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Dick Yehle: My View

July 30, 2015 By:InstantNewsWestu Staff

Local News

(Former city council member Dick Yehle sent this letter to the Village News for publication. Yehle was elected to the West University City Council three times and served as a council member for a total of six years. The Village News is a Bellaire-based, free distribution newspaper delivered to West University Place.)

Dear Village News Editor:

I find the Village News’s coverage of the West U City Manager removal effort totally bankrupt of objectivity. The latest example of your slanted articles begins in the headline of the July 28, 2015 article, i.e. “West U. City Manager Changes His Mind” and derisively characterizes Michael Ross as having “flip flop(ped)” on his desire to stay in West U. Nowhere in the article does it indicate that City Councilmembers advocating the change (the Slate) materially altered their position on awarding the contractually required severance pay from “pay the full amount” to “try to avoid paying anything”. The pretense of responsible reporting by the Village News is only slightly less hypocritical than the Slate’s failure to adhere to their campaign mantra of “transparency”.

A more accurate chronicle of events would be:

1. On June 3, 2015, three days after taking office and prior to any Council meeting to consider the matter, Councilmembers Reilly and Ballanfant met with Michael Ross to tell him he was doing a good job but that they (the Slate) were moving in a different direction and intended to replace him as City Manager subject to the terms of his severance agreement and on a negotiated timing of his choosing.

2. Ross understood that the overture that would allow him to formally retire and indicated that he would be receptive to a quick, quiet transition to minimize the adverse publicity to West U of having its City Manager summarily dismissed without legal “cause” and to minimize the damage to his professional credentials of being a victim of such action. All parties understood that meeting the terms of Ross’s severance contract would cost the City $220,000 plus Ross’s accrued vacation and sick time, and the cost of an executive search for a replacement.

3. Although it is not entirely clear why the City Attorney was not asked to draft a simple exit agreement based on the proposed terms, the Slate proposed and eventually hired Richard Rothfelder to represent the City in settlement negotiations with Ross. The unusual step of engaging Rothfelder as Special Counsel created an adversarial rather than an amicable negotiation and has far reaching implications for other rumored changes in City staffing that presumably would follow the replacement of Ross.

4. Coincident with the above circumstances and in anticipation that by a 4-1 vote the new Council would be hostile to him, Ross applied for the open City Manager position in Missouri City and eventually became a finalist. It is only logical that someone facing unemployment would seek an available alternative but throughout the process Ross made it clear that he would rather remain in West University Place.

5. Negotiation of the severance agreement did not go as smoothly as anticipated for a variety of reasons ranging from:

Public outrage over dismissing Michael Ross without cause; to

Public outrage with the Slate paying Michael Ross to retire; to

Public outrage with procedural steps of Slate members during Council meetings limiting public discussion of the matter; to the taint of hiring a Special Counsel and the associated legal fees; to

Rumors of subsequent steps planned by the Slate to hire the underqualified Southside Place City Manager as a replacement; to plans for hiring a new City Manager at a dramatically lower cost, the concern being that “you get what you pay for” and a cheaper alternative would not be as good as Ross; to

The prospect of losing key senior staff during the period of uncertainty following Ross’s prospective departure; to Rothfelder proposing an excessively restrictive new severance agreement on behalf of the Slate which was quickly rejected by Ross, to

Positioning by the Slate to handcuff Ross from recruiting West U staff for any new position he might take, something that is often proposed but is practically unenforceable and was not part of Ross’s contract.

6. Once negotiations over a severance package became difficult, the idea of a quick, amicable departure became unattainable and things began to change. Members of the Slate started to suggest they would not fully honor the contract and Ross began to pushback against any material modification to his contract. Some on council have even suggested that “cause” might be manufactured as a justification for firing Ross in order to avoid paying severance under the terms of his contract.

7. Councilmember Reilly became verbally aggressive at Council meetings and Ross retaliated by exercising his right to have all discussions of his situation be a matter of public record.

8. To clarify his position with regard to his desire to remain at West University Place and to remove an awkward negotiating issue, Ross formally withdrew from being considered for the Missouri City job.

