Meier’s Efforts to Influence the Election
Raise Deeply Troubling Issues
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)
To no one’s surprise, the Dallas District Attorney has CLOSED the investigation Todd Meier improperly instigated against Joe Chow:
“At this time, we are formally closing our investigation into this matter having found no evidence of any criminal offense.”
Meier should apologize to Joe Chow and to Addison residents and voters for having made false allegations against Joe Chow. But we all know he won’t. Indeed, I predict that he will likely seek to perpetuate his false allegations concerning Joe Chow in a shameful effort to influence voters, once again improperly using Addison resources and his position as mayor.
But’s let put the “trying to steal the election” issue aside for a moment, and examine Meier’s conduct from a different angle and specifically, on whose behalf was Meier acting?
We know that on March 28, 2017, the council met in executive session to consider this matter. The council returned to regular session and TOOK NO ACTION. In other words, the council declined to authorization to anyone to take action. That included Meier.
So, how did we get from NO AUTHORIZATION to a series of newsletters, distributed using Addison’s email list and written by Meier under the “mayor” banner, where Meier purported to be communicating with the District Attorney regarding a supposed investigation? Well, I’ve studied the chronology and investigated that question, and the more I learn, the more I realize that there are serious and deeply troubling questions regarding Meier’s conduct.
Let’s back up for a moment. Meier first raised this issue in his March 25, 2017 newsletter. Meier directly – AND FALSELY – accused Joe Chow of obtaining and using the Town’s email list, writing: “We will work to determine how Joe Chow and his campaign received the list of subscribers to the mayor’s newsletter.” The question assumed that Joe Chow had the list, and yet, Meier had NO BASIS for making that accusation. And of course, Meier introduced the amorphous “we” concept. Who was the “we” that was going to “work to determine” something that didn’t happen in the first place?
Two other things were happening around this time. First, Addison’s staff investigated and determined that Addison had NOT suffered a data breach of any kind relating to the Town’s email list. We don’t know whether the staff had reached this conclusion before Meier’s March 25, 2017 newsletter, but we DO know that the staff had reached this conclusion before the council’s March 28, 2017 executive session. It is reasonable to assume that this information was provided to Meier during the executive session, and I have assumed that to be the case. Second, the three councilmembers in possession of the Town’s email list executed affidavits confirming that they had not provided the list to Joe Chow.
Back to the chronology. Four days after the council’s executive session, on April 1, 2017, Meier distributed a newsletter referencing Chow’s emails as “spam,” and stating that the DA “has told our staff that their Public Integrity Unit will investigate this matter if they hear complaints.” The clear suggestion was that some communication was ongoing between Addison and the DA. But, Meier didn’t identify any particular staff member, nor did Meier address the issue of why any member of the staff would be involved, given that the council did NOT AUTHORIZE ANY ACTION.
Meier continued: “At this point we do not know where or how the Chow campaign obtained your email addresses.” Again the “we” was not identified, but in the context of both newsletters, the clear implication was that Addison was somehow involved in an investigation. That was false and contrary to the council’s decision to NOT AUTHORIZE ACTION. Further, when considered in the context of Meier’s prior newsletter, Meier was unquestionably perpetuating the false accusation that somehow Chow had obtained the Town’s email list, even though by this time, Meier had to know of the staff’s determination that no data breach had occurred.
In the newsletter distributed on April 8, 2017, Meier again pressed his false accusations against Joe Chow. Meier provided what he called “An update on the Joe Chow campaign use of emails controversy,” putting this sentence in bold letters and underlining it. This sentence assumed the existence of a controversy, even though the council had NOT AUTHORIZED ANY ACTION. It was a classic Meier manipulation: talking about fiction over and over, and then very subtly and craftily moving the fiction into assumed “truth.” Except that fiction is not truth, it’s fiction. And this was surely FICTION.
But here’s where things get sticky for Meier. He wrote: “I have forwarded your complaints” to the DA. But here’s the thing: the council did NOT AUTHORIZE ACTION. So, by what authority did Meier take any action? Indeed, why was Meier in contact with the District Attorney at all, given that the council had NOT AUTHORIZED Meier to act?
It gets far more serious, because we know now that somehow the District Attorney concluded that Meier was acting on behalf of Addison. We know this because City Manager Wes Pierson later reported to the council that the DA told Pierson that the DA had assumed that in making his complaint, Meier was acting in his capacity as the Mayor of the Town of Addison. The DA asked Pierson if Meier was authorized to act on behalf of the Town, and Pierson told him that the council had NOT PROVIDED SUCH AUTHORIZATION.
That begs this question: What did Meier do or not do that left the District Attorney with the MISUNDERSTANDING that Meier was acting on behalf of Addison? SOMETHING had to have happened to lead the DA to the incorrect conclusion. Was it a signature block on an email? A call introducing himself as “Mayor Meier?” A failure to correct references to him as “mayor?” Discussions about “Addison citizens” expressing concern to him?
Or was it a failure to correct an assumption? In considering the issue of Meier’s “standing,” the DA undoubtedly knew that Meier did not receive Joe Chow’s email (it was an obvious question). And he wasn’t representing anyone as an attorney; that would have been a conflict. So, he wasn’t acting as a lawyer. The only other “standing” Meier would have had was as mayor. Meier undoubtedly understood the same concepts, did he simply lead the DA to that conclusion without expressly stating it? Was that what tricked the DA into thinking Meier was acting for Addison despite the fact that the council DID NOT AUTHORIZE him to act?
And then you have to consider the newsletters, in which Meier continually led the public to believe that he was thick in the middle of some investigation. I’m certain the DA was aware of Meier’s political use of the issue, and was not pleased. But, was the DA fooled like others by Meier’s newsletters? Did the DA also think that in writing what he did, Meier interactions with the DA must have been on behalf of Addison?
