Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Culture of Corruption Weekly Update

Hats off to the FW Weekly for telling it as it is, not spinning the Fort Worth Way.

If you live in Fort Worth, or know someone who does, DO NOT miss their latest ethics article.  Good quotes from THE PEOPLE. 

Without rules, the victors always get the spoils, might and money are always right, and ethical lines fade.

A resident complained about the city council putting gas industry executives on an air-quality task force. Allowing drillers to make crucial decisions on how the city’s air quality is tested at drill sites appeared to be a conflict of interest clearly forbidden by the city’s ethics code. The independent ethics panel agreed.

So how did the Fort Worth City Council, led by Mayor Mike Moncrief, respond?

They killed the messengers, scorned the resident who made the complaint, and fired the ethics panelists.

City leaders thanked the gas execs for serving on the task force and vowed to change the ethics code to allow industry insiders to participate as voting members on future boards. Then Moncrief appointed new members, including a couple of his friends, as the new ethics committee — possibly in violation of the current rules on how the committee is to be chosen.

Contrast that with what happened when the son of a city council member violated conflict-of-interest rules set by the federal government. In essence, Daniel Payton Scarth, 23, son of council member Danny Scarth, applied for and received financial help from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — routed through Fort Worth city government — to cover the down payment and closing costs on a home, under a program intended to help low-income citizens.

Scarth has faced his own ethical controversies. Before being elected to the council, he served on the city’s first gas drilling task force, which advised the city council on how to regulate urban drilling. Then Scarth accepted thousands of dollars from the gas industry to fund his city council campaign and rode to victory with the help of a Moncrief endorsement.

In general, however, the picks appear to have been made by Moncrief with little input from others. Newly appointed members describe being recruited by personal calls from Moncrief or an assistant. Among the new members are two attorneys the mayor has known for years, including former city councilman Jim Lane.

“My son Payton indeed owns the house and has been paying the mortgage since the sale,” Danny Scarth wrote in an e-mail.

However, neither Payton Scarth nor his mortgage company has been paying property taxes on it, according to Tarrant Appraisal District records. The reason, at least in part, appears to be a name change by the church, which caused a mix-up in TAD records.

She and the other former committee members are familiar with at least one of those chosen to replace them. Former city council member Jim Lane was accused along with Moncrief of unethical behavior six years ago. Eastside activist Louis McBee (who has run against both Scarth and Moncrief) filed that complaint against Moncrief, Lane, and then city-councilwoman Wendy Davis in 2004. The city leaders accepted a ride in a jet and minor swag (hats and t-shirts) when a sporting goods company was seeking — and ultimately received — millions in tax relief in exchange for building a store here.

Lane now serves on the Tarrant Regional Water District board, as well as continuing to practice law. “I thought what Mike — or Mayor Moncrief— was trying to accomplish was some fresh minds to look at the ordinance and see if it’s clear and if the conduct is exact as far as written,” Lane said. “We’ve got to do a review of the code. It may be expanded, reduced, supplemented, amended — I don’t know.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Question - Is Norma Roby that was just appointed to this committee by Moncrief the same Norma Roby that is serving on the Superbowl host committee with Mayor Moncrief and his wife?

Also, is Francisco Hernandez, another new board member, the same Fransico Hernandez serving on the DFW Airport Board with Mike Moncrief?This is the same man that was special legislative council for Senator Mike Moncrief...

Small small no room for ethics...