9. Since mid-July the Slate has virtually stopped their action thereby leaving Michael Ross and the City in limbo. Presumably the hiatus is a plan to force Ross’s position on the Missouri City opportunity to avoid honoring his severance package. That door has been closed, yet the City Manager issue was not even discussed at the most recent Council meeting.

The bad faith displayed by the Slate has not been mentioned in any Village News article and all actions by Ross are typically cast in a dark light. Terms such as “flip flop” have a bad connotation, while actions by the Slate to “comply” with Ross’s request are overstated by failing to report that while the Slate agreed to conduct discussions of Ross’s employment in public it has virtually stopped all discussion rather than having an honest public debate. (Only Bob Kelly and Burt Ballanfant have spoken at any length on the matter and their comments were either without substance or unbelievable.) The Village News has totally ignored the very newsworthy uncivil actions of Slate members Reilly and Kelly from the Council bench during the last two months, something that has negatively contributed to the entire issue.

It is acceptable for newspapers to voice their opinions through editorials, but the public deserves more objective reporting in the main pages of their publications. Regardless of one’s view of what should happen to Michael Ross, all major factors affecting stories should be reported so that the public can form accurate impressions of what has transpired and what might be next. It is time for the Village News to back away from doing the bidding of the Slate and become a real newspaper.

Dick Yehle

Former West U Councilmember

46 Responses to “Dick Yehle: My View”

  1. Johnny B Says:

    I heard that Concerned Citizen was Bob Kelly’s secretary for more than two decades and that she does not even live in West U. Is that true Concerned Citizen?

  2. Tangley Resident Says:

    We know that Lucille Gallman doesn’t live in West U. But I am told that Concerned Citizen does live in West U either. Is that true Concerned Citizen?

    What city are you a Concerned Citizen of?

  3. Stephen D. Says:

    Lucille, you keep posting, but you refuse to answer the simple question?

    You say you emailed a copy of an article in the Fort Bend Star paper to Bob Kelly.

    Is that the only time you have communicated with Bob Kelly since June 1?

    It is a YES or NO question. Answer it Yes, and we will move on. You and Concerned Citizen both appear to be shills for Bob Kelly.

    • Tangley Resident Says:

      Not a chance Lucille will answer the question. My guess is since June 1, Bob Kelly has emailed Lucille 33 times and that much of what he was written has appeared in Lucille’s posts on this blog.

      Bob, be a man, not a mouse.

  4. Tyrion Lannister Says:

    You know nothing, Jon Snow!

  5. Matt Cash Says:

    Come on Lucille, remember your words “It is always refreshing and appreciated to see an individual’s name with a comment”. Tell the truth about who’s name should go with the comments. It’s not yours.

  6. Concerned Citizen Says:

    Ya’ll quit bullying Lucille. You won’t even give your name and yet you continue to bash Lucille, who does give hers, for giving her opinions. She does not have to answer your questions, nor do you have to answer hers. Shame on you for treating a senior with such disrespect. It is so obvious that you don’t care anything about West U but are only venting your hostility towards anyone who disagrees with you. Look, if you have questions about Kelly, email him at the City. Don’t continue to try and intimidate Lucille.

    • West U Resident Says:

      If Bob is going to post here through Lucille, that’s where people are going correspond with him.

    • Jim Shields Says:

      Concerned Citizen – I have been told you are David Kuykendahl – if I am wrong just let us know.

      Like Lucille, I am a senior and I give my name. Why don’t you own up to your’s. Why the secrecy?

  7. Tangley Resident Says:

    No, Lucille got caught with her pants at her ankles. Bob Kelly has corrupted Lucille.

  8. Johnny B Says:

    Looks like Lucile got caught with her britches at her knees.

  9. Brokelyn Says:

    Whoa folks.
    Let’s not turn this into a witch hunt just because Lucille has views that differ from the majority on this board. If you disagree, say so and hopefully present facts to back it up. But let’s not make this a hostile arena for those who wish to dissent. To the contrary, let’s welcome all points of view so that this forum can provide the best possible picture of what is going on or else this is going to devolve into a local version of Fox vs. MSNBC (two worthless sources of entertainment, but not information). And let’s not all turn into lawyers who need to interrogate witnesses.

