Hearne city officials defy council, could face criminal charges

Hearne City Manager Pee Wee Drake assumed dictatorial control over the city council’s agenda this week, telling a majority of council members that he would decide what they could decide. As crazy as it sounds, Mr. Drake removed items from the agenda and added his own items without notifying the council, then became defiant when he was confronted about tampering with the official agenda.

Rusty.249111858_stdSomeone needs to help Mr. Drake understand that he works for the city council, not vice versa, and that city hall is not Pee Wee’s Playhouse. In that regard, I plan to give Mr. Drake all of the help that he needs. Today I sent a letter to District Attorney Coty Siegert on behalf of my clients on the city council, explaining that Mr. Drake likely committed a crime when he altered the agenda. As explained in that letter, it appears that Mr. Drake was acting at the direction of City Attorney Bryan F. “Rusty” Russ, Jr.

Why would Mr. Drake and Mr. Russ do something so outrageous? Because they are members of the Booger County Mafia, and the Mafia is getting really desperate. When voters recalled Councilwoman Maxine Vaughn on March 3, 2015, the 3-3 deadlock on the council was broken, and the two remaining Mafia allies on the council (Mayor Ruben Gomez and Councilman Michael Werlinger) could no longer block the efforts of my clients, i.e., reformers Hazel Embra, Joyce Rattler, and Lashunda White.

Mayor Gomez (edited)Ever since then, Mr. Gomez and Mr. Werlinger have been pouting, refusing to show up for city council meetings. Nobody would have cared but for a quirk in the city charter that requires the presence of four members for a quorum. Even though Mr. Gomez and Mr. Werlinger are only two of five members, they can still shut down city business by refusing to attend council meetings. And that is exactly what they’ve done, because the city council cannot even meet to authorize payment of the city’s bills.

Mr. Gomez and Mr. Werlinger desperately want to prevent my clients from appointing a successor to Councilwoman Vaughn, because then there will be four reformers, and they will be able to hold meetings with or without the remaining Mafia members. The new majority would also fire the criminals who have been running city hall, namely Mr. Drake and Mr. Russ.

But there is an even more important reason for the Mafia’s desperation: my clients want to hire an outside auditor to investigate city finances. Here is an excerpt from my letter to the DA:

The city’s utility rates are higher than those in most surrounding communities, and there is anecdotal evidence that friends of Mayor Gomez, et al. have lower rates, while the enemies of Mayor Gomez, et al. may experience sudden and drastic increases in their utility rates. I believe that Mayor Gomez and his allies are desperate to prevent an investigative audit, because it will likely uncover financial crimes at city hall.

Is it any wonder, then, that the Mafia was race-baiting the recall election in March?

In the altered council agenda prepared by Mr. Drake and Mr. Russ, the city council would only consider the items submitted by them, foremost of which is approval of accounts payable. Mr. Russ has a big stake in this issue, because he gets paid more than $4,700 per month for his part-time job as city attorney, an amount far higher than city attorneys in cities of comparable size.

WerlingerMeanwhile, Mr. Gomez and Mr. Werlinger are up for reelection in May, and apparently they are getting a lot of negative feedback from the voters in Hearne. Mr. Russ tried to persuade my clients to remove the items from the council agenda that the Mafia did not like, but my clients refused, prompting Mr. Russ and Mr. Drake to act by force. Apparently Mr. Russ and Mr. Drake thought they could unilaterally amend the agenda and force my clients to approve accounts payable without considering any other issues.

It was a clever strategy for several reasons. On a personal level, it was a way for Mr. Russ to get himself paid. Politically, it could save Mayor Gomez and Councilman Werlinger, because it would allow them to end their unpopular boycott and get the city’s bills paid without facing their other responsibilities. Alternatively, if my clients boycotted the meeting because of the agenda tampering, they would look like the bad guys.

Clever, but not quite clever enough. Mr. Russ is a genuine expert in dirty tricks, but I’ve been fighting him long enough to know how to outmaneuver him. Under normal circumstances, the Texas Open Meetings Act requires that meeting notices / agendas be posted 72 hours in advance of a meeting, but there are exceptions. Relying on one of those exceptions, I drafted an emergency meeting notice to place three new items on the agenda for tonight’s meeting: (1) terminating Mr. Russ, (2) terminating Mr. Drake, and (3) appointing a new council member as required by the city charter. Now let’s see if Mayor Gomez and Councilman Werlinger have the testicular fortitude to show up for the meeting tonight.

Incidentally, Mr. Russ has told reporters that Mayor Gomez has been missing council meetings because “he is under a doctor’s care.” Hours before the last regular council meeting, however, witnesses observed him having lunch in Franklin. Meanwhile, local activist William Foster reports that he called the Gause post office, where Mayor Gomez works by day, and Mayor Gomez answered the phone.  When Dr. Foster asked why the mayor could work but not attend council meetings, the mayor reportedly cited his doctor as saying that the council meetings were causing him too much stress.

If you think the council meetings are stressful, Mr. Mayor, just sit tight. You ain’t seen nothing yet.