even though Judge Bill Gravell has said he is “strongly considering” a run, hamstrung by the resign to run rule. If the name ‘Leffingwell’ rings a bell, he is the son of former City of Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, a liberal Democrat environmentalist. Frank is currently on the Round Rock City Council. Leffingwell’s press release states in part: “We need more business leaders and fewer insiders, bureaucrats, and career politicians in our governmental institutions”, deflecting away that he is also a politician tied in with the establishment insiders.
Another countywide position of interest is recently appointed Treasurer Scott Heselmeyer. As of now he does not have an opponent, but rumors are swirling about a potential candidate who is considering a run.
Then you have Pct. 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long, infamous for being found guilty of violating a man’s constitutional rights, costing taxpayers over a million dollars to defend. She had intentions of running for County Judge but those dreams were quickly thwarted, and now, according to sources, plans on running for reelection as Pct. 2 Commissioner.
County Court at Law 1 race is shaping up with Brandy Hallford, a long time and well known attorney against a virtually unknown candidate, Joe Marcee. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s possibly because he has been an attorney for less than 10 years and now wants to be a Judge. If his name does ring a bell, that’s probably because one client he defended in his short career was Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter, terrorist and ISIS member.
Let the “silly season” and the fun begin. And again, if you don’t like what you see here because your chosen candidate gets the hammer dropped on them with fact based information, tough. Click the X at the top right.
Dick wasted no time slamming the court in how the they handle the budget process. Check it out below.
Today begins a new day at the Wilco Report. While we greatly appreciate our former commentators hard work and great reporting, no worries, because you can count on this salty retiree for one thing; facts and nothing but the facts. Granted it may not be what you like or want to hear because often times the truth hurts.
And for the record, it doesn’t matter if you are a Republican who violates a mans civil rights that ends up costing the taxpayers a million bux to defend your illegal actions or a Democrat who skirts the law for personal gain, count on being featured. So cinch up, election season is right around the corner and we already have a few signed up that should give us lots to write about. From land brokers on the east side to liberal activists up north and a lot of other candidates in between, you can guarantee the next 6 months won’t be dull.
And last but not least, to all of you snowflakes out there who are easily offended, there’s a little X at the top right of your screen. Feel free to give it a click. For everyone else, enjoy the ride!
Early Voting numbers:
Terri Grimm – 73.06%
Jim Morris – 7.75%
Kris Andrews – 19.19%
As one voter said today on his way to the polls: “This election is about more than just Kris Andrews being a communist loving progressive. Let this also be a message to those like Michael Smith. We will NOT tolerate you, your puppets or your agenda anymore.”
No doubt the message was sent loud and clear. We will update the story once the final numbers are in
We have been reporting on the controversy surrounding disgraced former Hutto City Councilman Michael Smith. City council candidate Kris Andrews has publicly stated Smith is “advising” his campaign. Kris Andrews has also publicly stated his affection for communism, socialism and other “progressive” philosophies.
Given Mr. Andrews public statements regarding his political views, it appears Smith has abandoned the Republican party’s philosophies although he still serves as the treasurer for the Williamson County Young Republican’s club. The club’s constitution states:
“The purpose of the Club shall be to support the principles and objectives of the Republican Party; to work for the election of all duly nominated Republican candidates; to develop Republican Party leaders both within the Party structure and as candidates for public office; and to educate, activate, and empower Young Republicans throughout central Texas.”
In a very odd, somewhat delusional facebook post on election night, Smith’s wife, Kristin, who also serves as the President of the Williamson County Young Republicans stated:
Contrary to Ms. Smith’s excuse for her husbands 52 point loss, Smith, himself, stated in a letter to the City dated March 6, 2017 (with no mention of his wife) “my presence on the council has become a distraction”. Therefore….I’ve decided it is in the best interest of the City that I vacate my position.” Smith went on to state: “I wish the City Council, staff and citizens nothing but success, and sincerely apologize for any discredit I may have inadvertently brought upon them.”
Michael Smith was forced to resign his position for violating the Hutto City, owing back taxes to the City from 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2015, the State of Texas shut down several group homes operated by Smith for “serious and pervasive noncompliance”. According to an in-depth investigative report by KXAN, Smith’s wife was also found to have falsified personnel information for Smith’s business.
Even though Mr. Andrews has publicly stated Smith is advising his campaign, some wanted “more” proof of Smith’s connection to Andrews. It appears folks will have to take the word of Mr. Andrews and also the fact Smith and his wife have a Kris Andrews campaign sign in the front yard of their home. (posted below)
One Republican party member who witnessed the sign in Smith’s yard yesterday evening stated: “This guy is a traitor to the Republican Party. He is our own Benedict Arnold. There is NO excuse that can justify this behavior. Now I ask, why has not one Republican “leader” taken action against this guy? This is unconscionable. No wonder we are losing ground in this county.”
As stated prior, for Mr. Andrews, it is his personal right to subscribe to whatever political beliefs he wishes and for the voters of Hutto to decide if they agree with him on June 10. For the Republican Party in Williamson County, it’s decision time.
Former Williamson County DA First Assistant Brent Webster was in the hot seat yesterday in a Williamson County District Courtroom. According to testimony, Webster dropped the ball on 63 Asset Forfeiture cases that could ultimately land hundreds of thousands of dollars in seized assets back in the hands of criminals.
According to KXAN: “Judge Donna King found due diligence was not exercised in the case by the Williamson Co. District Attorney’s Office under the previous administration and ordered the return of $1,545 to criminal defendant Justin Cord Dabney.” That was just one of 63 other cases that was not resolved by Webster.
According to sources inside of the courtroom, Webster blamed everyone from Jana Duty to low level employees and several others in-between including law enforcement. KXAN reported one employee took exception to the finger pointing by Webster stating: “Brent had made a statement that he was not going to bring in money for Shawn Dick,” implying Webster’s failure to pursue asset forfeiture cases may have been intentional.”
Attorney Jennifer Earls grilled Webster while he was on the stand. Oddly, Webster brought his own defense attorney with him. However, Webster’s attorney was told he could not be involved in the proceeding. When Webster was questioned about his attendance at work (or lack thereof) while out campaigning in his disastrous run for Court of Appeals in 2016, Webster blamed former office administrator Vicki Vickers for his time sheets not being correct. According to sources, employees of the office, not Ms. Vickers are responsible for their time sheets.
We will be issuing an open records request for Webster’s time sheets and compare them to his facebook posts showing when he was out of the office on dozens of occasions during his campaign and overseas trips.
Current DA Shawn Dick, who inherited a mess at the DA’s Office stated, “What we realized was it was a much bigger problem than just that one case. We’re talking about dozens of cases. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars that are going to end up being returned to criminals because of the negligence or the conscious indifference of the previous administration, specifically the lawyer responsible for handling those which was Brent Webster”.
According to several sources, Webster has stated he is planning on running again for the Court of Appeals in 2018. However, this latest revelation along with other “issues” that will ultimately surface about Webster may put a damper on his plans, especially if the State Bar of Texas launches an investigation into this latest debacle.
We will keep you updated on this issue as it progresses.
Early voting has begun in the special election for Hutto City Council featuring a fiscal conservative, Terri Grimm, vs. Kris Andrews, a candidate who has publicly stated his pro communism, socialism and other “progressive” philosophies.
Andrews stated an active member of the Wilco Republican Party, disgraced former Hutto City Councilman Michael Smith, “has advised me on my campaign and will continue to do so”. Smith also serves as the Treasurer for the Williamson County Young Republicans club.
Smith has not denied “advising” Mr. Andrews campaign nor has Mr. Andrews retracted that claim.
Mr. Andrews quotes have been highlighted on Hutto social media neighborhood pages. Below is a “Top Ten” list one Hutto resident Terje Revenew compiled and posted on facebook. These quotes were sourced and verified to be on a personal blog belonging to Mr. Andrews.
Early voting continues through next Tuesday and Election Day is June 10.
In a stunning revelation that could overturn the child sex assault conviction of a former high school football star, Williamson County authorities have reopened the investigation of the sexual assault of a 4-year-old boy and say they have identified a new suspect, the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV have learned.
Read full story here
Last week, the reality of Williamson County turning solid purple in Pct’s 1 and 2 was highlighted. Now, a new bombshell has landed on the Williamson County Republican Party. Yesterday one candidate for Hutto City Council, Kris Andrews, publicly stated his affection for communism, socialism and other “progressive” philosophies. For him, that is his personal right to subscribe to whatever political beliefs he wishes and for the voters of Hutto to decide if they agree. For the Republican Party in Williamson County, buckle up.
