By Sarah Naron
ELKHART – Among the items on the agenda for the Monday, Aug. 6 meeting of the Elkhart City Council was a call to “discuss and take action on request from Billy Jack Wright to discuss with Elkhart City Council member’s Raymond Dunlap, Chuck Conner, Lucia Butler and District Attorney Allyson Mitchell on the Texas Ranger Investigation which Dunlap and Butler investigated before the May 5, 2018 election.”
The investigation was launched in early February of this year. While Mayor Mike Gordon informed The Messenger in mid-June that the investigation had been completed and that he and city officials anticipated the report to be a positive one, results have yet to be released by the office of the Anderson County District Attorney.
As City Secretary Carla Sheridan informed during a June interview with The Messenger, none of the council members who served at the beginning of the investigation – Beverly Anderson, Chris Bice, Rhonda Brewer, Chris Sheridan and Billy Jack Wright – are currently seated on the council.
During the public comment portion at the beginning of the meeting, Butler took the opportunity to clear up what she described as “ a misconception” regarding the matter.
“I have never talked to Allyson Mitchell, the Anderson County District Attorney, in any kind of communication, and that’s to include face to face,” Butler stated. “I have also never talked to the Texas Rangers in any communication, to include face to face. That is a misconception. I haven’t talked to anybody.”
In the midst of the discussion, Wright requested that Dunlap explain “what you told the district attorney to do regarding the investigation – specifically whether he requested an investigation of a previous city council from Mitchell.
“You don’t tell Allyson Mitchell anything,” Dunlap responded.
Wright reiterated his desire to know whether Dunlap asked for the investigation, to which Dunlap responded he did not.
“So, you’re denying it?” Wright clarified.
“You’re assuming this stuff,” Dunlap retorted.
“No, I’m asking you did you, or did you not?” Wright asked.
Dunlap then inquired whether Wright requested an investigation.
“Why would I want to come and investigate a previous city council?” Wright wondered.
“Well, I don’t know, that’s your problem,” Dunlap replied.
“I don’t have a problem,” said Wright. “Ms. Butler says that she didn’t have anything to do with it, but she went and got into a demonstration right out here in front of the city office, and so did you.”
Wright added that he did not know Chuck Conner at the time of the demonstration and is therefore unaware of whether he participated.
Dunlap repeated his belief that Wright’s accusation was based solely on assumption.
“Well, you made the threat that you were going to do it (request the investigation),” Wright pointed out. “You stood there right there on that tile. You threatened that city council that you were attending that you were going to have that investigation taken care of.”
“I’m not going to discuss it, because I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dunlap said.
Wright replied that he was simply searching for “some way to understand what happened in that investigation” and expressed his belief that Dunlap was the one capable of making that happen.
“I never asked that at all,” Dunlap insisted. “Nobody come (sic) to me, and nobody called me.”
City Secretary Sheridan entered the discussion with a suggestion on how to proceed.
“I can go to the district attorney’s office and get a report and findings and bring that back to the council,” Sheridan said. “I will get an update from her and report back.”
Wright inquired what Sheridan’s motives were for the suggested action – “because I’m asking, or because it needs to be done?”
“I prefer the one who asked for the investigation to take place to do it,” he added.
Mayor Gordon claimed to have been aware of the findings of the investigation for the past four months.
“My gripe is that that past council was ridiculed, called liars, called thieves – we even got accused of stealing a tractor,” Mayor Gordon said. “We went by things honestly and done (sic) the right thing. The social media portrayed it as us being a bunch of crooks and tractor thieves, and we have done no such thing. And that’s what really upsets me.”
Mayor Gordon went on to say that although the investigation has concluded, “we have not heard a whisper” from the district attorney’s office.
“The reason we have not said anything about the results is because of the advisement of our attorney,” he explained. “My point is that our district attorney at least could have come out and put something in the paper to kind of halfway vindicate that we done (sic) the right thing.”
Wright inquired what Dunlap’s thoughts were on the statement made by the mayor.
“I agree with what he said,” Dunlap informed. “He knew it (the results of the investigation), and it was his business what he did with it.”
Former councilman Chris Sheridan, who was on the council around which the investigation centered around, claimed that he recalled Dunlap’s threat to file charges with the district attorney’s office and asked Dunlap to confirm whether this action was taken.
“I did not,” Dunlap said. “I didn’t tell her to do anything.”
Following an additional period of discussion, a motion was made by Butler to take no action on the matter. The motion was seconded and unanimously carried by the council.
Other action taken by the council included a decision to schedule a workshop to discuss an agreement with the Elkhart Youth Athletic Association and the adoption of Resolution No. 0806218-2, which was presented to the council by representatives of the East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG) and provided authorization for the creation of the Piney Woods 9-1-1 District.
The council also moved to approve the adoption of a policy regarding water leak adjustments and named The Messenger as the official newspaper for the City of Elkhart.
Sarah Naron may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.