    To everyone who wishes to be taken seriously, please attempt to support your opinions with facts or evidence (or at least acknowledge that your opinions are just that, opinions). It makes you much more credible and helps advance the ball on the issues.

    • Stephen D. Says:

      Can’t buy your premise Brokelyn. Lucille has made some outlandish statements. I have had several of my West U friends today say the same thing.

      My feeling and the feeling of some others is that Lucille is posting comments that are really initiated from Bob Kelly. Lucille has refused to answer a simple question. Instead, Lucille has used very skillfully worded answers to avoid the premise of the question.

      So, for the fourth time, Lucille here is the simple question:
      You say you emailed a copy of an article in the Fort Bend Star paper to Bob Kelly.

      Is that the only time you have communicated with Bob Kelly since June 1?

      It is a YES or NO question. Answer it Yes, and we will move on.

    • Lucille Gallman Says:

      Thanks Brokelyn. I have always enjoyed what you had to say whether or not I agreed. However, this has all gotten a little weird for me.

  10. Stephen D. Says:

    Aw right Lucille. Now you sound like a lawyer in your answers because you are carefully avoiding answering the question. But you are not a lawyer? Makes me think someone is ghost writing your posts?

    That ghost? Most likely, it is Bob Kelly.

    So I ask you the same simple question, a YES or NO question, I ask this simple question for the third time:

    You say you emailed a copy of an article in the Fort Bend Star paper to Bob Kelly.

    Is that the only time you have communicated with Bob Kelly since June 1?

    It is a YES or NO question.

  11. Jim Shields Says:

    Lucille

    I am beginning to think someone is ghost writing your posts here.

    My wife and I are seniors who have lived in the same house for decades. You make it sound like you have some special insight because of your age. You don’t.

    Let’s take the Wells house. When Kelly wanted to expand the police station he complained bitterly about the Wells who he said lived in a “falling down dump” on land that was very unattractive to builders because it was NEXT TO THE POLICE STATION.

    The Wells made out very well on their very public deal with West U. Eminent domain had nothing to do with the deal. Kelly was bitter because he felt the Wells got over on him with their sweet deal.

  12. Lucille Gallman Says:

    This is a 1945 edition of the Southwestern Times. I’m not sure this will work.
    Type or cut and paste the following in the Internet Address place and press enter
    http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth392951/m1/1/

    • Lucille Gallman Says:

      I find that if you just click the above address, it will go to a December 1945 edition of the Southwestern Times. At the top of the page, you can select the pages to view. It is a snapshot of life in West University Place at that time.

  13. Stephen D. Says:

    Lucille, bless your heart, you are more long-winded than Bob Kelly.

    The Questions is simple. You say you emailed a copy of an article in the Fort Bend Star paper to the new City Council. Is that the only time you have communicated with Bob Kelly since June 1?

    It is a YES or NO question.

    Thanks, Lucille.

    • Lucille Gallman Says:

      After Michael Ross withdrew from consideration for the Missouri City position, a Fort Bend Star writer didn’t say anything about it. I sent only Bob Kelly an email and told him this and he replied that the council had been informed that he had withdrawn. The next time I looked at the Fort Bend Star, there was a place where it said that Michael Ross had withdrawn from consideration. It also said that he had the most experience. I haven’t looked at the Fort Bend Star recently. I now live in Fort Bend County. There are more local papers in Fort Bend. I buy the Katy Times. The area is so big and there is so much going on they need more.

  14. Tangley Resident Says:

    Drum Roll…..let’s see if Lucille answers the question? I doubt it. That would reveal the location of warts on the hands of the puppeteer.