Andrews replied to a few questions asked by Hutto and Williamson County residents. One of his replies has left many stunned. Andrews stated a member of the Wilco Republican Party, Michael Smith, “has advised me on my campaign and will continue to do so”. Smith also serves as the Treasurer for the Williamson County Young Republicans club. It’s worth noting, the club’s constitution states:
“The purpose of the Club shall be to support the principles and objectives of the Republican Party; to work for the election of all duly nominated Republican candidates; to develop Republican Party leaders both within the Party structure and as candidates for public office; and to educate, activate, and empower Young Republicans throughout central Texas.”
Michael Smith was evicted from office in March 2017 for violating the Hutto City Charter. He remained on the May 6th ballot and was devastated by 55 points (76.01-23.99). Now, Smith has turned to “advising” a candidate who subscribes to ideologies completely opposite of the Republican Party he “represents” and the “constitution” of the club in which he is an officer .
Andrews also stated he votes for both Democrats and Republicans but we could only find one primary election in which he voted since moving to Hutto from California (the San Francisco Bay area) in 2011. Andrews voted in the Democrat 2016 Primary.
Below is a screenshot provided to us that was posted in several facebook neighborhood groups.
One Wilco Republican Party member stated: “The Republican Party in Williamson County is losing ground and now this? Michael’s actions as an executive member of the Williamson County Young Republicans are a direct reflection on our Party. He has had some very problematical issues in the past that were ‘overlooked’ by a couple of local elected officials and one candidate for office in Pct. 4 who still maintain their support; but this is inexcusable. He should resign his position in the Young Republican’s Club and move on.”
At a time when the Williamson County Republican Party searches for leadership and direction, this latest shock-wave will no doubt only amplify that call.
Local elections this past weekend sent shock waves throughout the Republican Party. However, voters rejected liberal spending, shooting down local bonds that would have tacked on hundreds of millions more in debt.
A closer look at the races show Pct. 1 is in big trouble. Not a big surprise given the results of last November where every Republican candidate on the ballot landed under 50% in that precinct. In Cedar Park, two Republican incumbents fell, losing in a landslide. In Round Rock, one Republican fell while two others barely squeaked out a win. In Georgetown, all Democrats fell handily minus the now liberal district 6. In Hutto, things went as expected with Tim Jordan beating former disgraced councilman Mike Smith in a massive landslide. Place 1 candidate Scott Rose who garnered almost 45% in a three-way race landed in a runoff against Dana Wilcott.
Excuses by disgraced former Hutto councilman Michael Smith’s camp for his massive loss were borderline delusional. Smith lost to Tim Jordan by a whopping 52 points. In 2015, the State of Texas shut down several group homes operated by Smith for “serious and pervasive noncompliance”. Smith also owed back taxes from 2014, 2015 and 2016 and was forced to resign his council position in March for violating the City Charter. According to an in-depth investigative report by KXAN, Smith’s wife (who is President of the Wilco Young Republican’s) was found to have falsified personnel information for Smith’s business. Here is her odd take on the loss.
While a few party insiders continue to play Monday morning quarterback, making excuses instead of providing solutions, some saw this coming. Last week, Sun City Club VP Cathy Cody issued a stern warning….The Democrats aren’t coming, they are here, and if something isn’t done and done quickly, Williamson County will continue its slide blue.
In 2014, Judge Bill Gravell spoke at the Republican Party County Convention. In what many view as a prophetic statement about the future of the Republican Party in Williamson County, especially in Pct 1, Gravell said “Republicans in Williamson County, especially in Pct 1, must see the reality of what is happening and take action now or we will pay dearly later”.
Judge Gravell went a step further by challenging everyone in the room to go out and work to register new Republican voters in their precincts. In fact, Judge Gravell returned to Pct 3, and with the help of Sun City Republican leaders, they registered thousands of new Republican voters. Pct 1 did not heed his warning and are now suffering the consequences.
The Republican Party better face the harsh reality of what is happening and make the necessary changes that are badly needed to get the Republican train back on its tracks, especially in Pct. 1 (and now Pct. 2). It will take strong leadership from those like Cathy Cody to see that happens. If they do not, trending blue may soon be the “new normal” in Williamson County. This isn’t a candidate problem, this is a party problem.
The Austin America Statesman is reporting on our story from Wednesday regarding Georgetown City Councilmember Rachael Jonrowe improperly placing campaign signs on Southwestern University property.
“Jonrowe did not get the required approval to put her signs on campus Monday”, said Jason Chapman, the assistant director of student activities and residence life.
According to the Statesman, “Jonrowe said she didn’t know about the approval policy and when officials told her about it she removed her signs.”
A Georgetown resident took to facebook Wednesday stating: “4 ½ hours after violating Southwestern’s policy, her signs were removed. Approximately 2 hours later, she violated policy again by having her van with signs on, parked by the polling place.”
The Statesman went on to say “She also said she did not put her signs within 100 feet of the mobile voting location that was on the university campus Monday.”
Jonrowe has come under fire recently for possibly violating basic rules and regulations of obtaining permits and inspections for construction projects at her residence.
Jonrowe sidestepped the permitting controversy in an interview with the Statesman a few weeks ago. The Statesman article stated: “Jonrowe said she wouldn’t comment on the details of her personal home renovation projects and ‘allow them to be used as part of a political smear campaign’.”
According to records obtained from the City of Georgetown, no inspections occurred after December 29, 2014 on a swimming pool being built at Jonrowe’s residence and showing no electrical permit, electrical inspection or a final inspection of the pool was obtained or conducted. Jonrowe never admitted to the Statesman reporter if in fact she ever obtained the required permits and final inspection on the pool.
Jonrowe also refused to comment on failing to obtain permits regarding the renovation of her home when the work began in the fall of 2016. October 2016, Jonrowe stated to several people she was renovating her home. No permits for the renovations were located at that time. Then on March 8, 2017, the Wilco Sun published an interview stating Jonrowe was conducting “an extensive house re-model” on her home which appraised at $301,452.00 in 2016. Oddly, only two days prior to the story hitting print, an “Electrical Trade permit, Mechanical Trade permit, Plumbing Trade permit and a Residential Remodel, Alteration, Addition or Accessory permit was issued.
Many are calling for Ms. Jonrowe to “come clean” with full disclosure of why she did not obtain permits in 2016 when her home renovations began and if she did or did not obtain an electrical permit and final inspection of her pool. If not, why has she and her family been using the pool since 2015 without the required permits and inspections? Perhaps we may never know since Ms. Jonrowe feels her “personal business” has no bearing on her public position as an elected official.
With early voting in full swing, it appears one Georgetown City Council candidate is having as many issues following election laws as she has had with the City permitting process. According to several residents, self described “liberal Democrat” Place 6 candidate Rachael Jonrowe possibly violated election laws concerning electioneering. Violating election laws is a criminal offense.
Sec. 85.036. ELECTIONEERING. (a) During the time an early voting polling place is open for the conduct of early voting, a person may not electioneer for or against any candidate, measure, or political party in or within 100 feet of an outside door through which a voter may enter the building or structure in which the early voting polling place is located.
Here is a post from one resident regarding Jonrowe:
We will have more on this and other possible violations soon.
KXAN is reporting an outside criminal investigation has been requested by the Hutto City Attorney regarding former employees and “others” who may have abused their access to official information and unlawfully disclosed that information.
HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — Hutto’s city attorney is requesting an outside investigation into whether or not city employees misused official information.
The city released a press release stating it has identified a series of incidents where employees and others might have disclosed or used information that they obtained by means of their employment for non-governmental purposes. Texas law prohibits public servants from releasing information that would not have otherwise been public.
The city says its investigation revealed some former city employees and potentially others abused their access to official information. “In particular, these employees appear to have taken information they had access to only because of their positions as employees of the city of Hutto and disclosed that information for some form of personal gain,” said the city in the release.
Hutto has been draining the swamp recently with the forced resignation of disgraced former City Councilman Michael J. Smith and “resignations” of former Council member Bettina Jordan, Ex-Police Chief Earl Morrison and former City Manager Karen Daly.
Misuse of Official information is a felony. Looks like some “former City employees” and “others” associated with them may soon be headed to the “Wilco Hilton”.
