Thirteen months ago, a Waller County jury ruled former county officials broke every transparency law in the books to cut their backroom deal with a garbage company. Taxpayers got stuck with the huge legal bills. Waller County taxpayers had to pay a huge legal settlement, several hundred thousand dollars, for the sins of guys named Beckendorff, Kitzman, Pokluda and Styers.
Since then, the Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis has been acting and sounding like he wanted to conduct a real criminal investigation. Waller County taxpayers had hope former officials would be made to pay taxpayers back.
Don’t hold your breath.
Mr. Mathis now says “his review of the criminal statutes show prosecution would now be barred by the statutes of limitation.”
It gets worse. Mathis also says civil remedies from the former politicians would have had to be pursued before the civil case was settled.
“I don’t believe there was ever any real intention to prosecute anybody in this landfill deal,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “And the stink is hard to ignore.”
There is plenty of blame to go around.
Mathis should have never claimed a conflict in the first place. No one forced him to. He knew about the secret landfill trip before it happened. This is what happens when the County Attorney and the District Attorney are the same guy.
Fort Bend Special Prosecutors were a laughing stock. No official was subpoenaed. No public official was put under oath. The Texas Rangers never even completed a report. Special prosecutors cut a deal with Green Group to return their records and keep them secret. The grand jury even included a commissioner’s wife, a Mayor and the next door neighbor to one of the potential targets.
Mama didn’t raise no fool.
One of the best ways to make sure the statute of limitations runs out is play the stall game. And this was one was played like a script of a bad Hollywood movie.
After the Waller County Jury ruled in December of 2014, landfill opponents wanted a new criminal investigation.
Five months later, Elton Mathis asked the Special Prosecutors for their files. They said no. Mathis could have gotten a court order but he didn’t. Judge Buddy Mccaig asked nicely too. He could have hauled the Special Prosecutors in front of his court, but he didn’t.
In September the Special Prosecutors went to the Attorney General, and bought themselves three more months of stalling.
In December, the files were released to Elton Mathis. Dolcefino Consulting got to see them in January, and it was as expected. The Special Prosecutors let the people of Waller County down. They fought harder to keep their sloppy investigation secret than they did to get to the truth of the landfill deal.
It is true the statute of limitations on transparency laws has run, but the statute of limitations on perjury is still there. Landfill opponents have been wanting Mathis to launch that investigation for 14 months.
There is nothing stopping the District Attorney from looking at new evidence uncovered during the trial. Sworn Affidavits, Deposition testimony, Courtroom Testimony. Mathis confirms former Commissioner Odis Styers sought immunity to testify. That’s a great place to start. Not with immunity, but with grand jury subpoenas to the County Commissioner who sold out his neighbors to keep the landfill secret. Let’s see who takes the fifth amendment. Let’s subpoena the former county official who served as the go between to set up secret meetings. Let’s subpoena officials who were in charge of the computer system where so many e-mails just disappeared.
Elton Mathis says he is still reviewing his options. In Waller County that can be translated: Nothing will happen to nobody.