In the wake of former Temple Mayor Pro Tem Judy Morales’ resignation from the Temple City Council and her subsequent plea agreement for a Class B misdemeanor charge of destruction, removal or alteration of public documents, WBDaily.com has published an undated memo termed as “ostensibly written” by the former councilwoman which alleges persecution, discrimination, harassment and oppression on the part of city officials, other citizens and the Temple Daily Telegram.
Morales’ March 11 arrest came after months of controversy focused on her eligibility for office as well as potential misuse of public funds and possible violations of county employee policies and/or state election laws by utilizing county employees and resources during her 2011 city council campaign.
The situation escalated with a Temple Daily Telegram-filed open records request seeking Morales’ county emails during her 2011 campaign time frame. After being alerted to the request by County Judge Jon Burrows, Morales allegedly called Mari Paul, a Bell County employee supervised by Morales, seeking instruction on copying and then deleting computer files. She also requested Paul take similar action or else provide Morales with Paul’s password information.
Paul, with mounting concerns over Morales’ seemingly emerging misconduct, recorded that Nov. 9 conversation as well as another Nov. 11 voice mail and released them along with a formal complaint first to Bell County Human Resources Director Steve Cook and later to the media. That information appears to have served as the basis for Morales’ destruction of public documents charge.
An interesting perspective
While the origination of the WBDaily memo is unconfirmed, the detailed timeline and accompanying commentary (click here to read the full memo) offers a perspective on which the following observations can be made – regardless the piece’s authorship.
- Repeated use of verbiage discussing having been “under duress” prompts thoughts that the author is perhaps setting the stage for civil legal action.
- With allegations of being “treated differently” (though differently from whom is not specified) and an unidentified conspiracy to prevent the city budget from being used on the “blighted part of our city,” the author attempts establishing Morales as a victim, deflecting accountability for the events that unfolded and injects a suggestion of bias based on race, ethnicity and/or socioeconomic status.
- The depicted discussions to maintain Morales’ county-funded employment could also be termed a conspiracy or, at the least, a concerted effort to bypass the Temple charter. With contract employment still paid out of public funds, technical compliance could arguably be claimed, but this approach functionally defeats the purpose (and taxpayer protections) the no conflict clause is designed to provide.
- That elected officials or city staff were unaware of Morales’ county employment status remains one of the least credible contentions put forward during the controversy. The city of Temple helps fund the HELP Center and Morales has been the center’s chief advocate for decades.
- The tone of the conversation and voice mail message recorded by Mari Paul suggest a demeanor and motivation different from what the author describes in the memo. The author’s multiple mentions of the recordings without any disclaimer of their authenticity further suggests them to be credible.
- The writer purports being told of the recording as a moment “when I discovered that Mari Paul had purposely set me up and was recording our conversation without my knowledge.” On this, Paul was being asked to commit a crime – a point the writer in no way acknowledges. An individual with respect for the law and other authorities would understand concerns arising from being asked to violate the law as well as county employment policies. Also, unlike destroying public records, recording conversations is permissible under Texas law so long as it is done with the knowledge of at least one participating party.
- The writer says Morales was informed of Paul’s complaint before “a conference room filled with people- all county commissioners, county auditor, Human resources person , county clerk and others.” and goes on to accuse Paul or her aunt, another HELP Center worker, of contacting the media. The memo additionally notes an email sent to Burrows and Cook making the same apparently unsubstantiated charge.
- The memo notes several times how Bell County Attorney Jim Nichols was “pressured” to file charges against Morales. Was the initial pressure not perhaps brought days after Paul’s complaint as the timeline indicates a “first step” of Morales’ attorney Stephen Blythe was “to talk to talk to the County Attorney, Jim Nichols, and see if he was planning to file any charges against Judge Burrows or Me.”
- Nichols of course was to receive much scrutiny with regard to any potential prosecution after his aggressive pursuit of C.J. Grisham’s interfering with a peace officer while performing a duty charge, a Class B misdemeanor the county attorney took to trial not once, but twice.
- Hostility is directed at the media and includes specific though unsubstantiated accusations against former Temple Daily Telegram reporter Geoff West. Another written comment (“The telegram crossed the line by publishing other issues that was happening within my family.) is most likely referring to the State Bar of Texas’ disciplinary action against Michael G. Steinheimer, Morales’ husband. Ironically, it wasn’t the Telegram that first reported it. The Bar publishes its actions on a monthly basis and the Houston Chronicle featured the information well ahead of the Telegram. Also worth noting, the Telegram printed similar information regarding attorney and former Bell County veterans liaison Jim Endicott just one month prior.
- Other claims term elected officials as insulting and disrespectful. Contempt for “The same city Manager and City attorney were employed by the city at that time as they are now.” is also in evidence especially with a passage noting former Councilwoman Martha Tyroch’s council service while employed at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System.
- Claims of harassment by a local LULAC chapter along with alleged negative statements impugning Morales’ trustworthiness by “disgruntled citizens” also reportedly continue.
Regardless the writer of this piece, while some degree of telling insight is seen, perhaps most glaring is what’s missing. In other words, attitudes reflecting respect for the law, accountability to taxpayers (not just those in District 2) and support for transparent government.
Persecution, discrimination, harassment and oppression. While popular fall-back positions of those seeking to deflect attention from unflattering or even illegal actions, epidemic use and abuse of these totally unoriginal positions sadly diminishes real cases that genuinely occur.
NOTE: All quotes presented as per the original copy.