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.
Hempstead – For over a year, Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey and his prosecutors have been fighting release of records detailing their criminal investigation of the now defunct Highway 6 landfill.
Now we know why they were fighting so hard to keep you in the dark.
Dolcefino Consulting was given access to the secret investigative files after the Texas Attorney General paved the way for their release.
“John Healey and his so called prosecutors should be embarrassed at the very least, or face an investigation into their own conduct,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.” There’s only two explanations for what I have seen, and the best one for Healey is sheer incompetence.”
Dolcefino Consulting has learned the so-called special prosecutors closed the landfill case even though the Texas Rangers had never completed a report on what they found, or even who they had talked to.
No subpoenas were issued, for records and not a single public official ever had to testify under oath. In fact, the record of any testimony to the Waller County Grand Jury is missing from the files.
Adding to the list of disturbing revelations, the Fort Bend County prosecutors cut a deal with Green Group, the garbage company that worked a sweetheart deal with former Waller County commissioners to keep any records they turned over secret, and they even gave the records back, destroying the opportunity for less compromised eyes to investigate further.
The criminal investigation was originally sparked by a complaint about violations of Texas Public Information Laws by Dolcefino Consulting, the investigative communications firm hired to investigate the landfill deal. Many of the records requested were never turned over.
Dolcefino Consulting has learned the special prosecutors were given evidence of criminal violations, but chose to ignore them. We have learned that special prosecutors even turned down an offer from a former Waller County Commissioner Odis Styers to testify in exchange for immunity.
Remember that secret trip Odis Styers and another Waller County Official took to the landfill. Receipts for the trip aren’t even in the file, and there’s no evidence prosecutors even asked to see them. And the files show no testimony by Robin German, the former Waller County election official who set up meetings with Judge Beckendorff with the garbage company. Prosecutors issued no subpoena to review hundreds of text messages between German and Beckendorff.
A Waller County jury found former public officials violated transparency laws in late 2014 but those prosecutors made no attempt to investigate further, instead they fought release of their work.
You get the point.
“This proves what landfill opponents have suspected from the start. These special prosecutors should have been called special protectors because they made sure this entire thing was swept under a big trash covered rug”, says Dolcefino. “This thing stinks as bad as that garbage dump would have.”
The Fort Bend District Attorney doesn’t want you to know the truth.
John Healey’s office ignored a request from the Waller County District Attorney and a State District Judge to see the investigation his office did into the proposed Highway 6 landfill. Healey’s prosecutors asked the Texas Attorney General to protect them.
Attorney General Paxton said no.
In a legal ruling, the Assistant Attorney General Tim Neal reminded Healey of a 32 year old ruling” an official of a governmental body, who in an official capacity, requests information by the governmental body is not acting as a member of the public in doing so.”
In other words, cough up the records.
If you remember, Healey’s office refused to prosecute former politicians in Hempstead for transparency laws. Dolcefino Consulting made the criminal complaint as evidence surfaced politicians held secret meetings with landfill developers. A Waller County Jury eventually used the evidence to find politicians violated transparency laws. Taxpayers, not the politicians, ended up paying the huge legal bill.
“I know why Healey’s office is fighting so hard to hide these records,” says Wayne Dolcefino of Dolcefino Consulting. “They will prove the incompetence of their investigators, and they will raise a real question about whether Healey put politics before truth.”
Healey’s office has 10 days to decide if they want to sue the state to protect their investigative files. More taxpayer time and money.
We want the entire file made public. The public deserves it.
Hempstead, Texas is making history. For the first time in 41 years, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has returned an application for a landfill, the proposed 15 story garbage dump being peddled by Green Group Holdings along Highway 6 North of Hempstead.
The Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead have been fighting the proposed dump for more than 4 years, and their current legal fees are $1.67 million dollars. While donations from around the world have come in to help this little Texas town, a large chunk of the money to fight the garbage industry comes from money raised at garage sales next to a local hardware store.
In November, the garage sale raised 17,000, the most ever. Residents have cleaned out their homes to help. Since the garage sales started, a whopping $350,000 has been raised to help pay the lawyers and experts needed to fight a landfill.
The battle may be won, but no one thinks the war is over. Green Group has already spent millions, and while they convinced some former Waller County Officials to sell their neighbors out at the beginning, they still have the property on Highway 6 tied up until next April.
“This landfill fight was born out of government malfeasance”, says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “It is time for Waller County officials to get the people their money back from the politicians who sold them out. And it is time for the Waller County District Attorney to launch a real criminal investigation.”
Fort Bend District Attorney John Healey is clearly a stumbling block to the real truth. Special prosecutors from his office claimed they couldn’t find any violations of transparency laws, yet months later a jury found it easy to find the wrongdoing. Since then, Healey’s office has refused to turn over the records of their investigation to the Waller County DA, who claims he wants to launch a new probe. Healey’s office has ignored his request for the records, and now ignores the orders of the State District Judge overseeing the landfill case to turn the files over.
