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Back Door Business at Forney City Hall –The Final Facts

12-10-2012

Denise Bell
Post Managing Editor

In October 2012, The Forney Post researched and then revealed that Forney Mayor Pro-tem James Hatley and Forney City Manager, Brian Brooks, have for sometime been conducting “back door business” in direct violation of the Texas Government Code.

And like countless times in previous years, Forney City Manager, Brian Brooks, believes that if he can just spin it fast enough the taxpayers will again believe his rhetoric and again ignore his actions.

However, it simply does not matter how City Manager Brooks or Mayor Pro-tem James Hatley dance around their actions or explain away their reasoning, nor does it matter that  Brooks has recruited a local website to operate as his mouth piece, the facts are still the facts and they are really very simple.

Fact One: The Mayor Pro-tem of Forney, James Hatley, has financially benefited from his position on the Forney City Council since May 12, 2006, and in the process he has repeatedly violated Texas Government Code Chapter 171 which establishes the standard for determining when a local official has a conflict of interest that would affect his or her ability to "discuss, decide or vote on a particular item.”

Fact Two: According to City Manager Brooks, James Hatley signed a Conflict of Interest Questionnaire acknowledging his employment relationship with J C Graphics on January 10, 2009.  

However, in his endless rush to spin the facts, City Manager Brooks failed to explain to the public that The Forney Post has been supplied dozens of invoices that show payments to J C Graphics starting in May of 2006.

The City Managers office issued the first check to J C Graphics on May 12, 2006 and this would be three years before Mayor Pro-tem Hatley signed the Conflict of Interest Questionnaire, and at a time when the City of Forney was being managed by former Mayor Darrell Grooms and former City Secretary, Odessa Moore.  

Fact Three: Invoice after invoice show print deliveries made by James Hatley to City Hall personnel providing substantial proof that City Manager Brooks is complacent in the arrangement. Brian Brooks repeatedly approved checks payable to J C Graphics in the three years prior to obtaining Hatley’s signature on the 2009 Conflict of Interest declaration.  

Many City of Forney employees such as Human Resource/Finance Director, Leigh Corsons and Assistant City Manager, Gina Nash, are well aware that City Manager Brooks and Mayor Pro-tem Hately have for years been conducting business and they and many other City Hall employees have been aware for sometime that Mayor Pro-tem Hatley repeatedly continues to “deliberate, discuss and vote” upon issues that he ultimately benefits from.

Mayor Darren Rozell and former Mayor Darrell Grooms were also well aware that James Hatley worked for J C Graphics and although payment after payment was delivered to Hatley, no one at City Hall, not on the Council nor within city administration, ever questioned the legality of the City doing direct and continuous business with an elected Council Member.

And even now that these individuals surely comprehend City Manager Brooks and Mayor Pro-tem Hatley’s ongoing business dealings, they continue to remain silent and complacent to the unethical management style of City Manager, Brian Brooks.

Fact Four: An unsubstantiated article written by an author that does not have enough gumption to claim his own work will not create spin enough to fool the taxpayers of Forney or the authorities of the State of Texas.

As defined by the Texas Government Code, Mayor Pro-tem Hatley has a “substantial interest” in J C Graphics. His substantial interest is determined by the fact that his “income interest is more than 10% of his gross income for the previous year”. As a salaried employee he derives more than 10% of his income from J C Graphics.

Fact Five: Mayor Pro-tem Hatley and City Manager Brooks have repeatedly broken the laws of the State of Texas, as defined by Texas Government Code, Chapter 171, and they could indeed be prosecuted for these violations.

The Texas Government Code specifies that a government official can be prosecuted for “failure to file an affidavit noting a conflict”.  Mayor Pro-tem Hatley did not file a Conflict of Interest  form during the time period from May 2006 to January 2009 but none the less he conducted business with the City of Forney.

The Texas Government Code also clearly explains that “participating in discussions regarding items for which there is a conflict is prohibited under Local Government Code Section 171.004”. Mayor Pro-tem James Hatley has repeatedly violated this section of the Code more times than may be countable.

Ultimately the decision to charge Mayor Pro-tem James Hatley or City Manager, Brian Brooks with violating the Texas Conflict of Interest Laws is at the discretion of Kaufman County District Attorney, Mike McLelland, who is well informed on these violations.

And finally, the undisputable fact is that each and every violation of the Texas Government Code is a Misdemeanor offense that is punishable by a $4,000 fine and/or up to one year in jail.

The average citizen committing a misdemeanor offense would be arrested. And should the average citizen repeatedly commit the same crime, willingly and knowingly, the authorities in the State of Texas would arrest and prosecute the offender.

But then again, how often are politicians or government officials held to the same standard as average citizens?

The below invoices were obtained by Public Records requests directly from the office of City Manager, Brian Brooks.