Secrets and Lies - Lies and Secrets Part 3
The final part of our three part investigative series outlines actions within the Dallas County Elections Department and lists a reference compendium of all our sources and research materials for this series on the May 10 local liquor option election.
The diagram below hopefully illustrates some of the relationships between parties involved in Wilmer's May 10 local option election uncovered in our first two parts of the series.
"Connections" in the Wilmer local option election for liquor sales May 10.
Dallas County Election Department performance has been disappointingly slow since we were required to file a formal public information (open records) request which must be serviced by the Dallas County District Attorney's Civil Division Office. For the most part, the Election Department's customer service by on site staff has been exemplary. In fact, our campaign finance inquiries and our voter registration inquiries (March 2008) were handled promptly in a single visit in person. The Dallas Morning News informs us that their requests are typically handled promptly by Election Department officials with little more than a phone call to the director - usually resulting in a fax on the same day. Wilmer Public Citizen is required to be much more assertive in pressing our requests for information.
Wilmer Public Citizen's Public Information Request to the Dallas County Election Department regarding the petition application to place the local alcohol sales proposition on the ballot had been referred to the District Attorney's Office for processing on April 24 - in plenty of time before the election. Tandi Smith of the Election Department says she sent our request via interoffice mail to an attorney in the DA Civil Division, but that individual no longer worked there. The request was not processed before the election, instead taking until May 20 before we were allowed access to the documents. Obviously our open records request was mishandled, but we can not determine whether it was the DA Civil Division or the Election Department responsible for the delay in processing. Open record requests with Dallas County are usually sent to the secretary of the DA Civil Division who then assigns an attorney to work the request. By statute, government entities are allowed ten business days to comply with open records requests under the Texas Public Information Act.
We were informed that ten valid signatures are required with an application to request authorization to circulate a ballot measure petition for a local option liquor election. Our research revealed no references in the election codes to substantiate this. However, we are informed that of the 29 signatures presented on the application to circulate the petition, less than ten were properly validated registered resident voters in the City of Wilmer. One source on the Wilmer City Council stated that only 8 of the required 10 verifiable signatures were properly affixed to the petition application. One confidential source indicated that City Secretary Crystol Birdwell was not permitted to disqualify the application.
Our research indicates that the actual petition for a local option election (referendum) requires 35% of the total number of voters that voted in the immediately prior governors election in order to be placed on the ballot. Dallas County Election Department informs us that 120 signatures were required for a successful petition for a local option election in Wilmer. We were also informed by Toni Pippin-Poole that the Election Department was "not obligated to certify every signature" on a petition and was permitted by statute to use random statistical sampling. The Election Department was not forthcoming with any information regarding sampling sizes or techniques, but did indicate that once the required number of signatures was achieved, no further certification processing was required. In general, random sampling is not valid for small populations of responses less than one thousand (the total population was only 120 required signatures). Further, our contact at the Election Department misinformed us about the random sampling requirements: it is permissible to use the technique under statutes ONLY if there are no written objections to the sampling method.
We have also been informed by Tandi Smith at the Dallas County Election Department that two applications were separately submitted for both Wilmer and Hutchins jurisdictions. However, we were not permitted to view the application information for Hutchins when we met with Ms. Smith to inspect the information because it was not included in our written open records request. In fact, Ms. Smith refused to provide any other information other than what was specifically detailed in our open records requests, stating she was "not permitted" to allow our access to the information.
Upon examination of copies of the documents viewed as a result of our Open Records request, there appear to be an unusually large number of signatures that are erroneous, invalid, or unverifiable on the LOE petition application, as well as on the petition itself. The number of invalid signatures on the petition application and the irregularity in handling our open records requests raises serious questions as to the validity of the certification process within the Dallas County Elections Department. We were informed that the certification process is run through the computer and the results are indisputable. We were also informed that local precinct level election officials have no input to the process of certifying petitions for local option elections. Dallas County Elections Department certified the results without consulting city or precinct election officials.
Our research uncovered that the Dallas County Election Department actually printed notice of the petition circulation the day before a campaign treasurer had been designated. While under Texas statute, there is no definitive process for creating a PAC, typically the declaration of a campaign treasurer is the first event that declares a PAC, unless registered with the Secretary of State's office. Wilmer & Hutchins Citizens for Better Business (WHCBB) has not been registered with any entity other than the Dallas County Election department at the state, federal or local level. Evidently, the Dallas County Election Department acts on petition requests with nothing more than a verbal declaration that a committee exists.
We understand why businesses might want to expand their operations by promoting alcohol sales in Wilmer, but we fail to understand the reasoning behind their methods. Is it likely a citizens group is going to band together politically to promote alcohol sales to increase revenue for the city? Businesses lobbying to increase their markets makes perfect sense, we just don't understand the furtive manner. What's to hide: big business wants your money and so does your local political subdivision. Why create "Wilmer & Hutchins Citizens for Better Business" just to push campaign funding and expenses? Did the special purpose PAC start out as a paid focus group? Did the individuals involved in the PAC receive some remuneration as yet unreported? Is the Dallas County Election Department working for the citizens of Dallas County or the lobbyists and special interests? These questions are beyond the scope of our investigative series, but we are including our research references so that perhaps these questions can be taken up by other, more financially endowed investigators.
