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Letter: Correcting misinformation

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Citizens of Bartonville, As your mayor for 12 years, I was happy to serve our town with no other agenda than to prepare for the challenges I knew were coming in the future, especially with respect to finances and public safety. I was honored to serve with council members who freely gave of their time and resources also with no other agenda except to do what was best for our town and with a top notch town administration team headed up by Debbie Millican.

A little over a year ago, I was surprised and disappointed that a water company, which had sued our town three times and lost, had successfully recruited a small group of citizens to misinform our town about our work. Of course, the water company will deny this. However, NONE of those citizens stood up and spoke in favor of the water company’s elevated tower during the public meetings in 2010 and 2011. But in 2013, they went behind the town administration’s back and went door to door criticizing us for asking the tough questions it was our responsibility to ask, which the water company refused to answer. That’s why we denied them a conditional use permit twice.  No, the water company’s elevated tower was not a “victim of politics” as the water company, Del Knowler and CURE claimed. The water company simply would not….in fact could not, make their case for the tower.

Believing that my work would stand for itself, I refused to use your tax dollars to mail letters to the citizens of Bartonville to refute CURE’s misinformation. But now that Del Knowler has retired as CURE spokesperson and Bill Scherer has taken up his role by using our town’s communication resources and your tax dollars to pay staff to mail misinformation about our work for the town on our town’s letterhead, I can no longer leave unanswered the constant inferences that I somehow left my town in distress with respect to both finances and public safety. In this letter, I will be sharing new information about the police department and our town’s budget and correcting the misinformation in Bill Scherer’s August 5 letter. And not one penny of your tax dollars or the town’s resources will be used to mail my letter.

Police Department

It’s time someone speaks up about the terrible injustice that has been done against our police force and former Chief Dave Howell as a result of what seems to be ruthless ambition of one or two employees in the police department and what I have been told may be personal vendettas of some in our current government. Once this sordid story is told, which is a matter of public record in Bartonville, Bill Scherer and Council Member Carrington will no longer be able to sustain their pretensions of fairness, respect and objectivity regarding the dismantling of our police force.

The story begins with a rogue officer spending hours every evening with then citizen Jaclyn Carrington in front of her home on Jeter Road instead of patrolling the entire town as ordered by Police Chief Dave Howell. When Chief Howell promoted Sgt. Dan Miller to supervise the officer to insure that he do his job, he, Carrington and his friend, Officer Browning didn’t like it. Last summer Officer Browning, instead of tending to his duties, snooped through other officers’ personnel files at the department and conjured up a bogus allegation that the chief paid another officer for a day of work that he was not entitled to and that Sgt. Miller gave a ticket that Browning didn’t agree with. He illegally took this information to Carrington, a private citizen who in turn took it to then Council Member Bill Scherer. Scherer did not raise the issue with the police chief, the town administrator, the town attorney, the mayor, or any other member of the council. If he had done so, this matter might well have been cleared up within our town’s established procedures and the troublesome officer who started it all might have been disciplined.

Bill Scherer, secretly and without authorization, took the matter to the Denton County District Attorney and asked for an investigation. The D.A. called in the Texas Rangers who investigated the allegations. The Texas Rangers quickly concluded that there was nothing to them and that our Chief Dave Howell had acted in compliance with his duties under the law and the city’s ordinances.    

Rather than dropping the matter and apologizing to the chief, Scherer and Carrington carried on their campaign against him and Sgt. Miller. Carrington circulated what was then an anonymous nasty letter disparaging the chief, Sgt. Miller and the police department just before the town survey was taken.

Scherer and Carrington’s conspiracy having failed, he and Traylor then began unauthorized meetings with Double Oak to pursue their “contract” idea under the guise of “our town’s budget constraints require us to explore this option” when in fact our town’s budget was excellent and their hidden agenda was to get rid of Chief Howell and others on our police force all along. Finally, after giving assurances of fairness and respect during his campaign for Mayor, Scherer, and his business partner Council Member Traylor and newly elected Council Member Carrington railroaded our chief out of office immediately after being sworn in. The Chief could certainly have sued our town and many of us wish he would have. But instead, a man who would have put his life on the line for any of them chose to accept their railroading to get the matter quietly settled for our town.