Georgetown City Council member Rachel Jonrowe has once again found herself in the middle of yet another controversy. Last week, the issue of Jonrowe refusing to say “Under God” during the pledge of allegiance, while on the dais, erupted. This week, it appears Jonrowe may not have followed the basic rules and regulations of obtaining permits and inspections for construction projects at her residence.
The City of Georgetown website spells out the permitting process in great detail when it comes to residential and commercial projects. Below is an excerpt.
Q: When is a permit required?
Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical, or plumbing system requires a permit.
A permit is required for: (For full list visit the city of Georgetown permit page here.)
Demolitions, Additions, Remodel, Renovations, Swimming Pool
Swimming Pool Process
According to records obtained from the City of Georgetown, in December 2014, Jonrowe applied for a permit to construct a pool at her residence. According to inspection reports, it appears the layout was approved on December 11, 2014. An inspection for the pool steel/plumbing rough and pool bonding was scheduled on December 23, 2014 but was cancelled. On December 29th, the pool steel and pool bonding inspection sequence was conducted. The pool steel/plumbing rough portion passed but the pool bonding inspection failed.
Comments by the inspector under the pool bonding portion that failed inspection states: “Pool bond is good, but need electrical permit”. The information provided by the City only indicated records and inspection history on the pool occurred up to the 12/29/14 inspection and nothing after that date. If in fact no further inspections occurred, that would indicate no electrical permit, electrical inspection or a final inspection of the pool was conducted.
Fast forward to October 2016, Jonrowe stated to several people she was renovating her home. No permits for the renovations were located at that time. Then on March 8, 2017, the Wilco Sun published an interview stating Jonrowe was conducting “an extensive house re-model” on her home which appraised at $301,452.00 in 2016. Oddly, only two days prior to the story hitting print, an “Electrical Trade permit, Mechanical Trade permit, Plumbing Trade permit and a Residential Remodel, Alteration, Addition or Accessory permit was issued.
According to documents from the City of Georgetown, no final inspection report on the remodel appears to have been issued.
At a forum held last weekend, Jonrowe was critical of the permitting process. Jonrowe stated: “In a lot of ways, this process seems to goes a lot smoother for the big companies that come in to Georgetown than it does for individual homeowners.”
One resident stated: “I have to follow the rules, why doesn’t she? Claiming ignorance won’t cut it either. After all, she is a city council member and should know the permitting process better than any one else. Why has she been remolding her house since last year but never applied for or received any permits until a few weeks ago? Odd coming from someone who supports more guidelines and HARC regulations. She needs to explain herself.”
We will update you on this major issue as we receive more information.
It appears a simple question posed to Place 6 Georgetown City Councilmember Rachael Jonrowe has evolved into quite the facebook debate. Jonrowe was asked: “Can you please confirm if you do or do not say “under God” during the pledge of allegiance? Thank you in advance for your prompt reply.”
Several of Jonrowes supporters (who claim to be inclusive) immediately jumped on the poster calling him a “troll”, ignorant and other names saying Jonrowe’s personal views were none of his business. Jonrowe, a well known far left liberal Democrat, responded: “It’s not easy to answer, for public officials dedicated to making sure all constituents feel welcomed and listened to, no matter their faith, or lack thereof, whether they be Christian or Muslim or Jewish or None of the Above. And so, I do not answer public questions about my personal faith practices. In my opinion, those are discussions best held with family and dear friends.”
The poster replied “your facebook page states ‘Rachael believes that our government is only as good as the people who are elected. She wants to encourage more people to: be aware of who their representatives are, get involved, and encourage accountability & transparency. Through the use of social networking tools and letting constituents know of her availability, she hopes to elicit feedback from a wide variety of citizens in District 6’, so I am asking is a simple question”.
The back and forth went on for several hours. At one point, Mayoral candidate Sherwin Khan jumped in the fray. “Sherwin Kahn: You sir are nothing but a troll. Your question is inapproriate [sic] and your associations on Facebook make it clear you are nothing but an impostor and a bully. You should be reported.” The poster replied, “Reported? For what, asking a simple question of an elected official?”
Khan then posted on his page: “Trolled again this morning. This time by the troll that was harassing Rachael Jonrowe yesterday.” Perhaps Mr. Khan should understand asking a simple question of an elected official isn’t “trolling” or “harassing”. It’s a voters right.
We were sent this picture from Khan’s page. The person who sent it stated “This guy calls people “trolls” but posts things like this from a page called ‘liberal trolls’? Hypocrite much?”
The debate finally ended when the original poster stated “I am afraid that this page falls in line with the Public Information Act since it’s political and since she is an elected official. Privacy is a slippery slope…ask her maybe she can clarify that for you. I had a simple question about a public elected official. I have my “answer” with a “non-answer” by the candidate.”
If Ms. Jonrowe wishes to not say “under God” while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during council meetings, that is her prerogative and the electorate will decide if that issue is important to them on election day. However, it is also the right of any constituent to ask questions of their elected officials who represent them without being attacked, being called “trolls” and harassed.
Another City Councilmember resigned last night in Hutto. First, Michael Smith who was found to have had over ten thousand dollars in unresolved back tax liens along with other issues and now Bettina Jordan, the councilwoman most characterized as Smith’s “yes man” on the dais.
Bettina Jordan’s resignation, described by many as a temper tantrum, will ultimately cost the taxpayers of Hutto over 12k, the price-tag for a special election to be held later this year to fill her abandoned position.
Two weeks ago, Michael Smith, after being found ineligible to run for office and also unqualified to hold the seat, was forced to resign. His resignation stemmed from back taxes he owed the city of Hutto related to a business he owned that was shut down by the State of Texas for “serious and pervasive noncompliance”. After further digging by KXAN, the back taxes owed by Smith may be the least of his worries.
New findings have surfaced showing Smith may have perjured himself with documents he filed with the State Comptroller Office and the County Clerks office. Sources say a criminal complaint may soon be filed against Smith regarding these issues.
To make matters even more confusing, even though Smith was forced to resign and ruled ineligible to run for office, his name will stay on the ballot. The election code states if a candidate is ruled ineligible after the 78th day prior to election, their name remains on the ballot. This is where it gets tricky.
The Election Code states: In an election where there is no runoff requirement (i.e., election is by plurality): If a candidate dies or is declared ineligible after the deadline, the candidate’s name will remain on the ballot, and any votes cast for that candidate must be counted in the regular manner. If the candidate receives the vote required for the election, a vacancy results and is filled in the regular manner of filling vacancies in the political subdivision.
What does that mean? Simply put, if Smith were to pull off a miracle and win more votes than Tim Jordan, the election is null, forcing a special election for that seat. Given more legal troubles may be on the horizon for Smith, he could again be ineligible for that election as well.
Fast forward to August, the seat abandoned by Bettina Jordan last night will again go to the ballot to fill the unexpired 2 years remaining for the seat. City Council will more than likely place this issue on the agenda for their next meeting to temporarily fill this vacancy until the special election is held later this year.
Many spoke out on social media today about Bettina Jordan’s sudden resignation. One person commented, “We need to put a cardboard figure in it. Same input less trouble.” Another stated “After watching those meetings Thursday after Thursday. I will say that seat being empty is not gonna be much different than when she was sitting in it. Might get lucky and the empty seat might actually ask a question or at least look interested in being there.”
Needless to say, it’s a mess in Hutto but there appears to be a bright light at the end of the tunnel. The newer council members elected since 2015, along with the addition of Tim Jordan and a competent Place 6 member should calm the waters for some smooth sailing. A refreshing change of pace that hasn’t been seen in Hutto for many years.
KXAN is reporting breaking news that embattled Hutto Councilman Michael Smith has resigned.
Hutto Councilman Michael Smith resigns amid tax concerns
HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — Hutto Mayor Pro Tem and City Councilman Michael J. Smith resigned from his post Monday, days after a KXAN investigation revealed outstanding tax issues and a questionable affidavit he filed in the Williamson County Clerk’s Office.
Smith said he was not aware of the tax issue until KXAN contacted him Feb. 27. Days later, Smith said he paid the taxes, and he was working to rectify any taxation issues.
In a March 3 Facebook post, Smith said he was in “constant contact” with Mayor Doug Gaul and the city attorney, and he was going to work with them on “whatever course of action is determined to be in the best interest of the city.”
