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Weekly Newspaper and Tourism Guide for Ward County Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas

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July 16, 1998

Council seeks to unseat mayor

New Grandfalls Mayor Joyce Wilhelm, who was sworn in on May
8, faces a trial by the Grandfalls City Council on Aug 12
that could remove her from office.

Among the items at issue are alleged circumvention of the
State Open Meetings Act and charges she willfully
disregarded City Council directives.

According to a report to District Attorney Randy Reynolds
dated May 26, the new Grandfalls mayor, six days after
taking office, approved an inspection by Pittsburgh Tank and
Tower officials of the elevated city water tank at
Grandfalls. She did this, it was alleged, after talking on
the telephone with a majority of the City Council and
without holding a public Council meeting required by the
Texas Open Meetings Act..

On June 10, the new mayor signed a document instructing a
city employee to return money to a Grandfalls citizen and
reconnect the citizen's water service.

"I am aware that this is contrary to a directive previously
issued by the City Council," wrote Wilhelm, "which stated
that the credit due . . would be aplied at the same rate
at which it was incurred, $4.50 per month."

Wilhelm now is named in a complaint filed with the
Grandfalls City Council under state law governing
misconduct and misfeasance in public office. The complaint
was signed by City Administrator Joy Chew and Utility
Operator Roger Mullins.

The information was contained in a series of documents
obtained by The Monahans News.

Grandfalls Mayor Pro Tempore Thomas E. Kuhn told Wilhelm in
a letter dated July 7 and served by certified mail:

"I have received a written sworn complaint against you. A
copy of that complaint is attached hereto.

"In accordance with Texas Local Government Code, Subtitle B,
Chapter 21, Section 21.002 (f) I have taken the following

"1. Filed said complaint with the City of Grandfalls.

"2. Caused a copy of the complaint to be served on the Mayor.

"3. The trial date for this case is the 12th day of August
1998. The time of the trial is 7 p.m. The place of the trial
is City Hall, Grandfalls, Texas.

"21.002 (h) A proceeding under this section is subject to
the rules governing a proceeding or trial in a Justice
Court. If two-thirds of the members of the court who are
present at the trial of the case find the defendant guilty
of the charges contained in the complaint and find that the
charges are sufficient cause for removal from office, the
presiding officer of the court shall enter a judgment
removing the charged officer and declaring the office
vacant. If the defendant is found not guilty, judgment shall
be entered accordingly."

When he was contacted for comment on the scheduled trial of
the Grandfalls mayor, Kuhn says he can make no comment
beyond the words in the letter to Wilhelm.

The complaint to which Kuhn refers in that letter was dated
June 10.

In that complaint, Mullins and Chew write: "As city
employees who believe we have a moral, as well as legal,
obligation to ensure the safety and welfare of the citizens
we serve, we are hereby filing a formal complaint pursuant
to Chapter 21, Section 21.002 of the Local Government Code.

"In the month since Joyce Wilhelm as sworn in as Mayor, we
have witnessed incidents that we believe constitute official
misconduct and incompetency and warrant her removal from

Chew says she can make no comment on the specifics of the
complaint pending the trial of Wilhelm before the Grandfalls
City Council and any subsequent litigation. Mullins could
not be reached for comment. Wilhelm was not reached for
comment on the allegations against her.

Abused-horse saga continued

A postponed hearing in Ward County Court on Monday, July 13,
was the latest chapter in a sordid tale of starving,
thirsty and dying horses found on Independence Day by Ward
County Sheriff's Deputy John Steussy.

County Judge Sam G. Massey says he continued the case at the
request of County Attorney Kevin D. Acker.

Bobby George (Timmy) Davison, 39, of Imperial was identified
by investigators as the owner of the animals, one of which
died as rescuers watched.

Davison is charged with "unlawfully, intentionally or
knowingly failing unreasonably to provide necessary food,
care or shelter for an animal in his custody, to wit, bay
horse colt."

Davison is free on a $300 bond, according to court records.

Steussy found the animals, he recalls, at 2:50 p.m. on
Saturday, July 4. They were fenced on a tract of desert on
Farm Road 11 at Farm Road 871 just East of Grandfalls.

"While on patrol," says Steussy, "I noticed the bay colt."

It's ribs were showing. Sores covered its body. The horse
was in a patch of sand that touched the horizon. There was
no water, no feed. About four hours later, the yearling was

"There had been eight horses reportedly involved," reports
Steussy. "We have seized four. Three have been purchased.
One (the bay colt) died. We can't find the eighth horse "

First reports of problems with animals FMs 11 and 871 came
with an anonymous telephone call on June 17 to Leslie
Clemmer, the Ward County Animal Control Warden. Clemmer was
told horses were in trouble at the intersection.

