The Harris County District Attorney has filed a sealed court motion to recuse her office from further investigation into a Dolcefino Consulting criminal complaint filed against Mayor Turner for hiding e-mails.
Judge David Mendoza, the ethics counsel for Kim Ogg informed us of the decision Thursday.
The reason: Dolcefino Consulting served as Communications Advisors to Ogg in her campaign for District Attorney.
“One of the reasons I wanted to help Ms. Ogg become District Attorney was because of her promise to me to be aggressive on issues of public integrity. If I had known then she would seek to recuse herself from investigations involving my firm I would have told her no,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “I find it odd that when my office complained on a powerful Democratic politician our Democratic DA got a sudden case of conflict of interest.”
Dolcefino Consulting accused Turner of hiding e-mails with Maya Ford, a virtual goddaughter to Turner, and the beneficiary of consulting contracts since Turner took office. Ogg’s office has been sitting on the complaint for 5 months, and there is no evidence they’ve even asked City Hall to show them the e-mails.
“In my view, the District Attorney is already in violation of the law too, since it required them to respond within a month to our complaint,” says Dolcefino. “Houstonians should be asking some tough questions about public integrity in this town.”
Judge Mendoza says the Turner case also became intertwined with the prosecution of Cypress Creek EMS for violating state charity laws. The Northwest Harris County Ambulance company faces criminal charges stemming from a complaint from Dolcefino Consulting after refusing to turn over payroll records for 911 employees. Ogg has now asked for a special prosecutor to take over that case, even though it has been ongoing since she became District Attorney fifteen months ago.
The FBI is probing possible fraud in the 911 service in ESD #11 and employees of CCEMS recently testified in front of a grand jury.
“It is no secret my office has been highly critical of Ms. Ogg’s alleged office of Public Integrity,” says Dolcefino. “Kim Ogg has now been District Attorney for fifteen months.”
Records obtained by Dolcefino Consulting show Ogg’s office waited five months to tell the Houston Independent School District after we formally complained some Democratic school board members were hiding phone records. By the time HISD turned over the records, the phone records we wanted had been discarded. The DA let them get away with it.
Early this year Ogg’s office falsely claimed our complaint about Democratic HCC Board Member Adriana Tamez was unfounded. Dolcefino Consulting turned over hours of video surveillance and utility records proving Tamez did not live in the District she was elected to represent. The Public Integrity Unit claimed they did a thorough investigation, but refused to turn over records showing the public what they did or didn’t do.
“Our District Attorney has the authority to initiate investigations without a formal complaint, but those are their rules. Now, when my Investigative Communications Firm complains, they play games, and now want to hand off the hot potatoes,” says Dolcefino. “In this town, a growing number of people are hiring us to help get them justice. Ms. Ogg could have chosen to help us clean up the town, but she isn’t.”
Several employees of Cypress Creek EMS have now testified before a federal grand jury probing the ambulance “charity” that provides 911 service for 600,000 people in northwest Harris County.
You would think the investigation into possible fraud would have the elected members of ESD#11 demanding answers. They were elected to protect your 911 tax money.
Instead your watchdogs are fighting the release of federal grand jury subpoenas that will tell taxpayers what the feds have been investigating for two years.
Cypress Creek EMS started as a volunteer service but is now one of the swollen bureaucracies of fire and ems services spread across Harris County. CCEMS alone has a budget of over 20 million dollars.
News of this major development in the two year-long federal investigation follows another sex harassment scandal involving, CCEMS executive director, Brad England and comes just weeks before two incumbents on the ESD board, Fred Grundemeyer and Josh Fetner, seek re-election.
In the last two years the ESD board has sat silent while CCEMS has refused to tell taxpayers who is on their payroll or justify questionable overtime.
CCEMS has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills, mostly fighting our attempts to get financial records, records the ESD commissioners apparently don’t care to see. CCEMS is facing trial on criminal charges of withholding charity records from the public.
Our investigation began with discoveries regarding the CCEMS boss was running up huge tabs with ambulance billing money at an expensive steakhouse. ESD#11 taxpayers currently pay more than nine million dollars in taxes to help subsidize the 911 service. CCEMS is actually allowed to collect all the insurance payments for the government 911 service and keep it all. Then they hit taxpayers up for the rest of what they want.
“Instead of protecting taxpayers, the majority of the ESD#11 board took a pledge of allegiance never to replace CCEMS with another company. Really? The feds have the tape,” says Wayne Dolcefino of Dolcefino Consulting.