KXAN first reported Smith had $146 in unpaid city and county taxes associated with his former day habilitation business, Beyond The Limits, dating back to 2014. Smith filed to run for reelection in May, while he still had unpaid taxes, according to Williamson County tax assessor-collector records and Hutto City Secretary election forms.
“After consultation with Michael to verify the facts and consultation with our City Attorney, Michael Smith submitted his resignation effective immediately,” Gaul said in a prepared statement Monday. “We would like to wish Michael the best of luck in the future and thank him for his years of service and dedication to the City of Hutto.”
According to the Hutto city charter, a candidate may not file to run in an election and be in arrears in the payment of taxes due to the city. It is not clear if Smith is still a candidate in the May election. City of Hutto spokesperson Jill Cloud said she did not have details on how the resignation would impact Smith’s place in the City Council race, and his candidacy is a “personal matter.”
According to the city charter, a majority of the City Council “shall appoint a qualified replacement to fulfill the remainder of the vacant term should the remainder of the term be less than one year.”
In addition to the outstanding taxes, Smith filed, and signed under oath, an affidavit in the county clerk’s office stating he was not associated with three unique documents in the county’s records. A KXAN review of those documents found that one was clearly a state tax lien related to Smith and his former business, Beyond the Limits. Smith said there was an error, and he had rectified the situation.
Smith’s former day habilitation center, Beyond the Limits, is closely linked to his former group home business, A Step Beyond. Both of those companies were shut down by the state in 2015, after state investigators found numerous serious issues, including possible falsification of a background check and mishandling of patient medication.
Smith told KXAN he had taken issue with the Department of Aging and Disability Services report, but he would not comment on the allegations in it. “Any mistakes that were made we’ve dealt with the consequences from that, and we have moved on,” Smith previously told KXAN.
We were asked to provide supporting documents related to the Tax Liens, Questionable Affidavit and falsification of documents regarding embattled Hutto City Councilman Michael Smith. See below:
Jan 19, 2016 Lien 2016004330 for unpaid wages Click Here
Sworn Affidavit by Smith stating above Lien 2016004330 did not belong to him. Click Here
November 8, 2016 Lien Release for unpaid wages (Paid the day after the deed for the sale of his home was executed (Nov 7, 2016) and affidavit stating this did not belong to him) Click Here
Tax Lien for unpaid taxes from 2012 Click Here
2012 Tax Lien Release executed Nov 9, 2016 (Executed two days after the deed for the sale of his home was executed) Click Here
May 2016 Lien for unpaid wages in the amount of $3,850.00 (No release on file) Click Here
August 2015 Tax Lien for unpaid back taxes in the amount of $7,288.29 (No release on file) Click Here
Full May 2015 Texas Department of Aging and Disability Investigation Report related to Kristen Smith admitting to falsifying documents and other issues related to the closure of Smith’s business by the State of Texas. (bottom page 5 and top of page 6 for details regarding Kristen Smith’s admissions) Click Here
In 2015, the State of Texas shut down several group homes operated by Hutto City Councilman Michael Smith for “serious and pervasive noncompliance”. According to KXAN, Smith owes back taxes on that business which renders him ineligible to run for reelection this May, according to the Hutto City Charter, and also disqualifies him from currently holding office.
According to KXAN, Smith owes back taxes from 2014, 2015 and 2016. KXAN first asked Smith about the taxes Monday. On Tuesday, Smith said there was an error and he had paid the taxes. However, according to the Wilco Tax Assessor Website, they have not been paid as of 3pm today.
KXAN also reported:
In addition, a state investigation into Smith’s former group home business says Smith directed his HR director to falsify personnel information, among other issues, according to a 2015 Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services report obtained by KXAN through the Texas Public Information Act.
In that report cited, Investigators with Aging and Disability Services asked Kristen Smith, the wife of Michael Smith and current director of the Hutto Education Foundation, to produce a background check on a person who was in contact with disabled clients. Kristen Smith said she destroys all documents every month. The report went on to say:
“The review team informed her that she is required to maintain records for 6 years. Review team then requested a copy of the one page background verification sheet she produced earlier. Kristen S returned several minutes later and asked to speak to a reviewer in private. The reviewer informed her that she could speak in front of the tea,. Kristen S proceeded to admit she falsified the one page background verification that she produced earlier. She further stated she filled out the for to indicate some checks were performed on 1/29/15 because Michael S told her that’s when they were done. As such, the program provider HR Director admitted to falsification of personnel information at the direction of the program director.”
Another major issue was discovered by KXAN. When Smith was asked about an affidavit of identity he signed regarding one of the several liens filed against Smith, he told KXAN:
“It was clearly a mistake that was made, but it was caught,” Smith said. “A tax lien is paid before we see any dividends from the house. So, it is not that we sold the house and then paid off the lien.”
On November 7, 2016, a sworn affidavit of identity was filed, by Smith, with the Williamson County Clerk’s office. The affidavit states “Affiant is NOT the same person(s) named in the matters filed of record under the document numbers: 2016004330 Official Public Records, Williamson County, Texas.” Problem is, according to filed documents, 2016004330 was in fact Smith’s lien. Smith then executed a deed document at the same time, selling his home after signing the affidavit.
Strangely, just one day later, on November 8, 2016, the lien from the TWC Smith said did not belong to him was paid and the lien was released. The other lien for back taxes owed in the amount of $2,100.00 since 2012 was also paid by Smith, according to documents, on November 9th, 2016.
In all, Smith had multiple liens filed for unpaid wages to back taxes owed. Some were paid, others still show to have not been released. In fact, two additional tax liens were discovered (not reported by KXAN) totaling over $11,000.00 owed to the State of Texas.
On October 18, 2016, Smith shut down his business, filing a Termination of Existence form (under oath) with the Secretary of State stating he did not owe any taxes on the business. In fact, according to the Wilco County Clerks website, there are two liens under the businesses name that have not been released which could lead to even more problems for Smith. One lien is for unpaid taxes totaling $7,288.29 and the other for unpaid salary owed to a former employee in the amount of $3,850.00.
Smith, was one of 7 Council members who amended the City Charter in 2009. He of all people should know full well he stands in violation of the City Charter relating to the unpaid back taxes. Question is, will he abide by the same rules he put in place. Judging by his post on social media, apparently not.
HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — Michael J. Smith, an incumbent Hutto City Council candidate, has unpaid city taxes that could impact his eligibility to run for office. He filed a questionable affidavit in the county record related to a state tax lien, according to records obtained by KXAN.
The race for several City Council and Mayor positions around Williamson County is now set. These positions are “non-partisan” races but the political contrasts between candidates are stark to say the least. Here are your candidates in Georgetown and Hutto.
Georgetown City Council Place 2
Georgetown City Council Place 6
Hutto City Council Place 1
Hutto City Council Place 4
We will highlight these races and the individual candidates as each campaign progresses. We will also highlight other races in Round Rock and Cedar Park. This May election should get very interesting.
In 2016, a removal suit was filed against former Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty, in part, because she rarely showed up to her office in 2016. Now, the results of her absence are coming to light and it’s not a pretty picture for taxpayers and victims of crime.
Inherited backlog puts Williamson County DA months behind
GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — As new Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick and his team settle into their office at the Williamson County Justice Center, they’re finding boxes of files everywhere, including 218 cases dating back to 2014.
“It’s pretty alarming. I knew it was a bunch, I didn’t figure it was going to be that many cases from that long ago,” explains Dick. “Do we have dangerous individuals, are there people we need to be actively looking for? Is it just a mistake? It’s certainly a lot of manpower we’re having to invest now.”
Dick says his team is sorting through the cases now, and he isn’t sure how far behind this will put his office. He says they’re already playing catch up with current cases and are about 3 months behind. But they are making progress. “I hope people will be patient and understand we’re trying to do the right thing on each case.”
Former Williamson County DA Jana Duty lost to Dick in the 2016 primary. Dick says he has not reached out to Duty to ask about the old cases they found, saying her office was not cooperative in the transition, and he doesn’t believe that would change now. KXAN reached out to Duty to ask about the backlog, but have not heard back.
During her time as Williamson County District Attorney, Duty tried two felony cases; one ended in a murder conviction that was reversed in December. An appeals court ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict Rex Nisbett of murdering his wife. The second case was a capital murder trial against Crispin Harmel, which ended in mistrial. That is after a judge ruled Duty withheld evidence from defense attorneys and violated a gag order. Her actions got her jailed and sanctioned by the state bar.