Scherer et al. and CURE’s inner circle were never genuinely considering any option that would include keeping Police Chief Howell and the police force we had built. Their lack of transparency, hidden personal agendas and unethical behavior can no longer go unchallenged. They will inevitably set our town up for more lawsuits if they are left unchecked.

It is important that you know the facts so that Scherer, Traylor and Carrington can no longer misinform you about the condition our town was in when we left as a ruse to get more of their hidden agendas passed. My colleagues on the previous town council and I left our town in excellent condition with respect to both finances and public safety:
•    $0.00 (ZERO) debt
•    Millions of dollars coming into our town that we were not receiving before.
•    A good police force providing public safety that took seven long years to build.
•    Upheld our town ordinances against a wealthy water company in spite of their fire scare misinformation that was eventually proven false when our fire district received a better ISO rating for the public’s fire safety protection and homeowner’s insurance than ever before.

To follow are quotes from Scherer’s August 5 letter to you. My responses are in blue:

Scherer: “We are evaluating our options as guided by the desires of our residents as well as our budget constraints. We opened channels of communication to really listen to what our town needed and desired by issuing a town survey as well as sponsoring a public forum.”

•    The “budget constraints” disappeared after Double Oak refused to continue working with Scherer. The first proposed budget for the next fiscal year showed that the town can easily afford a police chief and four full time officers with money left in the general fund and half million dollars left in reserve from the Bartonville Store offer currently on the table.

•    Bill Scherer did not open channels of communication by issuing a town survey. These channels of communication were opened years ago by doing town surveys long before he was in office or even a citizen of Bartonville.

•    The public police forum Bill Scherer sponsored was biased by the forced choices displayed on a white board which conveniently omitted the choice “keep our police department as it currently is and grow it as revenue allows.”

•    Only 27 citi
zens out of almost 1,600 marked the white board for 24/7 coverage and those 27 hadn’t been told that the coverage would come at the expense of their town’s own police department.

Bill Scherer:  “The majority of the survey respondents (55%) indicated they wanted a smaller police department.”

•    The survey administrators DID NOT recommend reducing or “contracting out” our police force. They recommended communicating to the citizens what the police force does.

•    The Texas Police Chief’s Association advised against “contracting out” and part time positions in their recent operational review of Bartonville Police Department. They recommended instead that our town have one chief and four full time officers now and eventually increase as funds allow in the future. As shown in the initial town budget for next year, this can not only be done with money left in the general fund, but it can also reduce the size of the department and cost the town $100 thousand dollars less than when the survey was taken.

“Contracting Out” Our Police Protection:

•    Scherer: “Immediate achievement of 24/7/365 staffing for both towns without having to add staff/cost to either town.”

•    While the first draft proposal cited a proposed cost of $389,458.00, the Double Oak town council expected it would be much higher….even double in costs.

•    Scherer: “Increased officer safety through having a “cover officer” available on the Bartonville or Double Oak beat.”

•    This can be done through interlocal agreement without giving up control of our own police.

•    Scherer: “Bartonville benefits by the immediate addition of Criminal Investigations expertise, provided by full time Double Oak CID, which addresses anticipated commercial district growth.”

•    Bartonville had its own detective before Scherer’s push for “contracting out” our police began. Double Oak’s CID also does patrol.

•    Scherer: “Increased efficiency by the immediate addition of labor resulting in more available patrol time.”

•    Does he mean one officer would be assigned to manage both property and evidence rooms? In that case, what would happen to Bartonville’s evidence and would it be combined with Double Oak? Who would take over his patrol?

•    Scherer: “Dedicated officers per town to allow for familiarity and rapid response.”

•    We already have this without giving up control of our police protection.

•    Scherer: “Streamlined and efficient chain of command and critical incident response through shared written directives, policies, procedures and training.”