Something happened – or didn’t happen, as in a misimpression was not corrected – to mislead the DA to think that Meier was acting on behalf of Addison, and that unquestionably helped Meier’s quest to foment the issue in an effort to turn voters against Joe Chow.
All of this raises very significant questions, particularly when you consider the context, i.e., that Meier was attacking Joe Chow in an effort to influence voters. So, what is it that transpired that left the DA with the clear MISUNDERSTANDING – for a critical period of time in relation to the election – that Meier was acting on behalf of the Town? SOMETHING had to have happened to lead the DA to conclude that Meier was acting on behalf of Addison. And that must mean that at a minimum, Meier withheld the fact that the council had considered the matter and had NOT AUTHORIZED any action.
Now consider the rest of what Meier wrote in the April 8, 2017 newsletter. In boldface type, Meier stated that the DA was “currently investigating the legality of spam campaign emails and whether there was a criminal breach of city property.” Think about that. Meier was creating a false record, including because he had to know by then that ADDISON’S STAFF HAD CONFIRMED THAT THERE WAS NO DATA BREACH, a conclusion with which the DA ultimately agreed. And that’s before you consider again that the council had NOT AUTHORIZED any action. Yet, here is Meier using Addison’s email list and writing about an investigation under the banner “The Mayor’s Newsletter.” Citizens were clearly led to believe that somehow Addison was involved in an investigation. It was false, unfounded, and unauthorized.
A week later, Meier circulated his April 15, 2017 newsletter. Meier fomented the issue for the fourth time, now employing a phony question and answer format. The fake question was “Mayor, what is the status of the investigation into the use of the email list by the Joe Chow campaign.” Again, it’s classic Meier, as he was now treating the matter as though it was well established that there was an investigation, and that Meier knew about it. In turn, that misled the reader to conclude that Meier was involved in his capacity as mayor, a mischaracterization amplified by the fake answer in which Meier wrote:
- “I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation”
- The DA was “taking it seriously” and “actively addressing your concerns”
- “They have returned my phone calls and emails, and I know they are working hard.”
And this fictional account crystallizes the most serious question, and the one that Meier is currently refusing to answer: In what capacity was Meier operating – or leading the DA to believe he was operating, when Meier had NO AUTHORITY to act on behalf of Addison?
On April 25, 2017, the council had another executive session about this issue, and again decided to NOT AUTHORIZE any action.
Three days later, on April 28, 2017, City Manager Wes Pierson was informed that the DA had CONCLUDED its investigation, having found no evidence of criminal violations. You have to believe that Pierson imparted this information to Meier.
It didn’t matter to Meier. The very next day, April 29, 2017, Meier again included a fictitious Q&A section in his newsletter, now phrasing the fake question in even more inflammatory terms: “What is the status of the investigation into the possible misuse of the email subscription list by the Joe Chow campaign.” Think about Meier’s intent to harm Joe Chow’s candidacy. Meier had to know that the investigation was concluded! And yet, Meier perpetuated his attacks, including in the fake answer: “The DA’s office will not comment further on a pending investigation.” That statement was patently FALSE. There was NO PENDING INVESTIGATION. That fact had been communicated the previous day. Then to further stir the now-dead pot, Meier turned to a discussion of polygraph exams, which he knows are inadmissible BECAUSE THEY ARE UNRELIABLE, and fomented the matter further with the absurd suggestion that Chow and others subject themselves to polygraph examinations. All this despite having been told that the DA’s office had found no wrongdoing.
Meier’s clear intent was to influence voters against Joe Chow. And, you have to also consider this entire episode in the face of yet another false attack relating to eligibility, which likewise confirmed Meier’s use of Addison’s email list in an effort to influence the election. Specifically, on April 22, 2017, just two days before early voting was to occur, Meier falsely suggested that Joe Chow and Tom Braun were ineligible for office due to term limits. In making this assertion, Meier omitted the language of the original ballot proposition that was unequivocal in establishing that the only limitation is to CONSECUTIVE or SUCCESSIVE terms, not to TOTAL terms. Meier also omitted the fact that Addison’s attorney had opined two months earlier that both Chow and Braun were eligible.
Then, a week later, on April 29, 2017, after the council voted to release the attorney’s memos, Meier again fomented the eligibility issue. Meier still made no mention of the key language of the ballot proposition. Instead, Meier called the issue “confusing,” and made the ridiculous statement that this is why law school is “3 years of teaching lawyers to write and give arguments supporting either side of a controversy.” Give me a break. The language of the 1993 ballot proposition is CRYSTAL CLEAR AND CONCLUSIVE:
“SHALL THE ADDISON CITY CHARTER BE AMENDED TO LIMIT TO THREE (3) THE NUMBER OF CONSECUTIVE TERMS which a person may hold the office of Mayor or the office of council member, and to effectuate such amendment.” (Capitalization added).
You don’t need three years of law school to understand what Addison voted on in 1993. But, you should be deeply concerned that a sitting mayor twice discussed this issue without revealing the language of the ballot proposition. Again, it’s classic Meier: telling half a story to mislead Addison residents and to support Meier’s purpose of the moment.
I have asked Meier to explain his conduct. I haven’t heard from him, and he has declined to answer questions posed by at least one council member. Meier’s refusal to respond speaks volumes.
In my view, what we have witnessed is brazen conduct by a sitting mayor who has used Town resources to influence voters by misrepresenting the record. If you voted in reliance on Meier’s false, misleading statements, we’d like to hear from you.
In the meantime, I am hopeful that Addison voters will resoundingly reject Meier’s destructive politics of division, in favor of putting Addison on a path back to the Addison Way.