  15. Lucille Gallman Says:

    Well, I have to bore you with one more story about the “good ole days.” By the way, my grandson is named Matt. Nice name. When the Second World War broke out, I was four. It is amazing about what I remember of the times. My generation is probably the last that actually remembers that war. I lived on the 3700 Block of Tangley in a house that my folks built in 1940, and is still there and looks good. Anyway, the young men on my street enlisted as did my not-so- young dad who was in his thirties. He was a Rice grad and taught navigation until he volunteered to replace the captain of LST-384 who was killed. Some on our street didn’t come back. I think my interest in West U goes back to when my dad was saying goodbye to my mother, brother, sister and me. For some reason, I just remember his saying “Take care of West University Place.”

    • Stephen D. Says:

      Lucille:
      How about answering my question about you emailing with Bob Kelly? How many emails have you exchanged with Bob Kelly since June 1?

      Thanks,

      Steve

    • Jim Shields Says:

      Lucille

      My roots in West U are deeper than yours. My wife and I bought a bungalow on 3409 Amherst in the late 70’s. It is a “tear down” but is the best investment we ever made. We hope to leave it to our children so they can benefit from the appreciation.

      The brother of my father in law moved his family into a bungalow on Amherst in the 1930’s. I remember my wife’s aunt telling us to buy a house across the street from her in 1973 which was selling for $30,000. I said at the time that was way too much money to spend on a bungalow.

      Three years later we paid $90,000 for our bungalow on the same street.

      What does this have to do with this discussion? I am your age. You can’t use your age to defend the indefensible. West U is changing but right is right and wrong is wrong.

      Bob Kelly and his slate are over the top wrong.

      • Lucille Gallman Says:

        My husband was an attorney for Signal Oil and Gas in Houston and he was transferred to Los Angeles. We separated in LA and I moved back to Houston with our two kids. We were living with my parents on Tangley and I drove around looking at houses for sale. I liked the house on the corner of Marlowe and College. I remember sitting in the living room of another house with my dad, who was going to buy a house for us. The real estate lady said, and it was probably the end of 1970 are very early 1971, that they didn’t realize how West University was going to change. He bought the house on the corner of Marlowe and College for #18,000. The taxes were huge when I sold it.

  16. Stephen D. Says:

    OK Lucille. I have a straight question for you: Have you been emailing with Bob Kelly? You last few posts sound like he wrote them.

    As Yogi Berra would say, “It is Deva Vu all over again”. Why won’t Bob Kelly come use his name and post his feelings instead of using people like senior citizen Lucille to do his dirty work.

    Lucille, have you been to any of the meetings since June 1? Have you seen this man in action?

    Also, I suspect your view that the Village News is legitimate are in the minority. Legitimate newspapers do not have an owner named Kathleen Ballanfant, hire her son (Ben Ballanfant) to write news stories about his father (Burt Ballanfant). Please explain that one Lucille.

    • Lucille Gallman Says:

      Stephen: I emailed a copy of an article in the Fort Bend Star paper to the new City Council. I think it was the July 24 edition, but I’m not quite sure of the date. The issue discussed the selection of Michael Ross and two others who were the finalists for the City Manager job in Missouri City. Bob Kelley emailed me back and thanked me and said he was forwarding a copy to Michael Ross and I think two others.
      I grew up in West University Place moving there when I was three in 1940. The local paper was the Southwestern Times. The Village-Southwest News, I believe, followed. The Village and Southwest News we have today provided the same kind of local coverage. The amazing thing is that old editions can be accessed online of the Southwestern Times that give a snapshot of life in the early days. I recently typed in a name of someone I knew was a pilot during World War II and whose family lived on my street, Tangley. I knew there was a Veterans of Foreign War location named for him. He had been killed in action. It showed the entire edition of the 1945 paper with the story. There were also stories about West U and probably Southside about everyday things. One thing I noticed was an article about a council election that was heating up. My engagement and wedding announcements are also in the papers. The Village and Southwest Papers are a continuation and took the place of the Southwestern Times. They have the same format with local news. The great thing today, is that all the issues are archived and can be read in the future. I think you and others are beating the wrong drum and get caught up in the present. I can’t remember when Kathleen Ballanfant wasn’t the editor of the local paper. I think it is great that she and Burt Ballanfant have a son who has the talent and interest like Kathleen to continue the tradition of a local paper.