An article was published in the Williamson County Sun yesterday regarding the controversial $53m bond package that has been placed on hold, for now.
In the article, one Hutto Appointed Official stated a proposed 6 million dollar swimming pool was a priority, even though the majority of residents are staunchly against it.
The Sun stated: “Perry Savard says the thought of city spending does not bother him, even if it means a rise in taxes. ‘We need a lot of stuff and that’s the only way to get that stuff,’ he said. ‘We’ve been kicking the community pool down the road for the past 15 years.’”
The article continues “Mr. Savard is on his forth year as a member of the Parks Advisory board.” Savard was also recently appointed, in a controversial 3-4 vote of the council, to also serve on the Hutto Charter Review Committee. “In citywide surveys, residents list a pool as one of their top priorites, he said”.
Actually, the 2016 survey shows out of the eight issues proposed to residents, ranging from a Fire Station, Police Station, Roadway improvements, etc., the pool came in rated as least important to tax payers only ahead of a dog park.
The article made its rounds in local Hutto Community facebook pages that sparked more controversy. Savard engaged in the facebook comments, attempting to defend himself saying the reporter tried to make him “look bad”. Savard then made several incendiary comments, including comments berating Hutto business owner, Jason Wirth.
Below are the comments. If you are sensitive to profanity, here’s your warning. (PG13) This has led several residents calling for Savard’s immediate resignation. One stated: “Nice to know the City has folks like this representing them. Foul mouthed, free spending bureaucrats who think they can tell me what I need. And they wonder why we are cleaning house on May 6th? They never learn”.
It’s important to note, Perry Savard has since deleted his comments below.
Updated with correction. We originally reported Savard serves on the Bond Committee. That was corrected to Charter Reviw Committee.
Williamson County has itself a new County Auditor: (Soon to be former) Williamson County Treasurer Jerri Jones. No doubt Jones will be a watchdog over our tax dollars and how they are spent.
Some folks in County government better get used to a person who has zero tolerance for nonsense. She’s tough, but fair. She’s extremely intelligent but not pretentious. She is (for now) an elected official but she’s not a “politician”. What you see is what you get with Jones. She is a true leader. One thing for certain, she always has the best interest of Williamson County at heart and that is great news for Williamson County.
Below is the press release from Williamson County:
January 13, 2017 (Williamson County, TX) – The district judges of Williamson County are proud to announce the appointment of Jerri L. Jones as the new County Auditor for Williamson County.
Ms. Jones has more than 20 years of financial experience including payroll, budgeting, accounting, and analyzing cost data for major military organizations. Ms. Jones served honorably in the United States Marine Corps for 20 years as a Finance Officer achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. During Ms. Jones’ tenure with the Corps, she gained valuable experience in accounting, auditing, payroll, quality assurance, and financial management working her way up to Comptroller of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Okinawa, Japan. In her capacity as Comptroller, Lt Col Jones managed a $350 million Navy budget and a $150 million Marine Corps budget in support of air and ground units in the Pacific.
In the Corps and in private life, Ms. Jones has exhibited her talents as a systems expert. Following military service Ms. Jones was a mid-level manager in manufacturing for Solectron, Texas. Later, Ms. Jones became the Executive Director of the non-profit Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center. While Director, she managed contract negotiations and construction accounting of the Advocacy Center facility built on Inner Loop Road in Georgetown. Currently, Ms. Jones serves as County Treasurer and manages the county’s revenue and investments. Soon after taking office, Ms. Jones led the extensive effort to select a new financial institution for the county’s banking needs. The project included banking reviews, account analysis and successful conversion of the county’s extensive departmental accounts. Additionally, under Ms. Jones’ leadership, the Treasurer’s office has reduced redundancies, increased efficiency and expanded the county’s investment activity.
County auditors work to help ensure that all aspects of county finances are properly accounted for and safeguarded. Leadership, independence and strong ethics are essential for the County Auditor to perform her duties. The District Judges of Williamson County believe that Ms. Jones’ overall experience, leadership qualities, and proven track record make her the right choice to move Williamson County forward in the coming years. Ms. Jones is expected to assume her new duties as County Auditor no later than March 1, 2017.
Last Thursday, a hot topic on the agenda for the Hutto City Council was current City projects and the massive cost overruns of those projects. One project detailed was the East Street Project from Pecan to Farley. The initial budget for this project was $ 899,000.00. It now stands at $ 1,139,382.00, $240,382.00 over budget.
City Manager Odis Jones spoke candidly about project mismanagement and the resulting consequences.
“Let me be real direct, it happens when you don’t do a good job with scoping and costing a project” [speaking of the massive overruns.] “This is where we are. Moving forward, I’m going to be hands on and we have to do better work with how we structure our projects. Whether managing projects big or small, it’s junk in and junk out. You got to have real clear objectives and a real tight scope and contracts that are tightly done to protect you. We’ve got to do things where we are more sophisticated in terms of how we manage our contracts.”
Council member Anne Cano, who has been on the council since 2009 stated, “We’ve been here before, and that’s what happened to Farley and why the last block of Farley got cut out.” The cost proposed by the City to complete Farley in 2009 for the bond election was $1,283,600.00. However, in 2011, bids to complete the 1,800 square feet Farley roadway project came in nearly $1 million over the City’s projected $1,283,600.00 million dollar estimate.
To save money, the council voted to cut the Farley Street project from four blocks to three, eliminating the block between Short and West Street. Council member Anne Cano made the motion to award a total of $ 1,618,630.00 and set aside an additional $ 100,000.00 in project contingency and the motion was seconded by Council member Michael Smith. $435,000,00 over original budget.
Back to the Jan 5th council meeting regarding the East Street cost overrun, Council member Lucio, said “this has been in the plans for how many years. We outta have a guide in place already.”
Council member Hines who is one of the newer members to the council stated, “that’s correct, we have been here before, and before and before, and before”, clearly frustrated that projects are poorly managed and overrun with costs.
Council member Cano is correct, we have been here before, time and again. The latest East Street project, the Fritz Park 3.5 million dollar boondoggle, The 2.5 million dollar Gin “open air pavilion” project (that has no restrooms, A/C or heat) 200k over budget, Farley Street project and The YMCA to name a few.
Prop 4 of the 2009 Bond Initiative was for the construction of the YMCA. A bond package was approved by the voters totaling 5 million dollars to complete the project. But poor planning led to major cost overruns. The two major overruns that were reported (we have not yet investigated the final cost) were to the tune of almost ¾ of a million dollars over budget. $736,072.00 to be exact.
Of the $736,072.00 overrun, $550,000.00 was due to poor initial planning by the City that included no large site improvement. Also, the cost of bringing water and wastewater lines and access roads to the site were not included in estimates proposed in the bond election. The other $ 186,000.00 was due to cost related design and construction overruns.
Back again to the January 5th meeting, debate broke out regarding the necessity of focusing all of the funds on one downtown project when so many other areas of the City are badly in need of improvements.
Council member Michael Smith said he’s fine listening to input from other members about reducing scope and costs and then said “this is not a project we half ass. This is the center of our downtown.”
Councilman Killough fired back stating “Is this to make something look pretty again”, referring to the Fritz Park 2 million cost overrun.
Smith said “we’re adding parking”. Cano said “this keeps people from driving in the ditch across from the Hall of Fame”.
Killough said “We have 990 thousand dollars. So functionally, can’t we take that money and add it to that lot (the 1.1 million dollars) and resurface a bunch of streets? We are so focused on putting bows on stuff just to make it look pretty. And I’m going to bring it up, how over budget on Fritz are we?”
Gaul said “It’s not just prettying up downtown. We need additional parking downtown. But can we reduce the scope without the pretty bows and have the parking.”
Killough then said “Hold on, I have a hard time swallowing this pill. That you are going to spend 1.1 million dollars on one street while only allotting only 990k to use on all of the rest of the streets. Let’s be a little logical here and take a different approach and think about the financial standing of how much can I get done and how many more roads can we repair and fix.”
Council member Lucio said, “But this was a bond thing”, thinking the bond funds were dedicated just for the downtown project.
Killough then said “no that bond was for ALL roads.”
Smith then said “it’s for downtown I remember”.
Gaul then said “It’s not just resurfacing, it’s additional parking.”
Smith then said “If you remember Farley Street before we did that project.”
Killough said “I do, now with a whole lot of empty parking.”
Cano said “That’s too far to walk and they won’t go to the businesses.”