"I went out there," says Clemmer. "Then, there was plenty of
water and feed."

That was not the case on July 4.

On Monday, July 6, Clemmer and Ward County Sheriff's Deputy
Ron Howard found Davison in Imperial. By this time, the
animals that had been in the enclosure where the yearling
died had been moved to Imperial, the investigators say.

In Imperial, Davison was arrested and taken to Ward County
where he made bond.

Four horses were seized by the officers.

County bails out hospital - again

Ward County Commissioners approved a three-way fund transfer
on Friday, July 10, to help fiscally ill Ward Memorial
Hospital meet payroll and pay bills.

Commissioners acted in a special meeting in the Courthouse
on the day the hospital's $144,000 biweekly payroll was due.
interim hosital administrator Steve Holmes said the hospital
was short about $89,000 on payroll and needed $119,000 to
pay immediately due bill.

On Monday, July 13, the commissioners voted unanimously to
seek bids for privatizing the ambulance service, another
Ward Memorial budget move that, if successful, would remove
ambulance operating costs and salaries of ambulance
personnel from the hospital budget. Private ambulance bids
are due on Aug. 10.

The unanimous decisions of the Commissioners Court on Friday
and Monday came after interim Hospital Administrator Steve
Holmes declared hospital budget reforms already were in
progress. Holmes Friday promised the commissioners $107,000
a month would be trimmed from the hospital's about $288,000
a month pay roll. It would be done, he said, by
consolidating job responsibilities at the hospital in
Monahans. He declined to say how many jobs would be lost at
Ward Memorial Hospital.

Dyer Moore, chair of the Hospital Board of Managers,
speaking from the floor, said the numbers of jobs to be
eliminated remains to be determined. He also said controls
being implemented would show their effectiveness in hospital
financial reports by late August.

"You have the game plan in place?" Precinct 3 Commissioner
Larry Hunt asked Holmes.

Replied the interim administrator: "It will be implemented
so there will be no negative impact on services."

At one point in the meeting, the hospital board chair said:
"We're having to pay for the sins of others. We also
realize we don't have any time left. By next Friday (July
17), we'll start reduction in force. I'm willing to stand
with him (Holmes). I'm willing to pay the price."

County Judge Sam G,. Massey warned that the county was near
the end of its hospital bailouts. He said the only other
money that remains in the budget after the latest transfers
is the jury fund and the county insurance fund.

Fund transfers involved the physician recruitment fund
($135,000, as needed, to make payroll and pay bills); the
general fund ($80,000 as needed for equipment); and the
equipment fund, ($184,000 to the operating funds); . The
money was authorized to cover pay roll on Friday (about
$144,000) and to pay outstanding bills on Monday.

Several weeks ago commissioners told the Hospital Board of
Managers the county would not again bail out the hospital
unless the Commissioners Court saw evidence the hospital
had control of its revenues and expenditures.

Friday, Massey warned the hospital board and officials: "If
it (hospital budget reforms) doesn't happen . . . the only
other option I see is we become a trauma center and an
ambulance service."

Public may access Internet at school

Internet access policies for the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote
school district unanimously were adopted by the school
board on Tuesday, July 14.

The policies say appropriate chat rooms are acceptable and
members of the public will have the right to use the
computers when the machines are not being used by students
or school personnel and with the authorization of
appropriate supervisors.

Under the regulations adopted for school computers:

"Participation in chat rooms and news groups accessed on the
intenet is permissible for students, under appropriate
supervision, and for employees."

The board adopted rules governing access by all - including
stipulations that kindergarten through sixth grade students
would have access only through teacher access codes. Beyond
that, individual students may earn the right to a personal
access code.

Some other excerpts from the code:

"Access to the district's electronic communications system,
including the internet, shall be made available to students
and employees primarily for instruction and administrative
purposes and in accordance with administrative regulations.

"Limited personal use of the system shall be permitted if
the user.

"1. Imposes no tangible cost to the District.

"2. Does not unduly burden the district's computer or
network resources and

"3. Has no adverse effect on an employee's job performance
or on a student's academic performance."

Another point:

"Access to the district's electronic communications system,
including the internet, shall also be made available to
members of the public in accordance with administrative
regulations. Such use may be permitted so long as the use

"1. imposes no measurable cost on the district and

"2. Does not unduly burden the district's computer or net
work resources.