  17. Lucille Gallman Says:

    Selby Clark: I am sure that Dick Yehle appreciates your glowing comments regarding his “My View” printed in Instant News West U. I think it is interesting that the Instant News even printed it since it writes so negatively about another news publication. Also you are one of the many who use the term “slate” when referring to the City Council which I first saw in the Instant News. To me the manner in which it is repeatedly used seems condescending. It is always refreshing and appreciated to see an individual’s name with a comment.

    • Matt Cash Says:

      Lucille, likewise we are sure the slate appreciates your blind support of them in spite of their damaging actions to the city. Unfortunately you do not have a clue about what is going on behind the scenes here so please stop pretending like you do. With all due respect, when we need another West U history lessen from the good ole days we will contact you.

  18. JusttheFacts Says:

    Help us understand what was so wrong about the last city council’s property swap proposal. Was it the fact that the seniors in the homes that would be impacted were offered to sell their homes to the city at market value and then they would be allowed to stay in their homes, rent free, until they, or their heirs were ready to sell? Was it the fact that a new, attractive residential scale, church building would be built where the 40 year old garbage trucks and fleet maintenance building is today. The traffic impact at that location would have been less than what exists today. What the slate does not want to tell those impacted homeowners in the proposed municipal block is that there will be a new youth building behind them now on Amherst instead of on the corner of Milton and College. That is where it would have been built a year ago if the city council had not stepped in to try to fix that.

    • Lucille Gallman Says:

      JusttheFacts: I take it you are not a senior who has lived in a house for decades with all the memories that go with it. Nor that your peace of mind was shattered when you picked up a Notice thrown on your front porch last October that informed you that a plan involving your home had been dreamed up by people who don’t care what you think or feel. No matter how it is dressed up, it is still eminent domain, and you and your property may be next.

      • Matt Cash Says:

        I’m a senior. Where do I sign up for the city to buy my home today and I get to stay there as long as I want rent free. Sorry Lucille but that would be one long line of senior residents signing up for that deal. It’s delusional to think otherwise.

        • Lucille Gallman Says:

          If you own a home in West University Place, even if it is leaning, you don’t need the city to buy it. Builders are interested in the land it sits on. The problem with the deal the city offered is that the market value is not as high as what the builders are willing to pay. If you make a deal with the city say today, you are stuck and can’t negotiate for the maximum amount you could receive. I am amazed at how much more they are paying than they did when I sold mine in 2008. I am lucky because I have a daughter and son-in-law who are lawyers with real estate experience. They handled everything for me. They are retired now. It doesn’t hurt to get estimates, but find an attorney to run interference for you. It’s tough out there. I think I answered your comment and put it in the wrong place. Hell to get old!

  19. Jim Shields Says:

    Here are some real historical facts.

    When Bob Kelly was mayor, he built the police station, with no public input at a cost (bonds) of $6.9 million. In my opinion, that was a good move.

    He also took away the Wells’ house. West U gave them good value for their home, but Bob was on board for using imminent domain on their home. He will, of course, deny this but he told me many times about his disdain for the behavior of the Wells.

    The facilities master plan goes back a decade at least. The municipal block was always a part of that master plan. Get a copy of the original and see when it was first issued. Bob was around for that. Again, in my opinion, the master plan was well conceived and had a huge amount of public input. To say otherwise is wrong, plain and simple. Why do the backers of the slate lie about easily provable facts?

    The church built its Basketball facility when Burt was mayor in 2005 and he’s the one who was mayor when they changed the law to make churches primary uses in areas zoned residential. The slate backers try to demonize West U Baptist and that is outrageous. Burt backed the change in the law that gives churches special consideration.

    What is nuts is that the slate backers told us that a dump truck maintenance facility in the middle of our city is charming and preferable to a church youth center.