Gaul then said, “People aren’t going to park there and walk down to the businesses and go eat” referring to the parking on Farley Street that is only one block away. (see map)
Killough then said “We should go back to needs, not wants.”
The council then agreed to try to reduce the overrun by eliminating some of the project and would go “line by line” through each expenditure, just as they did Farley Street.
To clarify, Council member Killough was in fact correct. The 2009 Bond Election, specifically Proposition 1, was for the issuance of $8,500,000 in General Obligation bonds for street improvements within the City, not just “downtown”.
Prop 1 states “The City of Hutto be authorized to issue general Obligation Bonds of the City in the principal amount of 8,500,000.00 for the permanent public improvements and public purposes, to wit: constructing and improving streets WITHIN THE CITY and includes installation of underground drainage, sidewalks, and streetscaping to several downtown streets. Below is the full bond initiative language for Pro 1.
Hutto tax payers have been tagged with millions in cost overruns on poorly scoped and managed projects. The specifics of promised projects have been reduced or outright eliminated in some projects sold to tax payers in 2009. This has led to Hutto residents paying much closer attention to business conducted by the council.
One resident said “Seems to me a few of these council members don’t learn from their mistakes. 103 million in debt and nothing but politically spun excuses. Conservative my back side. When I don’t have money at home for something I “want”, I don’t just go charge it up, I have to do without until I save enough for it. I have to live within my means. When I have a project at home, I make plans and have a solid budget. If it goes over budget, I have to wait until I have the money to complete it. I don’t have a credit card someone else pays for like these politicians do. At least we have a few new council folks up there and a new City Manager who are trying get a hold of this mess. I’ve had enough and you can bet come May I’ll vote to put some more new blood up there.”
As Einstein once said, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” We will have more as this develops.
Last night, Hutto City Manager Odis Jones gave a dose of reality to the City Council regarding the proposed 53 million dollar bond package slated for the May 6th election.
Jones said he would like to see “deep dive” and intense 120-day evaluation of city finances and develop a plan for growth over the next 3 to 5 years. Jones said “We need to look at the financial state of the city and what can we afford to do. We need to take the time to assess where we are financially. I want to make sure we are prepared.”
Jones also warned not to make the same mistakes on how bonds are handled. As reported prior, some of the projects are still under construction at much higher costs with great cost overruns. Jones also briefly spoke about the “elephant” in the room; the Fritz Park bond debacle.
“Fritz Park is an example, for me and my staff, when you don’t spend the right time getting answers,” Jones said. “That’s a project that has not been managed correctly.”
“We’ve got a lot of questions to answer,” Jones said. “Fifty-three million is a lot to put on the backs of taxpayers. I’m a conservative guy. The council will need to be truly engaged.”
Council member Michael Smith said (while laughing), “ahhh, that’s walking around money”, which infuriated one person watching. “That right there is the problem. That mentality is why we are in debt over our heads and the mess we are in. I can barley get by as it is. This is no joking matter”.
Discussion of cost overruns on current bond projects were then discussed. Some comments left some shaking their heads. One council member said “we have been here before, and before and before” regarding the tens if not hundreds of thousands in cost overruns. “They’ve been there before and before and before and they still haven’t learned? Thank God for Odis Jones looking out for us because clearly some of these people have no clue what’s going on, don’t care or don’t mind because they can always put more on the tax payers back”.
Jones said better contracts and smarter planning moving forward is essential so the same reoccurring mistakes from the past are not again repeated.
The council then decided to delay the bond election from May to possibly November after “more review”.
After yesterday’s revelations of Hutto’s massive hidden debt, the spin has begun from a few local politicians. As the old saying goes, “liars figure, but figures don’t lie”. With that said, here is a quick analysis of debt in Hutto since December 31, 2008.
At the beginning of 2009, Hutto maintained 33 million in principal tax supported debt. That number more than doubled over the past eight years to almost 75 million. Combined with interest, debt rose from 59 Million to almost 104 million dollars. $103,959,928.96 to be exact. One million nine hundred fifty-nine thousand nine hundred twenty eight dollars and ninety-six cents.
As you can see from the data above, the tax rate has been raised 4 cents since 2008 and debt has more than doubled. Now, every man, woman and child in Hutto owes $3,287.78 each in debt.
This morning, Council member Michael Smith announced his intention to seek re-election for Place 4. Council member Ann Cano will not seek re-election for Place 1.
Smith’s term began in May 2009. During his announcement, he touted his “economic development and business experience”. Smith says “his work is not yet done” and “looks forward to three more years”.
The source for our data. The Texas Bond Review Board.
The Hutto City Council’s appointed Bond Committee is recommending a whopping 53.5 million dollar bond package. The City Council must call the election by February 17, 2017, in order to hold a May 2017 Bond election identified by the Committee.
The proposed bond election totals $53,575,000 and would be split over four propositions.
Proposition 1 totaling $14,100,000 for Public Safety facilities including a fire station and police station.
Proposition 2 totaling $18,600,000 for Transportation improvements.
Proposition 3 totaling $17,800,000 for Park improvements including athletic fields, family aquatic center (your six million dollar swimming pool), and parkland acquisition.
Proposition 4 totaling $3,075,000 for construction of a Maintenance Facility for the City of Hutto.
If all propositions were approved by the voters and the City Council proceeded with issuance of the debt, the interest and sinking portion of the tax rate could increase your tax bill over $320.00. The tax increase is fashioned with figures such as “.14 – .16 cents” to minimize the sticker shock.
Residents of Hutto agree there is a tremendous need for a fire station on the south side of Hwy 79. Hutto is also in need of new roads and improvement to current roads, a reasonable practice for bond initiatives. However, according to the majority of Hutto residents, at this time, they can not stomach a six million dollar swimming pool and other bloated and needless projects at the taxpayers expense.
Bundling certain projects together on the ballot creates voter dilemma and bond proponents know this. Combining the fire station and police station in one initiative and a swimming pool cleverly described as a “family aquatic center” with parkland acquisition is another example of this practice. It’s clear only a small handful of people and a couple of politically motivated politicians want the pool. However, bundling the pool with additional park land, something most residents want, places voters between a rock and a hard place.
The main factor? The actual “legal” bond wording does not appear on the ballot. All a citizen ever hears is what is sold to them by politicians and bond proponents in cleverly crafted brochures with carefully phrased buzz words. A prime example is those used in 2009 such as: “I look at it like an economic machine”, “Everyone gets nervous when their taxes go up, but it’s an investment” and “The residual is the community gets to use those facilities”.
Voter confusion and misleading bond initiative wording is another issue. We saw what happened in 2009 when a broadly written bond initiative was proposed and vague wording was on the actual ballot. In 2009, citizens were sold a bill of goods in city distributed literature, but the actual bond language (below) sat in the background allowing the funds to be later distributed on issues outside of those promised to the voters.
Unfortunately, reporters never outline the devil in the details, pitching the highlights of the proposed projects, not covering the actual bond language. As you can see below, it looks great on paper, but in reality is very misleading.
Another liability never mentioned in detail is interest payments on bonds. With interest rates now on the rise, the principal borrowed combined with interest is a hidden liability. Bond proposals are pitched in a way credit card company’s hooks a consumer into applying for and charging up the card. They never remind the consumer they eventually have to pay back not only what is charged, but also interest. It’s the “easy way to get it now” method.
Another way these bonds are pitched is by special interest groups who have a vested interest seeig they are approved by voters. In 2009, a political action committee (PAC) called Moving Hutto 4ward was formed to push the 2009 bond initiative. Many of its chief organizers were the same people who served on the Bond Committee and also selected the projects that appeared on the ballot. The PAC tagged along with city officials to “informational meetings” in 2009, placed calls, put up signs and went door to door pitching their effort. No doubt you will see this again.
Below is a brochure distributed by the City in 2009. It details several projects regarding Fritz Park that were ultimately omitted earlier this year in a controversial split 4-3 vote by city council, headed by council member Michael Smith. What was promised publicly before the election in 2009 by Smith and other proponents now no longer exists. There will be no bleachers or seats in the new stadium, only staggered rows of concrete to sit on. The playground, gone. Batting cages, gone. The parking lot, gone. The internal walking trail, gone. Restoring the tennis courts, gone. Landscaping, gone. The one million dollars set aside for future park land, gone.
In 2014 taxpayers were on the hook for over 54 million in tax supported debt.
