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Harris County D.A. investigating West U City Council

October 20, 2015 By:Charlotte Aguilar

Community

By Charlotte Aguilar

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is conducting an investigation of recent actions of the West University Place City Council.

InstantNewsWestU.com/West University Essentials Magazine confirmed through multiple sources that current and former city officials are cooperating with questions from the Public Integrity Unit of the D.A.’s Office about councilmembers’ conduct leading to the firing of 14-year City Manager Michael Ross.

A slate of four council candidates committed to Ross’ ouster – Mardi Turner, Brennan Reilly, and former Mayors Burt Ballanfant and Bob Kelly – was elected May 9 and took office, along with newly elected Mayor Susan Sample, on June 1. Ross was fired Aug. 10 on a 3-2 vote, with Kelly, Ballanfant and Reilly for and Sample and Turner against his termination.

The probe may be focusing on concerns that were expressed openly by residents during consideration of Ross’ future: That the discussion was anything but transparent and may have partly been conducted in violation of state Open Meeting laws.

A finding of violations could lead to the county courthouse. According to information from the Texas Municipal League, penalties for Open Records violations range from having improperly deliberated actions voided, to fines of $2,000 per violation, to a jail sentence of up to six months.

WU DA probe

14 Responses to “Harris County D.A. investigating West U City Council”

  1. Anonymous too. Says:

    This city council needs to be investigated! They lied to citizens, made promises not kept, are not close to being transparent, & ignore code violations at the library. They favor staff getting all the benefits, while depriving citizens of basic services. I hope this investigation goes forward!

    • Anonymous too. Says:

      I just wrote an e-mail to the district attorney’s office. every WUP citizen should provide their input. If your rights are violated as mine are, speak up!

  2. Tyrion Lannister Says:

    I love our town. It is a wonderful place to live, and quality of life can’t be beat.
    Don’t waste time listening to grumpy old retired lawyers play wordsmith with each other. Get outside and play with your grandchildren, before you are too feeble to enjoy life any longer!

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Why is my comment awaiting moderation after two and one half hours.
    PS Jim Shields made his dislike for the members of council quite plain in council meetings.

    • George Boehme Says:

      If you post using your name, the system will usually automatically post. The spam program generally flags Anonymous postings and requires a manual approval.

      • Steven Segal Says:

        Maybe you should consider eliminating ALL anonymous postings (leave them in spam). It is possible some individuals post under several different “anonymous” aliases.

        • Anonymous Says:

          You can put any name where it says “name” so there is not guarantee that you actually have the person’s identity. I think it is ridiculous that a few people tried to stop the firing of Ross when so many people were mad about what was done spending taxpayer’s money on a Super Block plan that most objected to when they learned about it. Maybe they should have been angry at the former City Council, but they were not in office any longer.

          • Lisa Ashley Says:

            Actually the citizen survey showed that, once residents learned the truth about the city’s plan, they supported it. It was simply the loud NIMBY’s (not in my backyard) that were against it.

          • David Says:

            Lisa Ashley, I am a NIMBY and was very involved with the disaster that was the super block. Also from the survey: The MORE educated about the Super Block the LESS likely you were to support it!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Why aren’t they investigating all of the behind the scene meetings with PGAL where the Super Block was planned. Or how about all of the meetings in Mr. Ross’ office with West U Baptist minister and his attorney? Isn’t that a violation? Obviously, the “extortion” did not work as Ross refused to resign. Is threatening to try to break the terms of an employment contract or negotiate an exit extortion. I think not.

  5. Noelle Says:

    Burt and Bob are lawyers and should know better.

  6. Jim Shields Says:

    Extortion:

    the act or practice of extorting especially money or other property; especially : the offense committed by an official engaging in such practice.

    On June 3, 2015, Reilly and Ballanfant told city manager Mike Ross that he would be fired. They then committed extortion by threatening Ross that they would find a way to eliminate Ross’ severance package if Ross objected publicly to his firing.

    This is a crime. I know that Ross and his lawyers know this and if they report this crime to the police, our criminal justice system will take over. The police will investigate, if they determine that a crime has been committed they take it to the Harris County District Attorney who then may or may not convene a Grand Jury. Prosecution would then commence if it is determined that a crime was committed.

    It is noteworthy that Bob Kelly did not attend the meeting where extortion took place.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I like the jail sentence best!

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