“They have attacked us for daring to ask to see the records, instead of worrying what they will show. Any public official who takes a pledge to a contractor should be thrown out of office.“
ESD#11 has asked the Texas attorney general to now hide the contents of their grand jury subpoenas, even though the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI don’t object to their release. We do know, ESD commissioner campaign records are among the documents handed over after evidence surfaced that CCEMS’ employees helped run the campaigns of three ESD board members who are elected to police CCEMS.
“If that isn’t the fox guarding the henhouse, I am not sure what you call it. Some of the ESD members used to be on the CCEMS board and now police their buddies. Insane,” says Dolcefino.
“If Harris County commissioners want to find money to pay for needed flood control, they should start by dismantling these little empires that sprang up from good intentions,” says Dolcefino. “we have one sheriff’s department, but I bet no one has a clue just how many, so called “volunteer” fire departments and ambulance services we have. Makes for one hell of a lot of chiefs doesn’t it?”
The election for two new ESD commissioners who police Cypress Creek ems is just a few weeks away. For information on polling locations go to the ESD#11 website. In the last election, less than 1 percent of voters showed up.
You get what you vote for folks.
While you are on the website, look at the public agenda and minutes. See if they even ask about the investigations in their public meetings, or if they demand answers and if they tell you what the government is investigating, regardless of the outcome.
At the last ESD#11 meeting the commissioners did talk about the PR firm they have now hired to help them combat bad publicity, to tell the truth they say.
To save you money, dolcefino consulting offered to conduct an unedited interview with ESD#11 president, Tommy Ripley. We would put a copy on dolcefino.com and we would give them a copy. Wouldn’t charge them a dime of your money.
So far crickets. And I’ll do one better. I will open the offer to Josh Fetner and Fred Grundemeyer too. All of you. Let’s have a roundtable broadcast live on Facebook for all the folks to watch.
They will make it hard for a lot of you to protect your money. The election day is different than the runoffs, and a few hundred thousand folks will have to go to a fire station to vote on that, and then another place to vote on 911 officials.
“They like it when you stay home,” says Dolcefino. “I say don’t vote if you like paying all those taxes.”
The Letter is W. The Word is Waste.
The taxpayers of ESD #11 are being ripped off. Here is just the latest reason why.
Dolcefino Consulting began asking for public records detailing the money spent by Cypress Creek EMS, the “charity” that responds to 911 ambulance calls for more than 500,000 Harris County Residents.
Since then, Cypress Creek has waged a legal war to fight disclosure. They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money to do it.
“This is money that should go to reduce ambulance costs, buy equipment, give paramedics raises, instead it is being wasted because Cypress Creek wants to keep secrets about the way they are spending public funds,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
This week, the First Court of Appeals tried to end an absurd waste of money.
CCEMS has spent tens of thousands of dollars, maybe more, suing Dolcefino Consulting because of an envelope.
That’s right folks.
Litchfield and Cavo claims they mistakenly sent an envelope with confidential documents to Dolcefino Consulting by regular mail. We told them we would return the envelope if we ever received it. We never did. CCEMS sued us anyway, and since then has fought court rulings dismissing their complaint.
ESD #11 Commissioners knew your money was being wasted on a lawsuit that smacks of retaliation and nothing more. They did nothing to stop it. Dolcefino Consulting has been billed more than $100,000 to fight this nonsense.
Hopefully, the Texas appeals court will now stop the continued waste of money, because it is clear the people you elected to watchdog 911 funds won’t.
Here is what the court said.
“CCEMS is essentially arguing that its own erroneous conduct, the inadvertent mailing of confidential documents, can be imputed as tortious conduct on Dolcefino’s part. Neither the law supporting a presumption of receipt nor the law of conversion justifies such a conclusion.”
Next week, Cypress Creek is facing a trial for the criminal charge of withholding records detailing who taxpayers are even paying for 911 service.
The ESD Commissioners haven’t demanded to see the records for two years, even though the money involved is taxpayer money. Instead, they voted to have taxpayers pay their legal bills in the ongoing federal investigation.
“The negligence of the ESD 11 Commissioners is staggering,” says Dolcefino. “They have fought the release of federal grand jury subpoenas that are part of an ongoing fraud investigation by the FBI, even though the feds don’t object to the documents being released. They have sat back while Cypress Creek has defied requests for records that the public has a fundamental right to see. I have called them ostriches, with their heads in the sands. I have now decided that’s an insult to ostriches who may be a little flighty but are still noble creatures.”
Cypress Creek is still suing Dolcefino Consulting for asking for financial records of the charity.