Now, for what you didn’t know. The taxpayers of Hutto currently owe a whopping $103,959,929 in debt. One hundred three million nine hundred fifty nine thousand nine hundred twenty nine dollars.
Below is a chart from the Bond Review Board of the State of Texas outlining Hutto’s Debt.
$103,959,929 in debt and another $53.5 million being proposed. Remember, that proposed 53.5 million in new debt doesn’t include interest you and ultimately your kids will be on the hook for. Every man, woman and child who lives in Hutto would be in debt to the tune of approximately $7,200.00 each.
Who is to be held accountable for this out of control debt? Ask any politician and they will say “the voters approved it, not me”. One thing for certain, two current members who have been on City Council since 2009, a period when the majority of this debt was amassed, are up for re-election on May 6, 2017. The voters will ultimately decide who is responsible.
Apparently lame duck District Attorney Jana Duty missed the memo that her term ends on December 31st at midnight. Duty stated Wednesday “a prosecutor will be filing the appeal next week with the Court of Criminal Appeals” regarding a cold case conviction that was overturned two weeks ago by the Third Court of Appeals. Problem is, Duty has no authority to do anything after midnight tomorrow.
Many are speculating Duty is doing everything she can to protect her “legacy” while leaving incoming DA Shawn Dick a huge mess. One person stated “Duty knows this case is dead in the water. She knows an appeal to the Court of Appeals is fruitless or she would have already filed it herself. She wants to dump her mess in Dick’s lap, forcing him to deal with the fallout. At least a professional (Dick) will be able to review the case and make a decision based on facts and the law, not a self serving ‘legacy’.”
Duty said “the Third Court of Appeals seriously abused their discretion and hopefully, the CCA (Court of Criminal Appeals) will right this wrong.” She also attacked the Third Court of Appeals saying:
The moral to this story for prosecutors across the state of Texas is don’t bother trying murder cases where the suspect was smart enough to get rid of the body. If the evidence in this no-body case was not enough, then the State should forgo [SIC] ever trying one of these cases again. The judges on the Third Court are substituting their judgment for the judgment of the 12 jurors that heard all of the evidence and rendered their verdict. Shame on the Third Court. This is not how the system is supposed to work.
Duty is on probation by the State Bar of Texas for multiple violations. According to sources, a new grievance may soon be filed against Duty for her latest tirade, attacking the Third Court of Appeals. One court house insider said “She just never learns her lesson. It seems being thrown in jail for violating the law and slapped by the State Bar of Texas on two separate occasions hasn’t taught her a lesson. A person who demonstrates over and over they are not willing to follow the law or the rules of professional conduct has no business holding a law license, period”.
In June of this year, Duty negotiated and accepted a plea deal acknowledging she lied in a Capital Murder trial and violated a court order. The Evidentiary Panel and Duty agreed and concluded that the following Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct have been violated: 4.01 (a), 3.04(d), 8.02(a), 8.04(a)(3).
One thing for certain, Jana Duty, James Wilson and Lisa Birkman are out and as of midnight tomorrow, irrelevant. Sunday will bring many fresh faces to Williamson County elected positions, replacing several career politicians whose departments are in turmoil. Changes most say are very welcome and long overdue. From Sheriff Elect Chody to DA Elect Dick, cleaning up the messes their predecessors have left are massive. Fortunately, both are experienced professionals, who will no doubt in time, clean up those problems and serve Williamson County well.
2018 primary elections are just around the corner, and without doubt, usher in more change for the better.
Birkman, who has only eight days remaining in office said she alone asked the illegal questions, providing cover for Long who has said she is considering a run for higher office next year. Covey did not ask any questions and only made notes of the applicants answers according to court documents.
The ruling from the Federal Court states in part:
At the trial, Commissioner Long testified that in 2013, applicants’ responses to questions regarding their views on same-sex marriage and abortion were very important to her. Lloyd’s responses to these questions, which Long characterized as a “stumble,” were important to Commissioner Long’s decision. However, it is clear the questions and the answers they elicited were related to Commissioner Long’s decision to vote for Stofle over Lloyd. Accordingly, the Court finds that Commissioner Long’s questioning deprived Lloyd of his right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Long was quoted in the Sun saying: “It has gotten so misconstrued that the whole interview was focused on those questions. Very little time was spent on those issues.”
Long’s attempt to minimize the unlawful conduct as “very little time was spent on these issues” and she did not directly ask the illegal questions is troubling to many. As one courthouse insider said, “If Long and Birkman both believed robbing a bank was acceptable by their ‘beliefs’, drove up to a bank, only Birkman went in to rob the bank and Long drove the getaway car, somehow Long feels less responsible?”
This isn’t the first time Long has been accused of this illegal conduct. Eddie Hurst Jr. said he had interviewed with Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long in 2008 to be appointed to a volunteer board. Hurst said at that time he was on the planning and zoning board commission in Cedar Park. Hurst said Long asked him if he was as conservative as she was, what his opinion on abortion was and how he felt about homosexuality. Long denied asking Hurst those questions and said “He’s lying for political gain.”
Birkman and Long’s attempt to minimize and make excuses for their illegal behavior is telling. Based on their quote (through their attorney) it’s clear they have not, nor will not accept responsibility for their unlawful conduct. “While the county commissioners disagree that they in any way violated any of the plaintiff’s rights, they are glad the litigation is finally over.”
Given Cynthia Long has made it clear to several she has higher political aspirations to run for County Judge, this spin comes at no surprise. But the facts remain, Birkman asked illegal questions. Long participated in the unlawful act. A federal court found Long and Birkman violated the applicants constitutional rights and that conduct has now cost tax payers (to date) $686,339.00 to defend their illegal actions.
The legal bills for November and December have still not been calculated and will greatly increase the total above. Now, the judge has granted Lloyd’s legal team an extension to file a request for his legal fees if the county and Lloyd can not come to an agreement for those fees before January 17, 2017.
The final bill may ultimately reach close to 1.5 million dollars. A huge expense tax payers must swallow defending illegal behavior. Unlawful conduct these commissioners still attempt to minimize.
Commissioner Birkman may think RM 620 improvements may be her “legacy”, but she will always be remembered most as one of the Commissioners who was found to have violated a mans constitutional rights. That, along with the other countless lawsuits over her tenure that have cost the tax payers millions and millions of dollars to litigate or settle.
The latest law suit has cost tax payers, to date, over $700,000. The final bill to tax payers is not yet in but expected to reach close to $1,500,000 (1.5 million). In 2013, Commissioners Cynthia Long and Birkman asked illegal questions in an interview and were recently found, by a Federal Judge, to have violated the applicants constitutional rights.
The Statesman also reported (as we did months ago) Birkman said she is no longer considering a run to lead the Commissioners Court as county judge. But she did not rule out running for elected office in the future. For now, Birkman said she plans to travel with her husband and begin planning for a new political consulting services business.
Several are speculating her first client as a “political consultant” may be Commissioner Cynthia Long who has told several “insiders” she plans to run for County Judge in the 2018 Republican Primary. A run most are predicting will end in disaster based on several issues that will ultimately emerge.
Birkman, attempting to remain relevant, has also hinted a future run in politics. With her recent move to Georgetown, many are guessing she will make a run at the State Rep position currently held by Terry Wilson.
Based on her future political aspirations and those of Long for County Judge, many residents are stunned either would even consider a future in politics much less higher office.
One long time Republican resident in Georgetown said “I’m speechless. I really am. For either of them to think they have a political promotion in their future is mind-boggling. Tone deaf politicians never learn. Apparently breaking the law and costing us a boat load of tax dollars doesn’t apply to them or they think we are stupid. Let em’ run, the voters will remind them who is in charge at the ballot box. We won’t forget. They may think we will, but we won’t, that I promise”.
In 2013, Duty tried a murder cold case against Rex Nesbitt. Nesbitt was accused of killing his estranged wife, Vicki Lynn Nisbett, even though her body was never found. The case was appealed and this morning, the Third Court of Appeals ruled:
“Having reviewed the record and the parties’ arguments, the Court holds that there was reversible error in the trial court’s judgment of conviction. Therefore, the Court reverses the trial court’s judgment of conviction and renders a judgment of acquittal. Appellant is discharged from all further liability for the offense of murder as charged in the indictment. Having concluded that the evidence is legally insufficient to support appellant’s conviction for murder, we reverse the trial court’s judgment of conviction and render a judgment of acquittal.”