•    This just means that Bartonville would be policed by Double Oak and we would have little or no control over how it was done. Our police officers would have been fired or laid off and would have had to apply to Double Oak just like any other new hire. Officers who take contracted jobs will be looking for permanent jobs with job security. They won’t be able to be dedicated to our community. This is one reason contracting police services rarely work.

•    Scherer: “Financial benefit to Double Oak by payment of an administrative fee which would be utilized for police equipment/salaries; immediate addition of electronic citation writers and associated software.”

•    When did it become Scherer’s job to use our tax dollars to benefit other towns?

Scherer: “Unfortunately, this promising solution is no longer an option. A small subset of our former town administration did not want the people of Bartonville to have this option, nor to be able to make a choice. They worked behind the scenes and successfully poisoned this option with members of the Double Oak council. This opportunity has been withdrawn and is no longer available to us.”

•    Many Double Oak citizens were against it and spoke publicly against it. It’s clear that “contracting out” our services is not a promising solution at all. As previously mentioned, the Texas Police Chief’s Association advised against “contracting out.”

•    It was Scherer and Traylor who worked behind the scenes to get rid of our police department by illegally going to Double Oak without the town’s authorization to begin talks about contracting out our services until word got around. Only then did they come clean and admit in an open council meeting that they had been talking with Double Oak.

•    Both Scherer and Del Knowler spoke to the Double Oak town council in recent open meetings in addition to Scherer and Traylor having spent months in private meetings about contracting out our police. Any other citizen of Bartonville should have the right to speak about this also without being labeled as “poisoning” anything.

Budget

Scherer:  “Again, per the town survey, road repair was a major concern. As we approach the next fiscal year, we have the opportunity to continue on the second year of a 5 year road plan to spend in excess of $1 million dollars on critical road repairs. Over the past several years very little money had been placed in the road fund and we are now replenishing the fund to ensure the future of our infrastructure.”

•    Road repair was a major concern during our administration also. However, we spent much more than $1 million dollars in a five year period…we spent $2.6 million.

•    Very little money was held in the road fund because we spent it on the roads.

•    There is no need to “replenish the fund to ensure the future of our infrastructure.” We made certain with our work over a twelve year period that it will be AUTOMATICALLY replenished. The following money will be available to Scherer’s administration that was NOT available to ours until we worked long hard hours to make it so:

•    $150 thousand dollars per year from the Flower Mound agreement

•    $150 thousand dollars per year which would have gone to road debt for another six or seven years if we hadn’t paid it off early

•    Half million dollar offer on the table for the Bartonville Store.

•    Almost $1.6 million dollars over the next five years starting next spring or summer when Lantana Corner is completed and over $400 thousand dollars every year after that.

•    An unknown amount of additional tax dollars which will come to our town from other tax revenue sources such as 50% of the taxes on every glass of alcohol that will be sold in the restaurants in Lantana Corner.

•    While we didn’t do this, Scherer’s administration has another $70,000.00 per year in the town budget because our town no longer has to pay the emergency district, thanks to the tireless efforts of Fire Chief Hohenberger.

Lantana Corner Kroger Agreement

•    Let me be very clear….I know the facts about this agreement as I do about the other events during my twelve years as Bartonville’s mayor because I was there.

•    The property was NOT in our city limits or our ETJ.

•    We were entitled to $0.00 (ZERO) tax dollars.

•    The property was going to be commercially developed with or without us and definitely without our input.

•    The property would never be in our tax base unless the property owner requested that Denton release it and we accepted it.

•    The property owner was clear that they would not do so unless we as a town had alcohol by the drink. We put the alcohol issue before the voters so you could decide and you said yes.

•    That made the property more attractive to a more upscale development and the developer offered us the same deal they had previously offered Copper Canyon who had lost t
he deal in an effort to get a higher share of tax revenue on land that was never slated to be in their tax base. Now they have commercial development along the entrance to their town for which they receive $0 tax dollars.

•    Now we have an upscale development at our town’s entrance which would have been commercially developed without us. And we receive almost $1.6 million dollars for the first five years beginning next year and $400 thousand plus every year after that.