  20. Susan Ohsfeldt Says:

    The fact that most people do not know what
    Mr. Ross does is irrelevant. He ran the Super
    Block and Land Swap that was opposed by the
    majority who knew what was proposed.
    Being pleased with Police, Fire, Public
    Works and Garbage Collection is not an
    Endorsement of Mr. Ross. The voters were
    upset about a Super Block plan done without
    citizen input. That is relevant.
    Obviously termination of Mr. Ross cannot be
    totally transparent to the public
    as any business person knows the issues
    Involved in letting an employee can lead to
    litigation. So, whether Mr. Ross goes or stays
    we have a problem going forward.

    • Dick Yehle Says:

      Susan: You and I obviously differ on the long term value to the City of the Land Swap but that is a difference of opinion and that issue is closed. Your assertion of Mr. Ross “running” the Super Block and Land Swap is not a difference of opinion, it is just wrong but that issue is still open by virtue of pending action before City Council. Everything Mr. Ross did in that regard was at the direction of and with the blessing of City Council. He should not be fired for simply doing the job he was asked to do.

      As to the lack of transparency by the Slate, as I indicated in my letter to the Village News a simple, quiet transition was originally agreed by the parties something that has been derailed by the insincere actions of the Slate and its representatives. Now that Mr. Ross has asked for matters surrounding his employment to be made public, it is time for someone to explain why the action is justified and for people in general to concentrate on the irregular actions of the Slate not what transpired nearly a year ago.

  21. Lucille Gallman Says:

    Mr. Yehle: I assure you, the Village News has always been a real newspaper. Ask those of us who read it. I live in the Katy Area now, but today I was driving through West U and I thought how nice the Community Building looks. My family moved to West U in the early 1940s from The Heights which was about the time it was built. It is a wonderful building that has served many generations of residents. I cannot believe that its destruction was a possibility. If you will do a search using Google about “Super Block” you may be reminded of what could have happened if it had continued to be forced, as planned, on the residents of West U. Tell me, how did the label “Slate” come about to describe the City Council? West U residents are smart enough to avoid finding themselves with another Mayor and Council who will bring back the Super Block after the next election. What we are seeing and reading now is pre-campaign rhetoric.

  22. Bryan H. Says:

    REMOVE THE SLATE! REMOVE THE SLATE! REMOVE THE SLATE!

  23. Concerned Citizen Says:

    This is the same Dick Yehle that just got off City Council in May this year who brought West U the super block/land swap fiasco that brought a demand by West U citizens for extensive changes in West U government, including a change of the City Manager. His actions led to a two to one vote margin of the slate being elected. Now he cries it’s all unfair. Grow up Yehle. Your actions had consequences. But whatever you do, don’t run for City Council again.

    • Jim Shields Says:

      What in the world are you talking about? The people of West U either love Mike Ross or don’t know who he is because our city is managed so well.

      The super block/land swap was a fiasco only insofar as the slate made it a fiasco. As one person said, the slate got about fifty really angry people riled up over nothing. Thirty five of those people check for aliens from outer space camping in their back yard.

      You sound like Donald Trump. You make stuff up and then expect us to believe it. Why don’t you tell us your name?

      • david dutch Says:

        jim, have you no intelligence? you are a tiresome boring man!

        • Jim Shields Says:

          David

          That may be but you slate backers still make things up and expect us to believe it.

          • david dutch Says:

            you are a fool jim!

          • david dutch Says:

            please enlighten me how I am mistaken on what happened with the super block. you never showed up for a single council meeting, I spoke at all of them. you are a real piece of work Jim!

  24. Selby Clark Says:

    Dick,

    This is well written, concise and to the point. Obviously the Village News has some family ties to protect in their choice of coverage and that is very unfortunately tainting their reporting. For such a fine and long running publication this is a real stain on their integrity and they are adding to the insult this new “slate” has already made on our fine city.

    I am truly sorry for our city and I am embarrassed for them. I am sorry to see that people like this live in our city and don’t care that they can’t hold their heads high, but instead scurry around in the dark like rats. To run on a platform of transparency and then to completely flip-flop and hide, to the best of their collective abilities, everything they do and even the reasons they want to do it. They seem totally unconcerned with the damage to our city’s image and reputation and the cost they are inflicting on the city. Really a sad day our city’s history when they deceived their way into office. If only we could take that day back.

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