Now Duty has a tough decision to make. Does she file a Petition of Discretionary Review? According to sources, Duty has not been at the DA’s office in quite some time so this would create a challenge. Then again, since she has no real knowledge of appellate law, she could pick up the phone (from wherever she is) and order her appellate attorney to do so.
A PDR is merely a petition asking the Court of Criminal Appeals to review the findings. The petition for discretionary review must be filed within 30 days after issuance of the decision or order. If no PDR is filed within the allotted time-frame, then it’s over and double jeopardy laws would bar any further actions in this case, even if new evidence surfaced against Nesbitt.
This ruling deals yet another major blow to Duty’s already questionable judgement, credibility and competency to practice law. Her entire failed 2016 re-election campaign centered around the Nesbitt conviction. Duty published campaign mail pieces touting the conviction and even wrote a lengthy essay that was published by the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association about the case titled “No body, no murder? Not necessarily”.
Duty concluded the essay stating “Sadly, we did not accomplish our main goal, which was to bring Vicki’s remains back to her family. Instead, we will just have to be satisfied with a “guilty” verdict and a 42-year sentence.” Unfortunately for the victims family, that “guilty verdict” too, has ended in failure. Duty has only 15 days left in office, and for many, January 1, 2017 can’t come quickly enough.
The legal bills are flowing in for the taxpayer funded representation of Commissioners Cynthia Long, Lisa Birkman and Val Covey who were found earlier this month to have violated the constitutional rights of an applicant. Brad Stutzman will the Statesman reported yesterday a new batch of bills have hit and much more is expected.
To date, the county has spent just over $400,000 in legal fees, plus another $100,000 in settlements with two other applicants who joined the suit from 2013.
On Tuesday, officials noted the County Auditor’s office has another $200,000 in legal fees are under review.
The above $200,000 does NOT include additional legal billing from the attorneys representing Long, Birkman and Covey from November and December.
Stutzman also reported:
When asked Tuesday, County Judge Dan Gattis distanced himself from commissioners Lisa Birkman, Cynthia Long and Valerie Covey. “(The late Commissioner) Ron Morrison and I did not ask those questions,” he said.
The legal bills tax payers are on the hook for, to represent Long, Birkman and Covey’s illegal actions stand at $700,000. But it gets worse for tax payers. Gattis and Hawes said it’s possible Lloyd could ask the judge to make Williamson County pay what it cost them to take the case to court. That could reach over $500,000. Dr. Paulo Pinto and many other citizens have publicly stated their disgust. Below is from the Statesman.
Dr. Paulo Pinto, a former director for the Williamson County and Cities Health District, chastised commissioners during the citizen’s comment portion of Tuesday’s agenda.
“From what I have read in the newspapers you have been found guilty of suppressing the rights of Mr. Lloyd as he applied for a job with the county,” Pinto said. “It’s very shameful that you would do that to begin with and that you thought you have a right to do that.”
“You’re spending our money,” Pinto said, in reference to the legal bills and out-of-court settlements.”You don’t have to pay us back”.
Pinto, who said he’s lived in Williamson County for 35 years, told commissioners they should publicly apologize.
Commissioners did not comment on Pinto’s remarks. Commissioners have in the past noted they are legally prohibited from commenting on issues not specifically posted on their agenda.
Commissioners may be legally prohibited from commenting but they are not prohibited from being respectful to those addressing the Court. Judge Gattis and Commissioner Madsen were attentive while Pinto spoke. However, Cynthia Long and Lisa Birkman were not. Long, who has made it clear to many in her “inner circle” she is running for County Judge in 2018, ignored and refused to look at Pinto and typed on her lap top the entire time Pinto spoke. Birkman was also very disrespectful, shuffling papers, typing on her lap top and stared in the opposite direction while Pinto spoke.
We now know the legal bill outstanding owed by tax payers is at $700,000. We also know the months of November and December are not included in this total which could easily add another $100,000. Now we know the tax payers could also be liable for Lloyd’s legal bills. That could easily land at $500,000.
Given this, the tax payers of Williamson County will possibly be on the hook, paying close to 1.5 million dollars for the illegal actions of Long, Birkman and Covey. A price tag many feel Long, Birkman and Covey should pay themselves.
We are working on another MAJOR breaking story and will report on that later this afternoon.
Kennon is known to be one of, if not the, hardest working Judges in Williamson County. He is highly respected for his knowledge of the law and impartiality. Kennon is also described as being one of the most even-tempered Judges in not just Williamson County but all of Central Texas. One long-time litigator stated “Williamson County is very fortunate to have such a great Judge. He serves his county well.”
Judge Kennon said “I consider it a great privilege to be a Judge and I am pleased and humbled to know I’m able to make a difference. My fellow judges and I work hard for the people of Williamson County and I am honored to go to work in the 368th every day.”
Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long, fresh off being found to have violated the US constitution, recently violated a countywide policy she voted to institute.
The December 6, 2016 Commissioner Court agenda stated:
Discuss, consider and take appropriate action on an increase to the Commissioner Precinct Two budget for PCN #1674.
This raised red flags to several people both inside of county government and out. This issue at hand was the transferring one of Commissioner Lisa Birkman’s employees from Pct. 1 Commissioner’s Office to Pct. 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long’s office. Apparently this employee was not going to be retained by the incoming Commissioner so Lisa Birkman and Cynthia Long decided to move the employee under Cynthia Long.
This move would have taken funds from Pct 1. Commissioner’s budget, moving them to Pct. 2 Commissioner’s budget. Problem is, there was not enough funds in Pct. 2 Commissioner’s budget to cover the expenses associated with the transfer. They were $826.00 short. In order to cover the deficit, Long placed the funds transfer on the agenda, essentially removing funds from another county department, violating a policy she put in place earlier in her tenure.
Other department heads and elected officials have attempted the same procedure and were told no by the court citing the policy.
Ashlie Koeing, Wilco Budget Officer testified that transferring money from one department to another would “open up Pandora’s box”, allowing other departments to move funds around creating a nightmare scenario for auditing purposes.
Koening indicated this would also increase the budget to the tax payer next budget year. Judge Gattis said “The policy is you can’t do it and we move on”.
Long then said:“There were other ways I could have done this which wouldn’t have been appropriate”, a statement many viewed as shocking coming from someone who was found just last week to have violated a man’s constitutional rights. Judge Gattis maintained his stance this would violate policy but Long pressed on.
Covey at one point stated “If somebody can tell me why it’s not a good idea other than it’s a county issue I don’t see it”, essentially being fine with violating the policy. The Human Resources Director then said it could create issues for the incoming commissioner.
Long then stated “Judge what would be your solution.” Gattis then said “My solution, she would have to take a pay cut”.
Lisa Birkman then slammed her hand down, scoffed, tossed her ink pen and said “that’s unacceptable”. Birkman then said “That really is, that’s not fair to someone who has been here 12 years”.
Discussion went on in length. Ultimately a decision was made to transfer the funds out of the county “contingency” fund, not only violating the countywide policy, but also increasing the county budget for next year.
Gattis then stated the motion by Cynthia Long and seconded by Birkman to move funds from the “contingency fund” to fully fund the employees transfer. Gattis went to to say “Again I’m going to tell you I’m voting against this and I will continue to do so”.
One county employee who commented on the condition of anonymity stated: “They just violated policy, a policy they created. The same one that they always point to telling everyone else ‘no’. I’m curious, did Long post that vacant position so everyone else could apply for it? This is typical Cynthia Long; ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Not a big surprise though, she was just found to have violated the Constitution of the United States so what’s a little county policy.”
One tax payer in the private sector said: “For Lisa Birkman to throw a snit fit is ridiculous. In these hard economic times, I personally feel she and Long should just be thankful their employee still has a job, but instead did another backroom deal at my expense. I’ve had to make many tough decisions and cut few long time employees salaries much more than 826 dollars, and hard as it was, those employees were thankful to have kept their jobs. It’s hard, and I hate it, but my business has to survive. I have employees and customers who depend on me. The private sector isn’t given the same luxury as the government who thinks it’s ok to dip in to a tax payer funded slush account. This smacks of crony politics and political favoritism. While private sector employees go without yearly raises and incur massive increases to insurance, these government employees are coddled with great benefits, yearly raises and still want more. But then again, it’s not their money and attempting to minimize it by saying “it’s only 826.00″ shows just how out of touch with tax payer money they really are.”