Sunday, June 16, 2024

What’s next for town council investigation

Flower Mound Town Hall. Photo by Bill Castleman
Flower Mound Town Hall. Photo by Bill Castleman

Following the Dec. 7 public release of the investigator’s report on possible wrongdoing by Flower Mound Town Council members, the anticipation of “what’s next” precedes the Dec. 21 council meeting.

The independent investigator, Ross Foster, determined that Place 5, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Itamar Gelbman committed a possible violation of the Ethics Ordinance and recommended prosecution.

So, what does that mean?

“We [the council members] don’t really know,” said Mayor Tom Hayden. “There’s a lot of dynamics. What’s best for the town; the residents. How does it impact them?”

Because the report does not find a violation of the Town Charter or any provision governing forfeiture of office, the council has no authority to propose removing Gelbman from office or declaring his office vacant, according to the Town Attorney. However, the voting public may pursue a recall.

The Ethics Ordinance violations cited were: Part (3), which prohibits a public official from directly or indirectly disclosing or using any information gained solely by reason of his official position for his own personal gain, or benefit, or for the private interest of others; and, Part (14), which prohibits a public official from knowingly disclosing information deemed confidential by law.

The report determined Gelbman had disclosed non-public information, obtained in executive session, solely as a result of his position as a Council member. The information was provided to prospective business owner David Vaught about incentives the town was offering to grant to his gun range and other businesses.

The incentive packages being offered to other businesses was information deemed confidential by law, because the Town had not made incentive agreements with any of the listed businesses when the information was allegedly disclosed.

Gelbman wanted to acquire an equity interest in the gun range, but town resident Vaught was not receptive to Gelbman being more than an investor. Vaught provided a pro forma business plan for the gun range to Council member Gelbman.

These discussions were continuing when Council member Gelbman was elected to the Town Council.

“I stand 100-percent behind what I said under oath to the investigator,” said Vaught. “I spoke honestly and gave evidence—as did others—about what happened.”

After the council voted to release the report, Hayden had stepped away from the dais during a presentation on the next agenda item regarding Pecan Acres’ traffic issues.

Gelbman interrupted a speaker to announce, that if anyone was wondering where Hayden was: “He’s out there arranging for [Police] Chief Kancel to arrest me.”

Later on, both men denied the allegation.

“One of the things we, as a community, have to do is put a period on this,” said Hayden. “It’s not good for realtors trying to sell homes, to Mark Wood [director of Economic Development] trying to attract new business, or for our residents having a black cloud over the town.”

The investigation cleared Mayor Tom Hayden, Place 2 Council member Bryan Webb and Place 3 Council member Kevin Bryant of having committed any violation of the Charter, the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) or the Town Ethics Ordinance.

No violations were alleged against Place 4, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dixon during the relevant period.

“We have the report and either we can take the report to the appropriate people to move forward, or anyone—the public– can take it to the proper authorities to move forward,” said Hayden. (See the report here.)

He added that the last six-months have been really disappointing and unproductive.

“Trees are a renewable resource; people are not,” said Hayden. “We [council] need to get back to helping the town grow, creating parks and being successful.”

For his part, Vaught said he had no further comments to make prior to further potential future revelations.

“It’s important for people not to be distracted about what the investigation was about; and, that’s Mr. Gelbman,” said Vaught.

CTG Staff
CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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