Scherer: “As you can see, a major portion of the revenue was granted several years ago to entice the development to be built.”

•    This is a totally inaccurate statement.

•    You can’t give away something you don’t have.

•    That land was in Denton’s tax base, not ours and it was going to be commercially developed into something for which Denton would have received the tax revenues.

•    They couldn’t provide the alcohol by the drink option to the developer but we could.

•    As a result, the developer asked Denton to release them and asked us to annex them.

Scherer:  “It has been stated that without this incentive to the developer, Bartonville would not have the large commercial development at the entrance of our small town.”

•    This again is a totally inaccurate statement.

•    Regardless of what Bartonville did, there would be a large development at the entrance to our town in Lantana Corner.

•    We had no say over what would have been built.

•    The question was whether or not we would share in any part of the tax revenues and whether or not it would be a more upscale development because of the increased potential revenues brought in by alcohol by the drink.

Scherer: “To have such a development, and to not receive the full tax value to compensate for the impact on our small rural town environment, is a loss.”

•    A town can’t receive tax value on land that isn’t in their town or ETJ.

•    To receive tax dollars that only Denton was originally entitled to cannot be considered a loss to our town.

•    It was an opportunity which resulted in millions of dollars coming into our town that we would not otherwise have had, that we would never have been entitled to.

•     It was an opportunity to have a higher end development impacting the entrance to our town than what could have been afforded by the developer without alcohol by the drink sales.

•    Those are both gains for us, not losses.

Scherer: “Our true usable revenue for town operations from the Kroger development is limited; the majority of the developer’s optimistic projection of $1.5 million over 5 years is committed to the Bartonville Community Development Corporation.

•    Almost $1.6 million dollars coming to Bartonville the first 5 years and over $400 thousand every year after that was calculated by the Texas Comptroller’s Office.  

•    A basic budgeting rule of thumb is “you can never add money to one part of the budget without adding money to the entire budget. For example, if one item gets paid by the Bartonville Community Development Corporation that used to be covered by the town’s general fund, that money in the general fund is freed up to pay other kinds of expenses like police protection. ?xperienced town legislators know how to use common budget techniques to allocate or grant monies from one part of the budget to another when expenses are covered by any part of the budget.

Scherer: “Our council, while diverse in thought, is uniform in a commitment to inform the entire town, listen to the community input and to work in the best interest of all.”

•    Some on the council are this way.

•    Scherer and those on the council who have hidden agendas and conduct town business with a total lack of transparency and who authorized him to send his August 5th letter filled with misinformation to the public do not seem to be interested in “informing the entire town” accurately.

•    Who on the council did authorize Scherer to use our tax dollars this way?

•    How can Scherer, Traylor and Carrington going behind the backs of the Bartonville town council, administration and town attorney to conduct town business be considered either “informing the entire town, listening to community input or working in the best interest of all?”

•    How can deciding to force our police chief to retire without cause in closed executive session without benefit of citizen input at a public police forum after unsuccessfully conspiring against him in secret for over a year be considered “informing the entire town, listening to community input or working in the best interest of all?”

•    How can deciding in closed session to settle the lawsuits with the water company that we had already won defending ourselves the three times the water company sued our town be considered “informing the entire town, listening to citizen input and working in the best interest of all?”

•    I agree with the Double Oak town council that our town is split and our council is in shambles. It all began with Del Knowler, CURE and the water company’s misinformation and candidates for town offices. It won’t be over for a very long time. But I will no longer allow their inaccurate information about me and our twelve years of town administration to go unanswered.

There is more information available than I can put in this letter. Whether you live in north or south Bartonville, you can get it from North Bartonville Citizens Association by emailing them at: nbcitizensassociation@gmail.com. I’ve been accused of being their “big brother” but I can’t take credit for something I didn’t do. I didn’t have anything to do with the group’s formation and didn’t know anything about them until I heard about their articles. So far, they are batting a 1000 on accuracy as far as I can tell. I personally would like to thank Jane Teel for her hard work and for the abuse she was willing to take to get the truth out there.


Ron Robertson
Bartonville, TX

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