"Members of the public who are granted access shall be
required to comply with all district rules, regulations and
policies governing appropriate use of the system."

WTSS principal retires

Patrick R. McGee, principal at West Texas State School near
Pyote, has retired.

According to a communique from the school, McGee's
retirement officially was effective at the end of June.

"McGee served as principal at the Texas Youth Commission
facility in Pyote for nearly two years," says a statement
from the school. "He had also served five years as assistant
principal and four years as a science teacher there. Prior
to coming to TYC, he had been an educator in several other
Texas towns and also worked at several state and federal
agencies. He held a masters degree in school administration
from Sul Ross State University in Alpine."

Donroy Hafner, director of federal programs at TYC's
Central Office, joined West Texas State School's teachers
and other staff in honoring McGee at his retirement.

Staff members brought their favorite dishes and deserts for
a meal. After dining, almost everyone present commented on
their "fond, and sometimes humorous, thoughts of McGee's
years at (West Texas State School)."

They presented him a watch to help manage his travel
schedule and grandfather time during retirement.

McGee also received a retirement plaque made by the youth
and their shop teacher to remind him of his years of
service. A student representative spoke for the youth,

"We want to thank you for building a winning team of
teachers and aides dedicated to helping troubled teens get
the most out of school . . .and helping them channel their
lives in a positive direction."

McGee and his wife will continue to reside in Monahans. They
expect to travel and spend time with their family.

Sandhills facelift on schedule

Monahans Sandhills State Park Superintendent Glen Korth says
more than $500,000 in park enhancements are on schedule for
finish in February.

The last item on the park's construction agenda is
completion of the exhibits in the Dunagan Visitor's Center
at the park.

"Exhibit section walls have all been framed," says Korth.
"They are currently working on getting the false ceiling
installed. Shortly after that, flooring should start."

The last part of the work will be creation of the exhibits
which will range from the history of the sandhills to sand
dune mechanics.

"Exhibits are scheduled to be finished in February," says
the park superintendent. "That's the last of the
construction that has been going on for several months."

Korth notes all the new roadways and parking areas are
complete. Air conditioning units are installed.

"After the center finish work, it will be just a matter of
time before the exhibit planning and work begins," says

Austin youth suspect in burglaries

Monahans Police Officer John Flowers Wednesday, July 15,
arrested an Austin youth who is the major suspect in five
armed robberies of convenience stores in the Permian Basin,
reports Police Chief Charles Sebastian.

Flowers collared the youth when he made a u-turn on Sealy
Street in downtown Monahans about 2:10 a.m. about a block
from police headquarters.

Three of the robberies were in Odessa; two, in Midland. They
began about 2 a.m. on Wednesday a week ago in Odessa,
investigators were told. No injuries were reported in the
thefts by a young man masked in panty hose and wielding a
.38-caliber revolver.

Sebastian identified the youth as Clifton Bryant Hennington,
19. As of late Wednesday, he was being held in the Ward
County Jail in Monahans on a local charge of a felon in
possession of a fire arm pending warrants in Odessa and
Midland in connection with the robberies.

Sebastian says Flowers recovered a .38-caliber pistol like
that used in the robberies and officers at the Ward County
Jail discovered a pair of panty hose stuffed in the back of
Hennington's shirt when he was being booked. In addition,
Odessa police say they have evidence taken from Hennington's
Odessa home which links him to the armed robberies.

Sebastian says he talked extensively with Hennington.

"He said he had started pulling armed robberies last
Wednesday at 2 a.m.," says the police chief. "Hennington had
been in the Odessa area for about a month."

Initial investigation results indicate that the pistol
Flowers recovered from the youth's car is the same one that
had been used in the Odessa and Midland armed robberies.

"Hennington had ammunition in his pocket for the pistol that
was confiscated," says Sebastian.

Hennington is on probation for a felony conviction in Austin
for organized criminal activity there, according to records.
His Austin conviction came as a result of several armed
robberies by members of a group of youths.

Odessa and Midland officers expect to have warrants against
the Austin youth today, Thursday, July 16, for the Permian
Basin robberies. From Sebastian: "I have interviewed
Hennington. He has confessed."

Sales tax rebates up

Special to the News
AUSTIN - Sales tax rebate checks in July to Ward County were
up 29.37 percent over July of 1997, according to reports
from State Comptroller John Sharp.