“ESD 11 taxpayers have a chance to vote next month on two safety commissioners. I can only warn folks they are getting played like a fiddle,” says Dolcefino. “Cypress Creek seems to provide great medical care, but it’s financial secrecy and waste of public funds must be stopped.”
For more than two years the FBI has been probing evidence of fraud and campaign corruption in Cypress Creek EMS. The federal investigation includes a review of the campaigns of three safety commissioners in ESD #11 who are elected to police the multi-million-dollar ambulance contract.
Now we know the mounting cost of the FBI scandal.
Dolcefino Consulting has confirmed a new round of grand jury subpoenas have been issued in a widening federal investigation of possible fraud by the 911 ambulance service Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services.
The news comes as CCEMS is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees in the last few years, much of it in lawsuits against Dolcefino Consulting for seeking records from the tax supported ambulance service. The money is likely coming from medical bill money that could be used to buy medical supplies.
You wouldn’t know there was all this trouble if you have been to a recent meeting of the ESD #11 Commissioners, elected to watchdog the CCEMS 911 contract. There is disturbing new evidence that could explain why.
New e-mails obtained by Dolcefino Consulting detail the efforts of CCEMS employees to help orchestrate the defeat of ESD Commissioners who were asking lots of question about money. The e-mails details efforts to get 3 new Commissioners elected.
The election in 2016 was an ugly one. Two ESD # 11 Commissioners, Robert Berleth and Kevin Brost were demanding explanations for questionable spending, including the big entertainment bills of CCEMS Ambulance Boss Brad England. CCEMS was also being sued by a former medical billing company for alleged bid rigging.
The new e-mails expose efforts by CCEMS employees to create a dossier of possible dirty information on one of the incumbent commissioners, providing material to favored candidates for use in the campaign.
In one e-mail, CCEMS PR guy Norm Uhl prepared a cliff notes version of the dirt for candidates, writing folks may be too lazy to read it all.
In another, the CCEMS IT guy boasts about deleting negative social media posts.
Under federal law, a 501c3 charitable organization like CCEMS is directly prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign.
The three candidates favored by CCEMS in the e-mails won the election. Only about 4,000 of 400,000 registered voters showed up at the polls.
Another ESD #11 Commissioner, Fred Grundemeyer claimed he didn’t have any e-mails when we asked under state law. Turns out he must have deleted at least one, where he congratulates the election winners, calling the vote a devastating defeat for Wayne Dolcefino and the candidates he supported.
“It is pretty simple. Dolcefino Consulting supports any political candidates who fights for transparency,” says President Wayne Dolcefino. “Don’t worry Fred, I am doing just fine. It’s the taxpayers that got played.”
Karen Plummer got the most votes for re-election, despite records showing CCEMS Ambulance money that could have been used to buy were used to entertain her instead.
A few weeks ago, Plummer got an e-mail from CCEMS Boss Brad England. The message was simple, Miss ya!
We have reached a new low.
It is no secret that government contractors try to influence the election of public officials, but what is happening in the ESD #11 election has simply crossed the line. It is time for taxpayers to send a very, very, clear message.
It is bad enough that in recent days Cypress Creek EMS has tried to scare senior citizens that the ESD #11 election threatens quality 911 service. Embarrassing, actually! None of the people running for the job as safety commissioner watchdogging the CCEMS contract has called for a change in contractors.
The IRS makes it clear that “501c3 charities like CCEMS are ABSOLUTELY prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidates for elective public office.”
They have been warned before. The FBI and IRS are already investigating the place.
Now we know the powers at Cypress Creek either can’t read or simply don’t care what federal law says.
On April 26, CCEMS Special Operations Chief Wren Nealy forwarded an e-mail to all the employees of the ambulance service with the headline LOCAL ELECTIONS MATTER…OUR CYPRESS CREEK EMS IS IN JEOPARDY!
The e-mail states “the unparalled emergency medicine CCEMS provides our community along with its leadership are being undermined by the opposing candidates” It recommends candidates even. If that isn’t a violation of federal law, it is hard to imagine what is!
What is even more disgusting is that the e-mail talks about the recent floods and the work of first responders to save people in nursing homes and assisted living centers.
First, we should tip our hats to every first responder who braved their own safety to help others, but to use it as some political wedge suggesting some ESD candidates would do something different is shameless.
Why the desperation?
Is it because Robert Berleth, Kevin Brost and Matt Folsom are campaigning to force CCEMS to cough up financial records justifying all the millions they get in tax money? Isn’t that what every taxpayer wants?
