Hearne City Attorney George Hyde and his assistant, Sarah Griffin, abruptly resigned this afternoon just hours after I sent them an email asking inconvenient questions about a recall petition for my client, Councilman Rodrick Jackson.
Mr. Hyde also serves as the managing partner for Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal Hyde & Zech, P.C., a law firm headquartered in Austin, and in his resignation letter he suggested that his firm was withdrawing because of all the discord and dysfunction in the city. What he failed to mention was his firm’s outsized role in creating the discord and dysfunction.
For months, Mr. Jackson and my other clients, Councilwomen Shirley Harris and Martha Castilleja, have accused Mr. Hyde and Ms. Griffin of representing the interests of the Booger County Mafia, particularly Interim City Manager John “Boy Wonder” Naron, over the interests of the city council. In my November 2, 2016 blog post, I suggested that Mr. Hyde and his firm may have formed an unholy alliance with Boy Wonder wherein the firm received outrageous fees in exchange for representing the interests of Boy Wonder against the council. Consider this excerpt:
In a two-month period, the city’s new law firm billed more than $29,000.00 in legal fees. That’s far more than the outrageous fees that Rusty Russ charged when he was city attorney. The city council was not provided an itemized bill for the charges, so Mr. Jackson, Ms. Harris, and Ms. Castilleja tried to block the expenditure until details were provided. According to Mr. Jackson, however, Asst. City Attorney Sarah Griffin informed them that the bill had already been paid by Mr. Naron, and she said the city charter gave him the authority to make the payment without council approval.
If Ms. Griffin’s firm was deeply involved in major litigation on behalf of the city, I might be able to understand a $29,000.00 bill. But Mr. Jackson said he is not aware of the firm’s involvement in any civil litigation. So what were the charges for? I suspect Boy Wonder has been running up legal bills for his own projects.
In the November 2 post, I included a link to a November 1, 2016 letter that I sent to Mr. Hyde and Ms. Griffin regarding their suspicious behavior, and you can read that letter by clicking here. On the following day, they sent me a snarky response, implying that only they had the right to represent Mr. Jackson, Ms. Harris, and Ms. Castilleja. In other words, they suggested that my clients had no right to use another attorney besides them.
Worse, they suggested that I had committed professional misconduct just by communicating with Mr. Jackson, Mr. Harris, and Ms. Castilleja. They even implied that they might seek disciplinary action against me, and they suggested that they might have an inside track because two of their partners formerly served on state bar disciplinary committees. As if that’s going to scare me.
I have a message for Mr. Hyde and Ms. Griffin: you’re not just sleazy, you’re incompetent. While I don’t consider myself a municipal lawyer, I seem to know a lot more about municipal law than you do. I’ve successfully represented city council members against the city in both the local district court and in the Tenth Court of Appeals, and until now nobody was dumb enough to suggest that council members could not choose their own lawyer.
But I digress. Back to the recall petition. The Booger County Mafia promoted the petition, and Ms. Griffin and Boy Wonder tried to pressure the city council to put the issue on the May 6, 2017 ballot. In fact, they purported to schedule a special meeting of the city council in November to schedule the recall election, even though neither of them had the authority to call such a meeting. Why the rush to get rid of Mr. Jackson? He had been asking inconvenient questions, and they desperately wanted to force him off the council.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the lynching. I asked Robertson County Elections Administrator Ray Martinez whether the petition signatures had ever been submitted to his office for verification. On Monday, he left a voicemail indicating that they had not. That’s significant, because the signatures first must be verified in order to determine whether enough of them are valid to place a recall on the ballot. Hence my email to Mr. Hyde and Ms. Griffin this morning:
A few hours after that email was sent, Mr. Hyde and Ms. Griffin resigned. I guess I should not be surprised by chicanery from a firm that uses the URL “RampageLaw.com.” If anybody should be worried about disciplinary charges, it’s the quacks at Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal Hyde & Zech, P.C.
Ironically, the resignation letter adds to the evidence against Mr. Hyde and Ms. Griffin. In the memorandum attached to that letter, Mr. Hyde indicates that his firm has been working on a legal memorandum and draft ordinance related to the recall petition. All of that work appears unnecessary, i.e., it appears that they were just jacking up the city’s legal bill. If Ms. Griffin and Boy Wonder were trying to bum-rush the recall election two months ago, why would they wait until afterwards to do legal research and draft an ordinance? Why not first start with the basics, i.e., whether there are even enough valid signatures to place the item on the ballot?
Elsewhere the memorandum indicates that Mr. Hyde’s firm has been overseeing the forensic audit of city finances. The problem? The city council never authorized Mr. Hyde or his firm to oversee the audit. In the original contract presented to the council, the special auditors would report directly to the council. Afterwards, however, Mr. Hyde and/or Ms. Griffin changed the contract so that the auditors would report to them. In other words, they could potentially steer the audit to protect Boy Wonder and the Booger County Mafia, and they could churn more legal fees by purporting to be in charge. How convenient.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
Mr. Jackson and Ms. Harris informed me that Kent Brunette, the city’s economic development director, was fired after he made allegations on Facebook that Councilman Emmett Aguirre had killed someone while he was drunk. Mr. Brunette and Mr. Aguirre are both members of the Booger County Mafia, so maybe there’s trouble in paradise.
One more thing: In my November 2 post, I wrote about how Robertson County DA Coty Siegert had joined the Booger County Mafia. Despite Mr. Siegert’s efforts to keep me from testifying before the grand jury, I appeared and testified at its last meeting. I cannot discuss my testimony, of course, but I can tell you this much: I have personally observed Mr. Siegert trying to mislead grand jurors.