With a three-to-two vote, the Flower Mound Town Council Tuesday night passed a motion to continue the independent investigation into possible wrongdoing by council members.
Councilman Brian Rountree moved to delay the vote until absent council member Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Itamar Gelbman was in attendance, but his motion failed. As a result, he voted against continuing the investigation, as did Kevin Bryant. Voting to move forward were Steve Dixon and Bryan Webb, with Mayor Tom Hayden casting the tie-breaking vote.
During the earlier public participation section of the meeting, more than a dozen citizens—some wearing lime-green T-shirts supporting Rountree regarding perceived attacks against him–stepped to the podium to chastise the council for spending taxpayer money amounting to $15 thousand for a third-party investigator. They called for an end of the investigation to look into the alleged wrongdoing by council members involving possible violations of local and/or state law, including– but not limited to– the town charter, the ethics ordinance and state open government laws.
One speaker, Jason Hitt, who was recently removed from the town’s planning and zoning commission, suggested Town Manager Jimmy Stathatos and “his lackeys” were wasting time “conspiring” against certain town leadership. “You bring shame on this town, its citizens and the very fabric of the principles of freedom that we hold dear,” said Hitt. “But be patient, the wheels of justice turn slowly, but they grind fine.”
Flower Mound resident Paul Stone again shared the results of an open records request that showed Rountree’s direct communication with town staff members, after being informed by Town Manager Jimmy Stathatos that it violated the town charter.
Later in the meeting, Stone showed an archived meeting video in which every council member said rules need to be followed.
Another town resident, Patricia Mizeur, pointed out that shortly after being elected to council, Rountree had originally called for an investigation on councilman Bryan Webb. She said it was curious that he voted to spend $30 thousand to save a dying tree, but is against spending $15 thousand for an investigation that he started and now includes him.
“If I get kicked-off the council, I’ll come back next spring and get elected and would be the mayor,” Rountree said. “It took Alton Bowman years to get a tree ordinance, but I got the tree ordinance fixed in two months. And, when the town was going to cancel the Fourth of July fireworks, I put out some calls and saved the fireworks.”
Rountree said he represents the “voice of citizens versus a small-town lynch mob out to get a new, young council member.”
He added that his original investigation request was about Webb and whether his sharing information from an executive session was an ethics violation.
“In context with the Webb issue, I supported this [the investigation] at the time,” said Rountree. “This is not the direction I wanted. It’s been taken out of my hands about Mr. Webb and turned around to get the ‘new guys’ on the council.”
At which point Hayden asked: “So, it’s okay if it’s about Mr. Webb, but if you have to look in a mirror it’s not okay?”
The independent investigation began last month after Rountree’s original July 10 request for an investigation of Webb, when it was revealed that Rountree had contacted and given directions to town staff. In addition, he had requested Stathatos to put the investigation about Webb on the agenda “discretely” and “quickly” and without a vote from the majority of the council.
“You talk about hypocrisy and being a team player and when I contacted you to work on the tree ordinance, you said to ‘join new majority, or get out of the way,’” said Hayden. “I offered to help and was rebuffed.”
Rountree shifted his focus from the original investigation of Webb, to the allegation that Stathatos and Town Attorney Bryn Meredith were targeting him.
“Mr. Stathatos has overstepped his authority and undermined his ‘boss’ and I have lost trust in him and am deeply wounded,” said Rountree, holding up a town organization chart. “He told me that there was a basis for an investigation of a Class C felony on Webb and then he and Bryn [Meredith] said there wasn’t. The very people who are out to get me were copied on that e-mail.”
Hayden then read a review of the timeline of events:
On June 25, Gelbman asked Meredith what the process was to remove Webb from the council
On July 10, Rountree requested an investigation of Webb
On July 15, Rountree requested to proceed with the class C investigation against Webb
On July 18, Rountree said he was elected to uphold the town charter and will not look the other way
During the July 20 council meeting, Webb moved for an independent, third-party investigation of any violations with agreement by Gelbman, Dixon and Rountree, while Bryant said he disagreed with a formal investigation, because that isn’t what he’s there [on council] to do. Following no objections that the town charter should be included with the code of ethics, Hayden directed Stathatos to enter into a contract with an investigator for up to $15,000.
Webb then moved to continue the investigation.
“In June, I told a P&Z member that he was going to be removed and I told him so he could have the option to have that discussed in an open session, which he could only do if he knew about it,” Webb said. “Mr. Gelbman and Rountree wanted ‘their pound of flesh,’ because I embarrassed them and interfered with their plan to remove Mr. Pearson. I have done nothing to warrant your [Rountree’s] forgiveness. Gelbman owes an apology to Pearson and Rountree [and] to the town staff. If we don’t continue this investigation, it will appear as a cover up of huge proportions.”
Rountree added that: “Bryan Webb orchestrated this; this was a setup. The other council members wanted this to be about me and Gelbman, so it was taken out of our hands. You’ve hijacked this and railroaded it into a new direction; it was about Mr. Webb’s issue.”
He added that he believed Stathatos had decided there’d been a violation of the town charter.
“He’d [Stathatos] had told me not to contact staff members directly and 98-percent of the time I did that,” said Rountree. “I’d called directly back to Mr. Parr [executive director of public works] from my phone on a beach and now I think [Stathatos] was setting me up.”
Stathatos responded that he’d never thought any investigation was needed. He added that Rountree was mad because he wanted to move the investigation forward in a discreet manner without getting council approval. Stathatos added that he has no vote or ability to request an investigation on anything.
Bryant requested if specifics– about how much of the initial $15,000 contract remained and if there might be reason for any potential charges– can be determined before the council vote on an additional expenditure of funds.
“We were asked to increase the amount we are spending without knowing if we needed to increase that amount. I could not vote to extend the investigation nor increase funding if we did not know if the investigator believes a infraction or infractions has taken place and/or if more time is needed,” said Bryant on Wednesday. “Council was acting on an assumption. I have a very difficult time acting on an assumption.”
Meredith said that the investigator hasn’t shared much and hasn’t passed on information of possible charges.
The council approved continuing the investigation and allocated additional funds of $35,000.
The meeting moved on to address the high water bills for Flower Mound, like those in communities across North Texas.
Assistant Town Manager Debra Wallace said that the July 1 to August 25 billing cycles reflected a 32.9-percent increase in buying about 800-million gallons of water– more than 195-million gallons—in the same period in 2014.
Webb said that even though there was record rainfall earlier in the spring, the higher prices reflect the low number of rain days and little rainfall in July with the average temperatures of days over 100 degrees.
Wallace added that there’s no cost difference from town water from the Upper Trinity of The Colony which buys water from Dallas, or Denton from Lake Ray Roberts. She added that Flower Mound uses only accurate data-logger meters; not “smart meters.”
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The council also authorized up to $750,000 for the dredging of Wilkerson Ponds in Rheudasil Park, the town’s second most popular park.