Were these people meeting about State of Texas ex rel Best v Harper?
What Was Going on HERE? At Somervell County Commissioners Court August 26, 2016
7 December 2019 at 7:12:21 PM
Let me set this up. At various times over the years, I have taken my camera to government meetings, including Somervell County Commissioners Court, to record the meetings. I enjoy it, I think they're interesting and, because I'm there, I quite often see items discussed that I'd like to consider on my blog later on. Watch this video; when I chopped it, I added a timer in the upper right hand corner to show how much time had gone by for various events.
On August 26, 2016, I decided to keep my camera rolling after the meeting had ended, until everyone cleared out, including commissioners. Otherwise, I had wondered if there might be occasions in which commissioners stay at the dais after the meeting was ended, thus constituting a quorum. In fact, you can see this on the video that there were still commissioners, including Larry Hulsey and John Curtis, sitting there listening to Danny discuss items with Ben Tinsley, who was then editor of the Glen Rose Reporter. You can also see that two of commissioners, Don Kranz and Kenneth Wood, do not clear out and in fact, as I have put a timer on the video, they didn't until about 3 1/2 minutes after the meeting ended. . Andy Lucas, who purports to be informed about Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) didn't speak up to warn them about a quorum issue, nor did Danny Chambers
Now here's what's interesting in watching this. Could it be that the commissioners stayed after the meeting was over because they planned to have a meeting about the State of Texas ex rel Best v Harper case or were they just nosy and didn't have a care in the world about violating TOMA (Texas Open Meetings Act). If you continue to watch, you'll see that Andy Lucas, Ron Hankins, Dwayne Griffin and Alan West hang out after the meeting and stand around the desk where Lucas is.Here's Andy watching me.
Here's by the door, you can see Ron Hankins waiting. WHY? The room has pretty well cleared out at this point except for Hankins hiding behind the door, Danny Chambers who is speaking with Glen Rose Reporter newsman Mark Wilson, and the ones standing or sitting with Lucas at the table.
After Danny Chambers leaves the dais, he does a quick nod towards all the people sitting at the table and they get up and follow him out of the room.
Now, what was significant about that day, that I had quite forgotten about, is it was the last day to file if Lucas wanted to appeal his losses to the Texas Supreme Court. Remember that Andy Lucas as the State of Texas had lost in the 10th court of appeals, twice for the frivolous lawsuit he pressed against Paul Harper. An hour later, a motion for extension of time to file a review of State of Texas ex rel Best v Harper was filed with the Texas Supreme Court. by Lucas Notice the time on the filing. I think it's fair to ask whether the people hanging around after the meeting were planning to have an off the books meeting of their own, likely to decide if they should potentially waste more taxpayer money by appealing to the Texas Supreme Court. Were the commissioners to be part of it except they didn't want me recording them or was it as I originally thought, that they were violating TOMA by sticking around after the meeting in a quorum? More specifically, why were NOT the commissiones informed and a meeting set up since this directly affects the coffers of Somervell County taxpayers. Don't forget that taxpayers have already paid around $25,000 for Andy Lucas's attorney he hired for the State of Texas ex rel Best v Harper case that Somervell County commissioners APPROVED.. I also find it weird from a practical standpoint that , if I'm right, the Sheriff, Deputy Sherriff and former County Attorney were included in this discussion; why was that? And why did Mr Chambers not hold a meeting with the COMMISSIONERS who would be the ones to approve any judgment should the case go against the State of Texas (as it ultimately did).
Why does this matter about a sort of secret meeting after a commissioners court meeting? Because there is a question of whether there was even ONE meeting on the agenda regarding the State of Texas ex rel Best v Harper case before the final judgment. But Danny Chambers seems to know about what Andy Lucas was doing and didn't stop him. IN fact, Andy Lucas talks about keeping Danny up to date in his deposition.
Mary Barkley: After the State appeared in this lawsuit did you consult with the State periodically on the occurences or the filings in this suit?
Lucas: No. Just like I wouldn't confer with the State in a criminal case, it's just my role as the county attorney has me representing the State of Texas so I don't typically have anybody to communicate with the State
Barkley: And you acknowlege, Mr Lucas, that the State adopted Mr Best's pleading and added it's own grounds for removal. Correct?
