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In Kaufman – It Pays To Be A Crony

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Property taxes are the largest and most onerous taxes Texans pay. But in Kaufman County, it pays to be well-connected.

Donald Trump’s election victory has been broadly viewed as retaliation by hard-working Americans to frustration with today’s political establishment and its close companion—cronyism. The politically connected receive special treatment, while the average taxpayer foots the bill for both the taxes and special interest handouts.

While we often consider cronyism to be relegated to the federal level in Washington D.C., it’s not. Cronyism is alive and well in Texas, particularly at the local level. Kaufman County provides an egregious example with inequities found in the state property tax system.

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Gary Ritchie’s Court Administrator Indicted on 7 Counts

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We first broke the story about an investigation into JP District 6, Gary Ritchie’s court, back in July. An audit of his court revealed missing cash and a slew of bad to non-existent managerial oversight of the operation of the court, a function for which Texas statute holds Judge Ritchie accountable.

On September 1st we reported that Ritchie appeared before the grand jury in Tarrant County. That jury indicted Ritchie’s court administrator Shelly Ables on 7 counts. They include: unlawfully acquiring property valued between $20,000 and $100,000, mishandling property for which she was a fiduciary, and multiple counts of making a false entry on a governmental record with intent to defraud. Read the full indictment HERE.

Mrs. Ables was let go and quit on the same day last fall. She was Judge Ritchie’s court administrator for 23 years. She served as his campaign treasurer for most of that time as well, only having been removed as campaign treasurer this year. Their relationship has been described as a close personal friends, not just employer and employee.

The audit (READ IT HERE) and Shelly’s indictment raise more questions than they answer. Under Texas statute, Judge Ritchie is liable for all activities in his court. It is clear in the audit and other documents our office reviewed, that Judge Ritchie signed off on all the bank statements and deposits. What is unknown is whether the DA’s office is also considering any charges against Judge Ritchie. What will Ables reveal in her testimony?

Time will tell on all these questions. Meanwhile I’m sure his primary challengers will be asking these same questions very publicly. Which leaves us with: Will Ritchie run?

What Happened to Victoria Neave?

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Back in June State Representative Victoria Neave – Democrat from Dallas’ District 107 – was arrested on a DWI charge. At the time of her arrest she seemed contrite and apologetic. In her official statement She promised, “I will accept the consequences of my actions and will work to make this right.”
Well, where is she now? Court records show that Ms. Neave is doing everything she can to delay those consequences and obfuscate from justice. So far Ms. Neave has postponed her day in court three times, most recently pushing it off to October.  This is a far cry from accepting responsibility and making things right.

The good news for voters is that Ms. Neave has a very viable opponent. Mrs. Deanna Maria Metzger has been campaigning hard in the district to oust Neave. This contest is heating up and observers from around the state are keeping an eye on this race. It is, after all, one of the few swing districts in Texas and if Mrs. Metzger is successful she will swing this seat back to Republican control.

Meanwhile – will Ms. Neave ever face the music and take responsibility for her DWI? Will she continue to use her position as State Rep. to delay and obfuscate? Let us hope justice, or rehab, visit her soon.

UPDATE – Pictures – Grand Jury Hearing in the Gary Ritchie Case

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This morning Justice of the Peace Gary Ritchie appeared before a grand jury in a hearing regarding his court!

In July, DAT broke a story about JP Gary Ritchie and his court having an abysmal audit that documented multiple violations. Just one of those violations was the discovery that at least $19,000 in cash was missing. At least $16,000 of that cash was later found in a box at his court administrator’s home.

Today, Judge Ritchie appeared before a grand jury at the Tim Curry Justice Center. It remains to be seen whether the grand jury is hearing a case against Judge Ritchie or his court administrator Shelley Ables. In previous statements it appeared Judge Ritchie was ready to cast all the blame on his court administrator. That is a challenging position for Judge Ritchie to take. All the deposits and reconciliations DAT reviewed were signed by Ritchie himself. Regardless, state law holds the Judge liable for all activities in his court. Being a poor manager is not a defense of prosecution.

Whether the grand jury is hearing a case against Judge Ritchie or his court administrator is yet to be seen, but as we head into the March Primaries, this does not bode well for Judge Ritchie.

Interestingly enough, Judge Ritchie won’t be the only Judge in Tarrant County going into the primaries with ethical challenges. More on that soon…

Kaufman’s Costly and Illegal Scandal- Part 3

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For Part 1, click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE.

Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood, along with District Attorney Erleigh Wiley, have gone unchecked for years and have cost the county dearly.  The ticketing scandal we’ve previously reported on is even worse than it appears on the surface.

In 2014, Kaufman County entered into a contract with American Traffic Solutions that caused the county to act outside its legal authority – issuing illegal traffic citations to its citizens – and imposed a significant cost to county taxpayers. The unlawful contract also resulted in illegal financial transactions and a lack of transparency.

By championing the ATS contract, Wood violated the public trust. By failing to blow the whistle on the entire scandal, or investigate any wrongdoing by those involved, Wiley is derelict in her duty to Kaufman taxpayers.

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