Material Inaccuracies, Good Stories Notwithstanding

By Jack Wright

A former resident of Fulton recently recorded a podcast featuring Tommy Moore. The podcaster, who I consider a highly intelligent person, did most of the story telling on Tommy’s behalf. Tommy would occasionally echo the podcaster’s sentiments, add a comment, or answer a question. I want to point out some inaccuracies.

Tommy makes the statement that County Commissioner Pat Rousseau showed up at 4 p.m. on Friday before the Monday Commissioner’s Court meeting in early September. It is a true statement that Commissioner Rousseau showed up hoping to get a copy of the District’s budget, which she had previously requested. Tommy says that Keith Barrett was the only employee there and didn’t have a copy in his drawer. Couldn’t Keith have found time to round up a copy before 9 a.m. Monday morning? You remember Tommy’s ugly comments directed at Commissioner Rousseau at that meeting and an even uglier e-mail the following morning.

In the interview, Tommy calls people liars that say they cannot get information from the District. Commissioner Rousseau, Sterling Frank, and I have all asked for budget documents on different occasions. Commissioner Rousseau received a partial set in an email two days after the tax rate meeting. Sterling Frank asked for budget documents October 3 and again on October 17. He is still waiting. I asked for budget documents and related information in March with a Public Information Act request and received about 15% of what I asked for. I have asked for other documents on four separate occasions, all with PIA backing and received evasive wordplay answers on two, a partial answer on one and am still waiting even an acknowledgment of receipt of the last one and the 10-day deadline has passed. And Tommy said all people have to do is ask and “We’ll get it to ‘em”. This is nothing more than Tommy’s hogwash answer.

Tommy takes significant issue with the Commissioner’s Court’s attempt to table the issue regarding the District’s ad valorem tax rate. Their statements were that the Court only has to collect the District’s taxes, not question the budget. Anna Marshall, Aransas County Tax Assessor collects property taxes, not the Commissioner’s Court. You would think that both of them would know that. While the District has the discretion to set its own budget, it does not have the authority to set its own tax rate. The Commissioners Court has that authority by state law.

Tommy spent some time talking about the mistake on the election deadline forms. He said he didn’t question the date when it was given to him to sign and he takes responsibility for it. It his responsibility as Secretary of the District to know the correct information before affixing his signature. Tommy said he didn’t question his attorney who he says gave him the form to sign. And then blame was cast on a staff member. Tommy alleges he just signed it when it was handed to him.

In his letter to the Pilot, Tommy said the mistake was discovered on August 22 after a District meeting. The District officially met on August 1st and 15th and not on the 22nd. That might explain why I have asked for the meeting minutes authorizing this correction and have been stonewalled 3 times. Was this an unposted and therefore illegal meeting? If the mistake was found on the 22nd, why did Keith Barrett wait 2 days before signing the form on the 24th with the effective date the 22nd? The podcaster makes note of the fact that the District followed State policy or law in fixing the mistake. I am unable to find a State policy or law that authorizes the backdating of an official document. The podcaster made a good point of how it would have been impossible to plan for this type of outcome. That is absolutely true. I might even agree that it might not have been planned, but this type of chicanery has happened at least twice previously – putting an employee on the ballot at the last minute to water down the vote. It is a variation on a common theme.

There was also a discussion of the potential conflicts of interest. Tommy should do some studying on conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest can be actual or apparent. Either way, conflicts of interest are wrong and must be avoided. When an elected official is involved, the official must disclose all of the details of the relationship and immediately recuse himself or herself from any discussion of the issue in addition to not participating in the vote. In the Lydia Ann Moorings matter, Tommy said he was simply delivering provisions to the tug and barge operators. He has given an after the fact explanation today, but he never should have been involved in the original discussion and should have disclosed before the vote on the lease renewal that he now has no business dealings whatsoever with Lydia Ann Moorings. He did not do that and still has not done that.

Tommy’s involvement in the shoreline protection matter still represents an actual and apparent conflict of interest. Interestingly, Tommy does not deny that he is a sales agent for the company. And he thinks he does not have a conflict because he pledged during the interview that he would not take any commission or make any money if the product is ever used in Aransas County. Again, this shows Tommy’s ignorance of what a conflict of interest is and how it should be dealt with. Pledging not to take a commission on sales in Aransas County does not dismiss the conflict of interest. Tommy is essentially selling his office and the Nav District to endorse the product, which will be very important to every other jurisdiction who considers and buys the product. And presumably, Tommy thinks that is just fine as he collects commissions on those sales. He just does not understand conflicts of interest.

In the early part of the podcast, both the podcaster and Tommy say they are not going to name names and then Tommy does by specifically mentioning Rebecca Johnson and her husband using what many would consider akin to a racial slur. He calls them “squatters” and said they acquired the property by Adverse Possession. Adverse Possession is when someone takes property that does not belong to them. Kate Simpson, John Johnson’s Great Grandmother purchased the Marina property in the middle 1930’s as a single female. She married her second husband William Burke Johnson after the death of her first. After their passing, William (Bill) Johnson inherited the property. Bill filed a Trespass to Try Title suit, to eliminate potential claims from Kate Simpson’s sisters who could not be located. Trespass to Try Title is a legal method of proving legal ownership of property. A legal clarification of Title secured by John Johnson’s grandfather 20 years before John was born. And today, almost 80 years later, Tommy calls John and his wife Rebecca “squatters” and says Rebecca is unfit for elected office. And I can’t say in print what I’m thinking right now.

Stay tuned, more to come.