Friday, June 9, 2017

The Smith County Politician Hall of Shame


Please go to the new blog to read this article and comment: http://smithcountytexas.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-ten-worst-politicians-of-smith.html  
 
 

Smith County, Texas:  A modern-day Sodom

Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
Are other county governments like this?  You hear of a few bad apples in every bunch.  But here I've identified TEN politicians who just need to go away.  Forever. Here they are in alphabetical order:
 

Judge Joel Baker

Source:  Smith County Jail
I debated whether to include Baker on this list, because he is technically no longer a "politician." But I want his story (along with the toxic results that come up when his name is Googled) to be a cautionary tale for any like-minded individuals who might want to run for office. 
 
Political affiliation:  None.  (Nobody wants to claim him!)
 
Transgressions:
 
There's just so much to be said.  But in the interest of brevity, I'll hit the high points.  Pay attention to the underlined terms in bold face, because I will refer to them again later in this post:
  • Gave himself a series of generous pay raises during the Great Recession, while he raised taxes and the county had to reduce staffing.
  • "Peepergate." I'm tired of writing about this.  Follow the link and form your own conclusions.
  • While the county's roads and bridges crumbled, he added on to his own little "Smith County Kremlin" in downtown Tyler year after year at taxpayer expense by buying new properties, renovating county buildings, an buying equipment for those facilities.
  • Tried to create an illegal special taxation zone (the Loop 49 Transportation Reinvestment Zone, or "TRZ") which would have diverted even MORE money from the general fund to build pet projects, including a multi-million-dollar parking garage/transportation hub in downtown Tyler.
  • Accused his opponent in the 2014 campaign, John Furlow, of stealing campaign signs, leading to a bogus and expensive police investigation and prosecution. (AKA the "Great Campaign Sign Caper")
  • "Cameragate":  an illegal and unconstitutional plan to allow a private company to catch speeders with automated camera devices and issue bogus "fines" in the form of "civil penalties."  This led to Baker's conviction (via a nolo contendere plea) for Texas Open Meetings Act violations.
  • Disregarding the First Amendment, enacted by decree a set of "Rules of Decorum" that were used to prevent speakers from criticizing him in commissioners court meetings.
  • And, finally, "Sexting-gate." Again, form your own conclusions.

Status of political career:  Gone.  Kaput.  He's outta here!!!!!!!!
 


 

District Attorney Matt Bingham

 
Ah, Matt Bingham, our "tough on crime" D.A.  To get a sense of his professional ethics, look no further than the overturned "Mineola Swingers' Club" convictions/debacles and his handling of Kerry Max Cook's recent bid for exoneration.  Bingham says he's not going to run for re-election in 2018, but some fear he may have other, more frightening political aspirations in mind!
 
Political affiliation:  Establishment Republican (with fascist tendencies)
 
Transgressions:
  • Railroading defendants in cases that had little merit, i.e. the "Mineola Swingers' Club." cases.
  • Initiated the prosecution of John Furlow in the "Great Campaign Sign Caper" case, which ended in a mistrial and cost the county $42,000 in legal fees.
  • Out of control spending:  His department's spending went up by about 49% during the tenure of former Smith County Judge Joel Baker even though neither the crime rate nor the population of Smith County increased by a fraction of that amount.

Status of political careerOn his way out the door, hopefully.
 


 

Judge Carole Clark


Source:  Dallas Morning News

Lording over the 321st District (Family) Court, Clark gets mixed reviews.  To some, she is a tough, no-nonsense jurist who does whatever it takes to protect children from abuse and neglect.  To others, she is a man-hating, capricious tyrant with an itchy trigger-finger when it comes to removing children from their parents' custody.  One local Libertarian refers to her as "The Kidnapper."  I've never been in her court (thank God) but the gut feeling I get about the few anecdotes I've heard about her make me think she might be a nut-job.  But what do I know?  She's up for re-election in 2018 and, alas, no one has stepped up to run against her.
 