Maybe Wren Nealy has other worries. His wife owns a company called Koronis Revenue Solutions, that for the last four years has been the company that gets a cut out all of the medical bills CCEMS sends. What a coincidence?
Koronis Revenue Solutions has already been paid millions. Now that’s a revenue solution for the Nealy family.
A former medical billing company for CCEMS has filed a lawsuit alleging the deal was “rigged” to make sure Wren’s wife’s company won.
Secretary of State records also show Koronis Revenue Solutions only became a company a few weeks before they got the lucrative CCEMS contract.
Wouldn’t you love to start a company and get such a windfall so quickly?
Taxpayers are smarter than CCEMS gives them credit for.
The FBI and IRS don’t investigate and issue grand jury subpoenas for fun.
There are reasons CCEMS is the first charity in a long time to be charged with a crime by the Harris County District Attorney for refusing to disclose charity records.
CCEMS won’t even tell taxpayers who is on their payroll?
Now we have caught CCEMS red handed!
Enough is Enough.
Cypress Creek EMS will not tell you the names of the people on the ambulance payroll paid with taxpayer money.
The paramedics are certified, wear uniforms with name tags, so ask yourself. What’s the big deal?
Here’s another reason why the names are vitally important. At another contentious meeting of ESD #11 this week, commissioner Kevin Brost continued to demand accountability. Brost says ESD #11 taxpayers pay every month for 11,520 man hours for the ambulance crews. Brost says ambulance records show Cypress Creek is shorting the taxpayers 720 hours. Cypress creek denies it.
Ok. The best way to satisfy taxpayers is to show them the records detailing the names and time sheets of the paramedics.
What’s the big deal?
That is why taxpayers have a right to see who they are paying and when they are working.
On April 29th CCEMS will have to explain to a Judge why they ignored a criminal subpoena for the records.
ESD# 11 Commissioners this week paid a $50,000 bill to lawyers who dealt with complying with federal grand jury subpoenas, part of a widening criminal investigation by the FBI and IRS.
Widening, because a new round of subpoenas makes it clear the Feds are now questioning just not CCEMS influence on past elections, but at least one of CCEMS biggest contracts. Insurance may foot part of the $50,000 bill, but just part. And it is just one month.
The latest news release from CCEMS attacks the three candidates in the ESD who promise tighter scrutiny of the way CCEMS spends tax money, even bringing up a 21-year old family dispute involving one candidate to remind them he has a misdemeanor criminal record. Taxpayers deserve better.
CCEMS is a 501(c)(3) charity. In case Mr. Uhl hasn’t read Federal law lately, here it is. He thinks you just can’t endorse a candidate. He is wrong.
“A charity is prohibited of directly, or indirectly intervening in the campaign for an elected office.”
Luckily, the Internal Revenue Service is already part of the ESD fraud investigation so adding that to the list of tax issues shouldn’t be hard.
CCEMS has a contract with ESD #11 taxpayers to provide a service. The fact that they are blatantly trying to influence the election of the safety commissioners responsible for policing their contract is just plain wrong.
No one has ever suggested that ESD #11 should replace Cypress Creek as a contractor, but in the last few weeks Cypress Creek PR guy Norm Uhl has scared senior citizens by saying their choice in this election could jeopardize the quality of their medical care. Shame on him.
Now he jeopardizes the charities tax exempt status with personal political attacks on the only three candidates who have vowed tougher scrutiny of Cypress Creek EMS.
The legal bills mount.
Just to keep a secret.
What’s in a name? You got to wonder who is on the payroll that they don’t want you to see…
Everyone should read what the Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services (CCEMS) PR guy is saying to influence the May election of the safety commissioners for ESD#11. “Setting the Record Straight” and you can find it at www.ccemsnews.com.
You have to love America.
Cypress Creek’s Norm Uhl argues CCEMS is a “private” company, providing a service no different than a construction company would on a Texas highway.
Quite frankly, I never would put an asphalt company in the same category as a life and death 911 provider, but OK, let’s play along.
Cypress Creek should just incorporate as a “for-profit” business. Now CCEMS is a public charity, not a private company. That is why their IRS 990 Tax Returns are public, not private.
In Texas, a charity must disclose financial records. That includes who is on the payroll, and who is getting the contracts. That is why the CCEMS contract requires competitive bidding. How else do we find out about overpaid charity bosses?
CCEMS is playing like they don’t know what the charity law says, but the Harris County District Attorney’s office thinks that’s hogwash.
As a public charity, CCEMS gets the right to buy equipment at those cheaper government pool prices. Private construction companies do not.