Lucas: Yes, I thought I filed pleadings that I thought were appropriate under the circumstances, this is not something I had ever done before, I was creating the pleadings myself, I had no forms to work off of, so I filed what I deemed to be appropriate, it was just my best guess, really., at the time.
Barkley: Did you report on this case to the county commissioners?
Lucas: I don't believe so. I don't believe I was requested to do so.
Who would have requested him to do so if he said not one word to the commissioners, ie, they were supposed to know about something Lucas and Chambers were keeping secret? Would that have been Danny Chambers, as head of the Commissioners Court and judge to keep the commissioners updated? Why didn't he? Not ONE meeting on any agenda until after Lucas as the State of Texas lost in the final judgment hearing.
Barkley: So you haven't had any .. have you had any special meetings or executive session meetings to discuss this case or the potential outcomes in this case with the County Commissioners?
Lucas: I don't think we've had any special meetings. I've kept the county judge updated on the progress of the suit so he's aware at each stage what's going on but it's going to be up to the court whether they want to meet with me on that issue or not.
But Chambers didn't tell the commissioners, apparently, at least not by holding any commissioners court meetings about it. Surely he wouldn't have done his own version of a walking quorum by going around individually and telling the commissioners. (I heard a rumour, don't know if it's 1, that that's exactly what one commissioner said Lucas did after he lost at the 10th court of appeals)
Barkley: There have been some settlement discussions in this case. Tell me who would authorize settlement on behalf of the State. .. I'm just asking who would authorize it?
Lucas: I don't know who would authorize that on behalf of the State and I indicated that to you when we had those discussions.
Barkley: Mr Lucas, I believe you previously testified that you provided periodic updates to the county judge on this matter, is that correct?
Barkley: Why did you provide updates to him?
Lucas: I believe it is your position that you are going to seek fees from the county. If that is the case, then I want to make sure to keep the judge and the court updated on what's going on with this case.
Wait up. When was he supposed to do that?
We don't know what the outcome will be but if that would ever conceivably be a possibility I'm going to let them know.
And indeed, there was FINALLY a meeting on agenda on November 18, 2019 not only after the final judgment was entered by the court but after Harper's attorney reached out to Lucas to arrange for the judgment to be paid. I repeat that this appears to the FIRST TIME that there was a meeting that included the Somervell County Commissioners. Were they told informally outside of a meeting? I know that I asked a few times over the years to the commissioners if there had been a meeting on the agenda and was told no.
As a laughable agenda, the November 18, 2019 meeting said this was about "Pending Litigation" which is not 1. The case was already done. Who put this on the agenda that way? Hopefully this was not done to mislead the commissioners into believing there was still some action to be done. Lucas chose NOT to appeal the final judgment, which he certainly could have done if he didn't like, for example, the dollar amount levied against him. But he didn't. so he has given up any chance to whine. Seems to me that a court that expects others to pay their bills and fines ought to uphold the law as an ethical issue. Is this One Rule for YOU but Not for ME? Yet at this meeting, according to Michelle Reynolds, afterwards the commissioners came out and took no action. Why not? It's hard to imagine that if any of them were the subject of a frivolous lawsuit that they didn't initiate but wanted to defend fhemselves against bullies, that they wouldn't want their judgment. And of course this isn't strictly about personal feelings but their position as upholding the law Interest is also racking up for every day they don't pay, plus other costly remedies possible on the horizon. One commissioner apparently said something to the effect that he wasn't around when this case was going on. Not 1, since the judgment is from September 2019 and even if he was completely ignorant, he's not now. He's an elected official, sworn to uphold the law and he's not doing so. The commissioners currently in office are Larry Hulsey, Kenneth Wood, Dwayne Johnson and Wade Busch.
Forget Danny Chambers for a minute, and the little couple-y move he was making with Somervell County Attorney Andrew Lucas to keep hugh-hush what turned out to be pretty expensive due to the frivolous actions of Andy Lucas as the State of Texas. Didn't Mr Chambers have a DUTY to make sure that people in the community who might have to pay for a case if lost should at least have some clue this was going on and the responsibliity might lie with the county commissioners and thus with them as taxpayers? This is just sheer incompetence.