Well, here's what I do know:
 
Political affiliation:  Establishment Republican
 
Transgressions:
 
  • Fiscal insanity.  Somehow, in fiscal year 2013, Clark's court managed to pay out over $1.1 MILLION in legal fees to ad litem attorneys representing indigent parties (parents, children) who had the misfortune of being brought before Her Majesty's Court.  At the hourly rate the county was paying those attorneys, that comes out to approximately 60 hours of legal services rendered every day her court was in session!

Status of political career:  Still going strong.
 


 

Commissioner JoAnn Hampton

Source: Smith County Jail
I haven't really figured out JoAnn Hampton yet.  I think I've narrowed it down to stupid, crazy, or a combination of both.  Ironically, as the commissioners court lone Democrat, she was functionally the best Establishment Republican the Establishment Republicans could hope for:  She supported or gave her stamp of approval on just about everything Joel Baker proposed!
 
Political Affiliation:  "Go-Along-to-Get-Along" Democrat
 
 
Transgressions:
 
  • Voted for a series of generous pay raises for herself during the Great Recession while tax rates were being increased and the county was having to cut staffing.
  • In 2014 came back AGAIN demanding another pay raise.
  • Supported Joel Baker's program of adding on to the Smith County Kremlin.
  • Supported and voted for the TRZ
  • Supported and voted for Cameragate.
  • Violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act related to Cameragate.
  • Supported Joel Baker's unconstitutional "Rules of Decorum."
  • And lastly, Hampton has been indicted for the alleged FELONY ASSAULT of an elderly woman.  I say "alleged" here, but the attack was witnessed and confirmed by Hampton's church pastor.  Apparently, Hampton and a 72 year-old woman got into an altercation at the church over decorations (of all things) and Hampton pushed the old woman down, injuring her.

Status of political careerIn deep doo-doo. (As long as someone will run against her in 2018)
 


 

Constable Henry Jackson

Source:  Smith County Jail
Yep, that's another mugshot.  Jackson is small potatoes.  But if there are two things I can't stand, they are corrupt politicians and dirty cops.  Constables are elected, so Jackson is both.
 
Political affiliation:  Who cares?
 
Transgressions:
 
  • Indicted for 7 felony counts of tampering with government documents and 3 counts of "official oppression" in 2008.  The "documents" were employment records for employees of his private security firm who were allegedly "double dipping" by getting paid by the county while they were working for Jackson's security company.  The "official oppression" charges stemmed from accusations that he had sexually harassed a county employee.  The ten charges were eventually downgraded to 2 misdemeanor convictions and Jackson got off with probation and a 6-month suspension of his law enforcement license.
  • Most recently, Jackson has pleaded guilty to four counts of tax evasion.  He failed to file federal tax returns for four consecutive years and did not pay approximately $160,000 in federal taxes owed.

Status of political career:  In deep doo-doo.  (Somebody please step up and run against this idiot if he does not get sent to federal prison!)


 

 Commissioner Cary Nix

 
Smith County Commissioner Cary Nix is perhaps the most benign member of this list in that he is pretty much inert.  But for years he went along with Joel Baker's program of building on to the Smith County Kremlin and has sat idly by while Baker dismantled this county and the roads and bridges crumbled.  To his credit, Nix voted against the 2014 budget, which gave Baker a full-time administrator to do his work for him.  And Nix did call for Baker's resignation after "Sexting-gate" broke.  But the balance is not in Nix' favor.
 
Political affiliation:  Establishment Republican (Buffoon Caucus)
 
Transgressions:
 
  • Supported and voted for the Smith County Kremlin.
  • Supported and voted for the TRZ.
  • Supported and voted for Cameragate.
  • Violation of Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) related to "Cameragate."
  • Supported and signed off on Joel Baker's unconstitutional "Rules of Decorum."


Status of political career:  On shaky ground, because of Cameragate and the TOMA violations.
 