Let’s use the construction company example anyway. I invite Mr. Uhl to show me any government contracts with a construction company that has the government paying for specific line items of the company operation, like the salaries of employees.
ESD#11 pays the salaries of every paramedic and dispatcher, but cannot find out who is cashing the checks. Really?
It is the reason why ESD#11 Commissioners Brost and Berleth have argued taxpayers have a right to know who is paid with your money. Just names, time sheets, and bonuses.
CCEMS says it has nothing to hide. Great. Cough it up. The paramedics wear uniforms and name tags don’t they?
On a website called www.keepccemsstrong.com you read that CCEMS is being asked to share confidential HIPPA compliant Information. Nonsense.
ESD#11 taxpayers pay for the staff of the CCEMS dispatch center, which also dispatches fire trucks in other parts of Harris County. Those fire departments pay for the service, but word is ESD #11 taxpayers are paying far more than their fair share.
Again, CCEMS won’t cough up the truth so ESD taxpayers know.
If I live in Spring, I want firetrucks to get to a house fire in Katy, but I expect folks in Katy to pay for it.
If you read “Setting the Record Straight” you’ll notice there is no mention that the FBI and IRS are now investigating CCEMS, in part because of allegations of improper CCEMS influence.
There is no mention that CCEMS is now fighting a criminal subpoena from the District Attorney. What a great message for the kids of ESD #11.
But that’s ok. Maybe taxpayers should elect commissioners who will give CCEMS exactly what they want, a private company with a contract just like a road construction company.
ESD #11 could negotiate a specific service contract with a payment for services rendered. Of course, CCEMS would lose the right to veto their replacement.
I know, as stupid as it sounds, ESD #11 actually signed a 10-year contract that says that. ESD lawyers didn’t write the contract, the contractor did.
Under the current contract, CCEMS gets to keep the millions of dollars paid for insurance companies for 911 ambulance service, money that is supposed to defray the need for extra tax dollars. The tax money subsidizes the budget.
If CCEMS wants to be a private company like a construction company, all that medical billing money should then be collected by a third party vendor chosen by taxpayers and returned to taxpayers. It would be aggressively collected like toll road violations, and then, and only then, would taxpayers be asked for property tax money to make up the difference.
CCEMS lawyer Andrew McKinney admits CCEMS doesn’t aggressively collect the medical bills because taxpayers are chipping in millions. Maybe that explains why $6 million dollars in bad debt was written off.
The way it is now, charity ambulance service CCEMS gets to use all those millions in medical bill money to help pay for a bloated million-dollar plus administration, operating just 14 full time ambulances and 4 part-time ambulances. They use the money to pay Executive Director Brad England’s salary, which is much higher than the Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.
They use the money to pay for those lavish bills at Perry’s Steakhouse where England holds “wining and dining” meetings that may run afoul of IRS rules.
Ask Karen Plummer, who is running for re-election, why it’s right for an ESD elected official to accept entertainment from the contractor she polices, while CCEMS argues for a tax increase to pay for old medical equipment?
Let CCEMS run a dispatch center and make money doing it. ESD Taxpayers would pay their portions, plus a little more for England’s administration desires. Of course, taxpayers for all those fire departments will want to know how CCEMS is spending their money too.
What a tangled web you weave when you play games with the public’s right to know.
Let CCEMS run an education center and make money from it.
You have to love America. Imagine if a road construction company was blatantly trying to influence the election of highway commissioners to keep their contract. Taxpayers would be outraged.
No one has ever suggested CCEMS doesn’t provide great ambulance service. CCEMS has created this transparency crisis by this chameleon challenged game of being government when they want to, a charity when they want, and a private company when they want to.
The sad thing is that CCEMS and Mr. Uhl may have now committed the unforgiveable sin. Scaring residents, especially senior citizens, that their safety may be jeopardized in an attempt “to take over CCEMS or replace it with a private ambulance service which cannot manage the standard of care established by CCEMS.”
CCEMS says they have been the transparent one, alleging Dolcefino Consulting is being paid to expose the misuse of taxpayer money. We plead guilty. That is what an investigative communications firm does.
And that is the beauty of transparency, and why state law makes it illegal to question the motive of a citizen when they ask for charity records.
If CCEMS provides the records to the ESD #11 Commissioners, the Harris County District Attorney, the FBI and the IRS, the public would eventually get to see them anyway. And then you could judge for yourselves?
If CCEMS has nothing to hide, that’s the quickest way to fix it. What a concept.
If a candidate running for ESD#11 Commissioner will not promise to protect your investment, they do not deserve your support.
This political ad was paid for by Dolcefino Consulting. Just setting the record straight!