What’s Getting DEEPER Isn’t FACTS…
Be Careful or Your Shoes Will Get Soiled…
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)
This last weekend brought us a torrent of misleading statements and outright misrepresentations from those supporting the incumbents. And, while spewing all this venom, they repeatedly assured voters that they were providing “the facts.” It just isn’t so. So let’s talk about it.
Let’s start with the successful recall that occurred 24 years ago. On Election Day 1992, then-councilmember John Branch (a) was recalled and (b) lost his reelection bid. But that wasn’t before Branch tried to derail the matter by refusing to put the recall issue on the ballot. By law, Branch had no discretion in the matter. He was REQUIRED by law to vote to place the matter on the ballot. He still refused.
Unwilling to tolerate Branch’s disobedience of the law, a group of Addison citizens sued Branch, asking the Dallas Court of Appeals to ORDER Branch to comply with the law and place the recall issue on the ballot. In that lawsuit, Branch made the exact argument quoted in the flyer: that the issue of recalling Branch was mooted by the impending end of his council term.
Branch’s “mootness” argument was REJECTED by the Dallas Court of Appeals. That Court ruled AGAINST Branch and ORDERED him to obey the law. The rest, as they say, is history. So it is patently false to suggest that Branch’s unsuccessful, rejected argument represents an accurate recitation of “facts.” Branch’s position was held to be without merit then, and it continues to be without merit now. The Court’s opinion is a matter of public record and can easily be confirmed.
Only these incumbents and their supporters would criticize Addison citizens who refused to tolerate a councilmember’s disobedience of the law. But then, this group certainly doesn’t like to be questioned, do they? Publicly chastising the successful litigants in the Branch case has no purpose other than to try to intimidate and discourage those who now stand for what’s right, including by criticizing the current regime.
Regarding Kanter, I have written a lot already. Addison’s Council continues to conceal documents reflecting management’s views and positions regarding Kanter’s inflammatory accusations. And yet, the incumbents and their supporters continue to beat the Kanter drum, asking the public to accept as “fact” a pre-arranged, one-sided, two-year-old, recycled presentation that disparages prior management whose views (see point A) are being withheld. How can any of it be taken seriously, including because this same Council bought Lea Dunn’s silence with our taxpayer money. None of the prior management and staff are around to defend themselves and provide the facts. All of which makes them easy targets. Stated simply, Meier and his cadre have positioned themselves to tell only one side of the story, and they are doing exactly that. Sorry, but the “facts” have yet to come out in their entirety. When they do, my guess is that these people will have a lot of explaining to do.
In the meantime, the disparagement of Addison’s history and its prior management and staff are beyond shameful and are harming Addison’s reputation.
Look carefully at the quotes attributed to Police Chief Paul Spencer. Essentially, he says that being somewhat underpaid is better than being “grossly underpaid.” OK, that’s probably true, but being underpaid is still being underpaid. Are we really down to quibbling about adjectives? Further, had the people authoring this drivel checked their “facts,” they would know that Addison currently has seven police officer positions open, with only three applicants. THAT is the reality of a compensation system that is not competitive with neighboring communities.
Whether you agree or disagree with the concept of more structured compensation systems for police and fire personnel, Addison’s REALITY is that such systems are our competition for qualified candidates. We can either deal with it, or remain understaffed and continue to lose qualified, experienced personnel to other more palatable compensation systems.
Let’s talk ethics. Two years ago, Addison’s Ethics Ordinance prohibited councilmembers from using their “official positions” in connection with political campaigns. The idea was that one’s position in the Town should not be used for political advantage, making elections more of an even playing field. So, the Ordinance prohibited councilmembers from using their
“official position or town-owned facilities, personnel, equipment, supplies, vehicles, printing facilities, postage facilities, long-distance telephone services or any other resources for… any political campaign for himself or others.”
The policy reasons for the ethics provisions are set forth in Section 2-92 of Addison’s Ordinances, which states in part:
“Proper operation of democratic government requires that: (1) Officials be independent, impartial and responsible only to the people of the town…,” and that the code of ethics was adopted to “serve as a guide for official conduct of the town’s public servants.”
During the 2014 election, many of us felt that Meier did not comply with this provision, and did use his “official position” in campaigning for the three people he is now trying to get reelected. A number of people complained to then-City Attorney John Hill, who ultimately wrote an email stating that in three different instances, Meier’s conduct “likely” violated Addison’s Ethics Ordinance.
Then the three obedient incumbents, Moore, Heape and Carpenter, were elected. Shortly after the election, they joined with the mayor in LOWERING Addison’s ethical standards. Now they can do whatever they want. When the mayor recently bragged about using his title in the election, he didn’t mention that he’d arranged it for himself. Kind of an important omission, don’t you think?
Consider with me the abject irony of incumbents who LOWERED Addison’s ethical standards criticizing Ron Whitehead, a private citizen, for participating in Addison’s political process. Ron has been a private citizen for two years, and he has the same rights that all other private citizens have, including the right to participate in Addison’s elections. The disparagement of Ron that has occurred is disgusting. Ron gave 32 years to Addison. Look around you. The beauty, amenities and developments you see occurred because of Ron’s leadership. It is hypocrisy for politicians who brought us LOWER ETHICAL STANDARDS, and are now throwing their political titles around to get people to vote for them, to criticize Ron or anyone else, or suggest that any private citizen has less of a right to participate in the election.
And that’s before we get to the ethical question of infiltrating an email list and then bragging about it! Now we’re into “spying” on the opposition? What’s next with these people?
Let’s talk about the Rolfe report. First, I note with interest that Mr. Rolfe is of counsel to former judge Joe Kendall’s law firm. Kendall was the moderator at the political event held for the three incumbents under the guise of a “forum.” There seem to be some tight connections there. In any event, these “facts matter” people have taken huge license with the language they quote. They unquestionably lead you to believe that the quoted remarks were intended to apply broadly to all aspects of the Town’s finances, and that Rolfe singled Ron Whitehead out specifically. Both suggestions are patently false. The quoted language actually dealt only with certain trips taken by then-mayor Jerry Redding and perhaps other councilmembers. And, the conclusion didn’t use Ron’s name, these “facts” people ADDED it. What a gross misrepresentation of what is stated in the document.
But then, are we really talking about things that happened thirty years ago? If we want to go there, my take away from Rolfe’s report was that Jerry Redding was heavy-handed and somewhat of a bully. His exploits taught Addison about the dangers of a heavy-handed mayor who meddles far too much in the day-to-day affairs of Addison. In fact the report concludes by stating that the City Manager and Finance Director “must have the authority without interference from the Mayor or Council, to carry out their responsibilities.” Those are the words that resonate, given the conduct of the current misguided, heavy-handed mayor.
Lastly, the flyer uses GIANT letters with inflammatory and suggestive headings. But oh how you have to read the fine print. In huge letters, they announce an audit by the State Comptroller. But keep reading… There it is… In the small print: The audit is ROUTINE. What a ridiculous effort to mislead Addison voters who deserve far more respect.
The incumbents should be condemning these tactics. But they’re not doing that. The truth is that this is what your current government is all about. Deception, innuendo, slash and burn, destruction of anything needed, including Addison, to win at all costs.
It is beyond shameful that that sitting members of Addison’s council are willing to unjustifiably trash Addison’s reputation because they perceive it to be of benefit to them personally. What a disgrace.