UPDATES AND REFERENCES
Updates to previously published information:
* The Distilled Spirits Council contributed an additional $5,125 reported on the May 2 finance report, increasing their total contribution to $17,625, for a total pre-election campaign income of $44,000 (or about $15 for every man, woman and child in Wilmer).
* "Vote Yes for Wet" signs sent to John Eggen were paid for by a Dallas real estate broker with long standing property interests in Wilmer and surrounding areas as a private individual contribution not related to the activities of the Wilmer & Hutchins Citizens for Better Business (WHCBB) Political Action Committee.
Web Document Sources for this Series:
Please click here to view.
Please click here to view.
Please click here to view.
Please click here to view.
Political Action Committee:
Wilmer & Hutchins Citizens for Better Business
Judy Pennington, Treasurer (214) 541-8066
216 Wilmer-Heights Dr. Wilmer, TX 75172
Note: Former Treasurer Jan-March 2008
Annette Perez (469) 583-4726
212 Wilmer-Heights Dr. Wilmer, TX 75172
WEB SITE: http://www.WHWins.com
This domain was registered on April 16, 2008 and hosted by http://www.GoDaddy.com registered to Hutch White 673 Roseberry Buda, TX 78610 phone: (512) 538-4420
At the time the pre-election campaign advertising flyer was delivered, the website http://www.WHWins.com was not operational but was soon activated with the same graphics as seen on the "Vote for Proposition 1" signs placed by Texas Petition Strategies. Obviously the advertising flyers, campaign signs and web site have been provided by Texas Petition Strategies, Inc. (NOTE: John Hatch resides in Buda, Texas)
Lobbyists and Consultants for the local option election:
Texas Petition Strategies, Inc.
John Hatch (Austin) and Sissy Day (Arlington)
WEB SITE: http://www.texaspetitions.com
It seems that John Hatch, in addition to being listed as the owner of Texas Petition Strategies, is or was also the "Government Affairs" contact for Hard Count, Inc.
Much of the verbiage contained in the advertising flyer was also present on the http//hardcountinc.com web site at the time of our research. So it seems there is yet another professional lobbyist affiliation working with these folks.
Hard Count, Inc.
Austin, TX 78748, phone: 512-280-6423, fax: 512-280-0707
WEB SITE: http://hardcountinc.com
John Hatch "Government Affairs"
Further, these groups both are connected to another web site http;//honorourvote.com that is working against the Dallas County Commissioners' decision not to permit alcohol sales in Dallas County Precinct 3 after a local option election had allegedly been successful. The following information is copied directly from their web site:
"Copyright 2007. This website is paid for by the Dallas Area Residents for Retail Change (DARRC) which is a state required special purpose political action committee supporting the beer and wine election in Dallas County. HonorOurVote.com is controlled by DARRC and all contributions and expenditures associated with DARRC and HonorOurVote.com will be reported as required by Texas Ethics Laws. Political Contributions are not deductible for income tax purposes. Corporate and personal contributions are legal by Texas law. Dallas Area Residents for Retail Change Attn: HonorOurVote.com 203 Lake Ridge Village-- Box 221 Dallas, TX 75238"
Financial Backers of the Local Option Election:
TRI GAZ INC.
103 S. I-45 Wilmer, Texas 75172
Phone: (972) 441-3747 Fax: (972) 525-6908
President: Zouheir (aka Zack or Zachary) Kassem CELL: (214) 632 2777
Vice President Wadjen Al-Zoubi (aka Joe Zoubi) CELL: (214) 693 4759
NOTE: http://tri-gaz.com is not an active web site
Distilled Spirits Council
1250 Eye Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20005
The National Trade Association Representing Producers and Marketers of America's Favorite Brands of Distilled Spirits
Ali Sharaf President / Owner
105 YMCA Dr Waxahachie, TX 75165
901 Ferris Ave Waxahachie, TX , 75165-2555
Phone: (972) 938-3920 Fax: (972) 937-0271
Valentine Direct Marketing
Ed Valentine, President
5415 Maple Avenue Dallas, TX
These people supplied the postal permit for the campaign advertising mailer.
An interesting connection was discovered through web research between Victron Energy and Historymaker Homes via a commercial real estate broker Kelly Harris http://www.kharco.com/KSH1%20RESUME.pdf
Kelly S Harris
WEB SITE: http://www.kharco.com
Phone: (972) 842-3884 Fax: (972) 842-3885 eMail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas Brokers License No. 0332-614
Mr. Bryan Mitchell
CEO of Historymaker Homes
6815 Manhattan Blvd., Suite 400
Ft. Worth, Texas 76120
Phone: (817) 429-8008
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Secrets and Lies - Lies and Secrets Part 3