Of course, the pretty please stuff should have ended months ago. District Judge Buddy Mccaig should call the special prosecutors to his court tomorrow and put them in jail if they ignore a court order. It is called contempt of court your honor. District Attorney Mathis could go to court tomorrow as well. What are they waiting for?
Juries in Waller County are smarter than the politicians think they are. So are the voters.
The Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead will hold a news conference at 10:30 am on Wednesday, October 7th in front of the Waller County Courthouse.
CALH will discuss the historic decision by the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to reject the application for the controversial Highway 6 landfill. The citizens group had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over 4 years to fight the proposed 15-story garbage dump.
CALH will also deliver a message to Green Group, the Georgia based garbage company that tried to get the landfill deal approved. Last December, CALH and the City of Hempstead won a huge legal judgement from Waller County for the secret dealings between former county officials and the garbage company.
The residents of Hempstead are invited to come to the courthouse to enjoy this victory.
Please contact Wayne Dolcefino at Dolcefino Consulting for additional information.
WHO: Citizens Against the Landfill
WHEN: Wednesday, October 7TH 2015 – 10:30 am
WHERE: Outside Waller County Courthouse
836 Austin Street – Hempstead, Texas 77445
The proposed Highway 6 landfill was dealt a potential death blow Monday afternoon by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It’s a major victory for Hempstead residents who said the landfill was a risk to drinking water and the beautiful Waller County countryside.
In a letter from the Director of Waste Permits, Pintail Landfill bosses were told the integrity of the landfill program requires their permit application be rejected.
Citizens who oppose the landfill in Hempstead raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the proposed 15 story tall landfill, holding garage sales and steak dinners to help fund the battle. Residents argued the landfill’s proposed location, near Hempstead and Prairie View, was dangerous to the environment and racist because of the number of minority communities surrounding the site.
Dolcefino Consulting has been involved in this fight for more than two years, exposing the back room deals that allowed Georgia based garbage company Green Group, to cut the deal with some Waller County politicians in the first place.
“The people of Hempstead should be celebrating tonight,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “And tomorrow they should launch a campaign to get back the taxpayer money wasted in this fight.”
Last December, Waller County settled a lawsuit by landfill opponents after a jury found the County Commissioners at the time held secret meetings on the landfill deal.
The Executive Director of the TCEQ, says the final straw was evidence the landfill would cut through shallow underground water at the proposed landfill site, posing a huge environmental risk to drinking water.
“We do not think an application amendment is appropriate and the only reasonable course available is to return the application as deficient,” wrote Earl Lott, Director of the Waste Permits Division.
In recent months, the Fort Bend DA’s office has been accused of prosecutorial misconduct. The District Attorney John Healey has denied other accusations he solicited campaign contributions from the family of a suspect.
Now, Healey’s office is playing games with the Texas Public Information Act and the Texas Attorney General. And Dolcefino Consulting is going to tell Ken Paxton how.
For months, special prosecutors from Healey’s office have tried to keep their closed investigation of the proposed Hempstead landfill a secret. In July, Dolcefino Consulting accused Healey’s office of stonewalling the truth.
Now here’s the real question. Are the prosecutors even telling the truth?
The special prosecutors in Healey’s office have asked the Texas Attorney General to help them keep their investigative file secret. They claim the Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis sent them an e-mail in September asking for the files and they consider that a request under the Texas Public Information Act. Under that law, the prosecutors had ten days to ask for a legal opinion. Their request cites grand jury secrecy.
But John Healy’s office didn’t tell the Attorney General the whole story. That’s outrageous and the Fort Bend District Attorney should have to explain the deception.
Last December, a Waller County Jury found former county commissioners conspired to violate transparency laws on the land deal. The sworn testimony raised allegations of possible perjury. The Waller County District Attorney originally had a conflict on the landfill case, but in January the new commissioners’ court waived his conflict. Mathis was ready to launch a new investigation, but needed the files.
If you read the letter to the Texas Attorney General, it looks like Mathis made his request for the records on September 3rd. We have documents proving otherwise. On April 28th a letter from those very special prosecutors denied a request from the Waller County District Attorney for those files.
On July 28th, the very State District Judge who appointed the special prosecutors dismissed them and asked them to return their files to the Waller County District Attorney. Judge Buddy McCaig asked them to return the documents at their earliest convenience.
John Healey’s office didn’t turn the files over. But on September 3rd they sent an e-mail to Mathis asking him which records he wanted. Mathis asked for the entire box. Healey’s prosecutors are using that response to play the Public Information Act game.
“Every voter in Fort Bend County should be looking at this deal. The landfill may be in Hempstead, but the conduct of the special prosecutors in this case should be rejected by the people in Fort Bend County,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
John Healey’s office didn’t tell the Texas Attorney General the whole story. Now he knows it.
