The Hearne City Council is convening a special meeting on Monday, hoping to block a ballot initiative that would force a forensic audit of city hall finances. As I reported last Monday, such an audit could very well send some city officials to prison.
Enter City Attorney Bryan F. “Rusty” Russ, Jr. at stage right. According to the city charter, the city secretary was supposed to transmit the petitions in support of the initiative to the county for certification of voters’ signatures. Instead, Mr. Russ intercepted the petitions and is holding them at his private office, thereby preventing certification.
That should not surprise anyone who knows Mr. Russ, a shameless white-collar criminal and a ringleader of the Booger County Mafia. I suspect he’s trying to keep some of his Mafia allies out of prison, e.g., Mayor Ruben Gomez, City Manager Pee Wee Drake, Councilman Michael Werlinger, Councilwomen LaShunda White and Joyce Rattler, and City Judge Hazel Embra. And for all I know, he may be trying to keep himself out of prison.
Yesterday I sent an email to Mr. Russ asking why the petitions had not been submitted to the county. In a one-sentence reply, Mr. Russ demanded to know who I was representing, as if that mattered. I told him that I was representing former Mayor Milton Johnson, Councilwoman Shirley Harris, and council candidate Rodrick Jackson, who were (along with council candidate Martha Castelija) the organizers of the petition drive.
I also warned Mr. Russ that if his actions kept the initiative off the ballot, I would seek criminal charges and my clients could sue him in federal court. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Russ never answered my question about why he was holding the petitions in his office. Fortunately, Mr. Johnson kept file-stamped copies of all the petitions, and today he submitted those copies directly to the county elections office. Unfortunately, the initiative may not appear on the ballot until November, but I am awaiting a definitive answer from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office.
So back to the special council meeting. According to the notice posted today, the council will meet in closed session “to discuss possible litigation regarding a petition submitted requiring the city to appropriate money for an audit and place auditing authority in the hands of the district attorney.” Translation: Mr. Russ and his Mafia allies want to file a lawsuit to keep voters from deciding whether city finances should be audited. That is quintessential Booger County, and quintessential Rusty Russ.
Even if Mr. Russ and his Mafia allies succeed in postponing the initiative election until November or later, the voters are not without a say in the matter. Mafia candidates LaShunda White, Joyce Rattler, and Michael Werlinger are on the ballot in May. If they are tossed out by the voters, then the reformers will have a majority, and they can order the audit anyway.
This puts the Mafia candidates in a terrible political position, so keep a close eye on Monday’s council vote. If the Mafia-aligned council members vote to block the petition, then they will have to answer to the voters in May. If they permit the election to proceed and the initiative passes, they could end up in prison. Is that a delicious dilemma or what?
Meanwhile, I am informed that Mr. Russ has a “for sale” sign in front of his house. One of my sources says he is looking to move to Colorado. I guess it’s getting a lot harder to make a dishonest living in Robertson County these days.