The sales tax rebates increased from $58,133.41 last July to

For the year, Ward County sales tax checks have increased
almost exactly the same as the increase in July. The year to
date checks are up 29.34 percent from $404,896.24 to

Sharp says the checks are based on sales made in Ward County
in June.

Monahans led in dollars received in July, up 38.75 percent
from $51,715.57 last July to $71,759.07 this July.

Other Ward County cities and their numbers were:

Grandfalls -Up 111.14 percent from $725.60 to $1532.10.

Pyote - Down 65.4 percent from $979.63 to $338.82.

Thorntonville - Up 1722.62 percent from $16.35 to $298.

Wickett - Down 72.71 percent from $4696.26 to $1281.57.

City moves to thwart TU tax savings

TU Electric's tax protest, which, if upheld, would cost the
schools and county nearly $1 million in revenue, triggered a
counterattack by Monahans Mayor David Cutbirth.

The counter to the tax protest would involve the city
annexing the property on which the TU Permian plant is
located. Then the city raises taxes to recover any taxes
lost by the county and the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote schools,
the mayor says. Tax dollars collected by the city could be
returned through intergovernmental agreements to the
entities that lose revenue to TU's tax lawyers, the mayor

Tuesday, July 14, the Monahans City Council authorized City
Manager David Mills to evaluate annexation of city-owned
land that includes the Perch Pond area and the city's
landfill just North of and adjacent to the property on which
the TU Permian Power Plant complex is located.

Cutbirth suggests the strategy would involve raising city
property taxes to about a dollar. The mayor believes
citizens would accept this if a half-cent of the city sales
tax is repealed and water, sewage and trash rates are
slashed dramatically to reflect the anticipated new property
tax revenue from TU Electric.

"In two years," says Cutbirth, "We start collecting property
taxes from TU Electric just like the schools and the county.
Add us (the city) to the mixture and they don't save a thing
with their tax protest, if it is successful. It'll cost them

A hearing on the TU Electric protest is scheduled today,
Thursday, Jan. 16, at 9 a.m. before the Ward County
Appraisal Review Board whose members are Ken Benad, Pat
Ramsey and David Armstrong.

County Appraiser Arlice Wittie notes the difference between
his appraisal of combustion turbines at the TU Permian Plant
just West of Monahans and the company's claim is $45
million. He estimates the TU protest, if upheld, would mean
a loss of about $225,000 in revenue to the county. Joe A.
Hayes, business manager of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school
district, estimates a potential loss to the school district
of about $625,000.

Cutbirth says he will seek this week to have the annexation
issue placed on the City Council agenda.

"This first involves annexing the city landfill area," says
the mayor. "That puts us adjacent to one section on which
the TU plant is located. Cities must have a 1000 foot width
next to land to legally annex that property."

In the majority of city annexations of new land, this width
is a road or easement plus the right of way on either side.

Continues Cutbirth.

"The TU plant already is in the city's extraterritorial
jurisdiction of about a mile as provided by state law.

"Annex the land fill this year. Annex the TU plant next
year. Begin to collect taxes 12 months later."

The mayor notes it is a long term solution to the potential
loss of tax revenue for the city and county but it is a
solution that can be implemented if TU Electric wins its
Ward County Tax Protest, either before the appraisal review
board or eventually in court. If either side disagrees with
the review board's ruling, either side can appeal to the

The Ward County action by TU Electric corporate executives
is only one of several that is part of a TU tax protest
initiative this year. Comparable proceedings are underway at
Colorado City and in other jurisdictions in Texas.

The TU tax protest notice was filed on June 12.

TU says gas turbine units 1, 2 and 3 are worth $9,939,652.
Wittie appraises those three generators at $34,370,370, a
decrease of $2.2 million from last year's appraisal for tax
purposes. TU says units 4 and 5 are worth $7,099,751. Wittie
appraises them at $28,127,330, a decrease from 1997 of $1.7

Ward County's property tax rate is 67.11 cents per $100 of
property evaluation; the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school
district's, the maximum $1.50.

Under Cutbirth's counter to TU, the probable City of
Monahans tax rate would be one dollar.

"We'll repeal the half cent sales tax for property tax
reduction, raising the property tax and lowering water,
sewer and trash rates for the citizens of Monahans," says
the mayor.

He continues, "We just can't give into them. The importance
of the schools to our city and the county is too much.

"I am upset TU tries to find a loop hole to avoid paying
legitimate property taxes no matter who they hurt.

"They're hurting all of us, especially our children."

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Copyright 1998 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
Joe Warren, Publisher
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Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314

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