by Wayne Dolcefino
There is new evidence the people of Waller County were systematically cheated by a shoddy criminal investigation into the backroom deals behind the proposed Highway 6 landfill.
Until now we only knew that a Texas Ranger had testified to a Waller County Grand Jury in October of 2013, right before the panel chose not to pursue the case.
The record of the Ranger testimony is now missing, or was never recorded in the first place as it should have been. We also knew in January that none of the details of the Ranger Investigation, or audio tapes of interviews conducted were put into the files of the Special Prosecutor. We also knew that in the fourteen months since the landfill civil trial, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis had made no attempt to see if the Rangers records existed, despite claiming he wanted to reopen the case.
We have the records now, and the Rangers have a lot of explaining to do.
It now appears Texas Ranger Shane Ellison testified to the grand jury before finishing his written report on the investigation. In fact, some of the reports detailing key interviews were not even written until late January of this year, two and a half years after those interviews with County Officials.
The reports were created after Dolcefino Consulting filed a formal request for the documents under the Texas Public Information Act. That is wrong.
The Inspector General of the Texas Department of Public Safety should begin an immediate investigation. Ranger Ellison may have a good memory, but failing to write reports for two and a half years is shoddy work. Worse is that his Supervisor Kip Westmoreland signs off on the badly delinquent reports.
I was intrigued to see I was listed as witness in the Ranger investigation. While Dolcefino Consulting did file a formal complaint about violations of state transparency laws, I never spent a second talking to a Texas Ranger. Part of that search for the truth?
I wasn’t surprised to see the Texas Rangers did not seek a sworn affidavit from a single testifying witness, and didn’t even interview Green Group Garbage Boss Ernest Kaufman, or properly follow up allegations made against former Waller County Commissioner Odis Styers.
We now know that the Rangers were conducting a “bribery” investigation, focusing almost exclusively on the secret trip taken to the landfill by Styers and Waller County Engineer Orval Rhoads months before the public found out about the plan to put a 15 -story smelly landfill right along the Highway.
Odis Styers told the Texas Rangers his visit to the landfill lasted just a few hours, he was there and back in the same day. He provided the credit card receipt showing the trip was paid for. Maybe it is a minor point, but that plane record suggests Styers didn’t come back in one day, but stayed overnight. Of course, that is a glaring discrepancy the Texas Rangers would have followed up on as part of the dogged search for truth for the people of Waller County. Right? Guess not. In my view, these reports are a testimonial to what happens when you don’t really want to conduct an independent, critical investigation into the way public officials deceived taxpayers. But that’s me.
On January 20, 2014, Brian Cantrell of the Waller County Sheriff’s Office forwarded Ranger Ellison a copy of a news release sent out by Dolcefino Consulting. “Special Prosecutors Have Some Explaining to do.”
“They’re coming down on your investigation” Cantrell wrote. Actually, the release was an attack on the laughable work of the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office. Now I am coming down on the Rangers. They deserve it.
The Inspector General of the Texas Department of Public Safety should open an investigation. Writing reports two years after an interview with a public corruption witness has to be a violation of policy. If it is not, it should be.
Read the Texas Ranger Report here
We now know not a single Waller County Public Official or Green Group employee was ever put under oath. The Fort Bend District Attorney John Healy fought for months to keep his prosecutors work secret. The Texas Rangers testimony to the grand jury is missing. Now we know they sought to create records to clean up the mess they left.
As a courtesy, Dolcefino Consulting provided all the Ranger reports, exhibits, and audio tapes to Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis. You may remember that Mathis got all defensive after Dolcefino Consulting gave you our view that Mathis never has any intention of reopening the landfill investigation, especially in light of allegations of perjury at the civil trial.
That was in January; April Fool’s Day is here. What will be the excuse this month?