 

Skip Ogle

 
Does Skip Ogle belong on this list?  He tried to slither into the Texas House of Representatives in 2014, but lost against incumbent Matt Schaefer.  So, like Joel Baker, he's not really a politician, right?  Well, Ogle has gotten himself appointed by the governor to the Angelina and Neches River Authority.  He has maintained a presence on just about every social medial platform I can think of, and my informants have recently spotted ads saying "Skip Ogle:  Community First" on some local video billboards.  So maybe he's up to something again.  Mainly I just needed to make the list an even ten.  On the odd chance you're interested in Skip Ogle, click here.
 
Political affiliation:  Establishment Republican (or whatever gets him elected)
 
Transgressions:
  • Lobbying.
  • Trying to conceal the fact that he had been a lobbyist.
  • Evading arrest.
  • Laughing about his criminal record.

Status of political career:  Dead in the water


 
 

Judge Randall Rogers

 
Smith County Court at Law #2 Judge Randall Rogers put Smith County in the national spotlight in 2015, but not in a "good" light.  It came out that he had been ordering defendants to get married to their significant others and to write Bible verses every day to stay out of jail as a condition of probation.  The "shotgun wedding" thing really troubles me.  But, as a Christian, I am really offended by a judge using learning or reading the Bible as a form of punishment.  And what of the First Amendment, which guarantees the separation of church and state?  The Court is an arm of the state, so...can it order a person to submit to some form of religious practice?
 
No matter.  Rogers plans to retire at the end of this term, so...
 
Political affiliation:  Nobody really gives a damn anymore.
 
Transgressions:
  • Joining Matt Bingham and Judge Jack Skeen by wiping his ass with the Constitution.
  • Making the people of East Texas look like a bunch of backasswards rednecks.  (Like we needed much help with that!)

Status of political careerOn the way out the door
 


 

Judge Jack Skeen Jr.

 
 
Like with Joel Baker, there's just too much to print here.  Follow this link to get a window into the soul of the man who is arguably Texas' worst judge.  Alas, possibly for reasons I've discussed in another post Skeen has decided to run for yet another term.  I can't imagine there is anybody brave enough--or stupid enough--to run against an incumbent district judge in Smith County.  So we are stuck with him for another four years unless nature takes its course and a big piece of atherosclerotic sludge lodges itself in one of the arteries of Skeen's cold, hard heart.
 
Political affiliation:  Establishment Republican (with fascist tendencies)
 
Transgressions:
  • Prosecutorial misconduct (Morton Act violations in the Kerry Max Cook trials)
  • Judicial bias
  • Wiping his big ass with the U.S. Constitution
 
Status of political career:  Still going strong
 
 
 
 

Commissioner Jeff Warr

 
 
Smith County Commissioner Jeff Warr is perhaps the smartest--and therefore the most dangerous--of the county clownishioners.  As Joel Baker's Stellvertreter des Führers he stood by his Leader through thick and thin, to the bitter end.  Pretty much if Baker was involved in something, Warr was right there with him (except for maybe "Peepergate" and "Sexting-gate").  He enthusiastically supported building Baker's Hauptsadt in downtown Tyler while other county infrastructure crumbled.  Included in that program was Smith County's $35 MILLION jail expansion.  But when the jail expansion was completed, Warr and the other clownishioners were appalled at the idea that they were actually going to have to find a way to pay for it and staff it!  Oh, and Warr and Baker were the principals on the County's side of the whole illegal "Cameragete" deal.  In 2016, Warr said this would be his last term in office, so we are stuck with him at least until 2020.
 
Political affiliation:  Establishment Republican (Buffoon Caucus)
 
Transgressions:
  • Smith County Kremlin
  • Guilt by association (Joel Baker's faithful ally)
  • Cameragate
  • TOMA violations
  • Signing off on Joel Baker's unconstitutional "Rules of Decorum" thereby spitting on the First Amendment
 
Status of political career:  Still going strong
 
 
So that makes ten.  Stay tuned for Part 2:  The 2018 campaign outlook.
 
 

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