Plans to build a 15-story garbage dump along Highway 6 near Hempstead have suffered another major blow tonight.
The Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has filed court papers saying the current landfill application hearing must be dismissed because now everyone knows it did not meet state environmental rules.
Lawyers for the Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead and the City of Hempstead have proven the landfill application was garbage, because it showed the shallow hole for the trash would be dug into the ground water.
That is what residents have been warning about for years, that the landfill site will contaminate the drinking water.
The State Office of Administrative Hearings has not yet ruled, and the TCEQ boss made it clear this is only for the current application before the judge.
“This is just one more nail in the coffin of a landfill deal that stinks more than the trash ever will,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “It is time for those Georgian garbage peddlers to pack their bags and leave the good people of Hempstead alone because they won’t stop fighting…ever.”
Dolcefino Consulting is also calling on Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healy and his band of special prosecutors to stop obstructing the truth. Both a Waller County Judge and the District Attorney have asked for Healy’s special prosecutors to turn over the results of their investigation into the landfill so a new criminal investigation can occur. A Waller County Jury ruled last year several officials held illegal meetings and votes.
“It is sad Mr. Healey and his top prosecutors just don’t want the truth to come out,” says Dolcefino. “I know Fort Bend County voters don’t have a stake in a Waller County landfill investigation, but they should remember this prosecutorial stonewall. The Waller County DA needs to stop stalling and seek a court order. The people of Waller County are being shortchanged by.”
Last April, the Waller County District Attorney asked for the files of the special prosecutors in the Highway 6 landfill case. Those Fort Bend County prosecutors closed their investigation last year without calling a single county official to the grand jury.
That was before sworn testimony in the landfill civil trial. That was before a jury found commissioners violated transparency laws which have criminal penalties.
That is why Elton Mathis wanted to start a new investigation. The special prosecutors said no.
Now Dolcefino Consulting has learned the special prosecutors have been asked again to turn over their files, but this time a District Judge is asking.
In the letter to Fort Bend DA John Healy, Judge Buddy McCaig wrote the Waller County DA is back in charge.
“Please ask those gentlemen to return all such investigative and case files, the Fort Bend D.A. has already had months to make this happen and hasn’t,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “You have to start wondering what they are afraid of. Are they protecting their shoddy investigation or something else?”
It is time for a real investigation. The people of Waller County deserve it. In recent days we have learned the 15-story garbage dump was going to be dug through two feet of precious ground water. That is the environmental disaster landfill opponents have been warning about for years.
We already knew some Waller County officials didn’t tell the truth about their dealings with garbage giant Green Group.
It is time to get to the real bottom of this deal.
The Waller County District Attorney has tried to conduct a new criminal investigation into the controversial Highway 6 landfill plan, but he has been stonewalled. Tonight, the bizarre legal issues keeping the public from getting the whole truth.
Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis believed he had a conflict when the criminal allegations first surfaced in 2013. Mathis asked District Judge Jeff Steinhauser to appoint Special Prosecutors After conferring with Fort Bend DA John Healy, two Fort Bend prosecutors were chosen. The rest is history. The Prosecutors didn’t call a single public official to the grand jury, but did issue a rebuke to the county officials about the secret way they were conducting public business.
Earlier this year, Elton Mathis asked for the investigative file of Special Prosecutors on the landfill case. There were specific reasons. During a civil trial over the landfill in late 2014, evidence of violations of state transparency laws were put into evidence. Sworn testimony raised questions of possible perjury by at least one public official.
On April 28, 2015 the special prosecutors wrote back, “Your request for our file is denied.” Not very neighborly, although they did send best wishes along with their rejection.
The letter obtained by Dolcefino Consulting states the Fort Bend special prosecutors have “exclusive jurisdiction as to criminal matters related to the landfill matters.” In other words, Waller DA butt out.
The Special Prosecutors may have been appointed by one judge, but now they are under the jurisdiction of Waller County Judge Buddy Mccaig because of a reshuffling of the courts.
And that raises new troubling questions.
Judge McCaig recused himself in the civil trial challenging the Waller County Commissioners landfill votes. The Judge didn’t say why, but it came right after he criticized the Dolcefino Consulting investigation that exposed secret communications between commissioners and the landfill bosses.
Now it looks like Judge McCaig retains control over the special prosecutors, not Steinhauser, whose Waller County court docket was transferred to McCaig. So is a judge who claimed he had a conflict of interest in the landfill case now the only person who can free the District Attorney to investigate the landfill case?
“Judge McCaig should immediately take steps to figure this out one way or the other, have the special prosecutors release their files to the Waller County District Attorney and let the sunshine in,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting.
Hempstead is a small town, but tonight it has a big legal mess on its doorstep.