“That her face, at first just ghostly, Turned a whiter shade of pale “
by Johnnie Belle Reagan
For the last couple of days, I have been analyzing the City of Palestine January 14, 2019 work session and Council meeting. I still can not get my head around what I witnessed so I have been watching the recordings over and over. Are these people for real? Surely this isn’t faked or orchestrated just to keep my mouth dry from having it open from the sheer astonishment.
I was extremely excited to finally see the discussion of the City Attorney, Ron Stutes, performance on the open agenda for both the work session and regular meeting by Council Member Larissa Loveless. It has happed more rarely than the actual City of Palestine vs. Jerry Laza lawsuit has appeared. So, I was sitting on the edge of my set just to see what was the topic especially after it was reported that another $45,000 Potter-Minton bill had been paid in December.
First and most noticeable, as you are watching, is how the City Mayor Steve Presley tried to Harlem Shuffle right past the agenda item concern the City Attorney. “Oh, did I forget one?” he pipes… Like it hasn’t been on his radar like it was on mine since the agenda was posted last Thursday. Right out of the shoot there was a juggling act between the key stooges, the Mayor, City Manager, Mike Hornes and Ron Stutes himself. Next is what follows a very awkward exchange of what might have happed in the past and what might be a good idea as it pertains to the evaluation of the City Attorney. One key note that I observed is that all of a sudden while the City’s audio stinks, you really have to start struggling to hear what is being said. Watching the body language, you can tell the atmosphere has changed in the room. One Council member is evening fanning herself, like “it’s getting hot in here”. (the links below were recoded by Jack Coleman, not the City)
I think at this point and epiphany has been discovered by all; the City Attorney is an employee of the City Council not the City Manager & a Contractor… moving on…
They clearly juggle the who, what, where, when and how of the evaluation for a good 10 minutes. The body language seems uncomfortable. Like the Council Members are waiting on the other shoe to fall off…
And then it comes in the form of Council Member Dana Goolsby asking the obvious, “Is it typical for contractor to draw up their own evaluation?” Right? Here I will note once again the defense, City Manager and Mayor, jumps in to justify.
Then the “BOMB”; Council Member Goolsby ask, “Mr. Stutes, …I read in the paper you said some things to Mr. Laza while he wasn’t on the stand in an antagonistic manner and I wanted to know if that was true?” In response Ron Stutes answers the questions with “I do not recall”. Stutes defends himself by belittling the journalistic integrity of the reporter from the Palestine Herald-Press, Michael Maresh who over heard the exchange and wrote in the Palestine Herald-Press:
“Before the Judge came to the bench to issue his ruling, City Attorney Ron Stutes leaned over with a grin and said, “Jerry, Merry Christmas.”
It all of a sudden became “fake news”.
As Goolsby goes on to explain how she is concerned that his actions reflect negatively on the City of Palestine, Ron Stutes states that his actions shouldn’t reflect on the City of Palestine. Here again I am at a total loss… He is representing his “alleged” client, the City of Palestine, in a highly publicized Civil Law Suit that he filed without authority. Stutes goes on to explain that Jerry Laza and himself have a cordial relationship. Seriously? I would really like to know how Mr. Laza feels about that statement, since in motion that was not actually heard Ron Stutes was requesting Laza be given 21 days in Jail. I don’t think it would wrong for someone to assume that what Stutes was referring to was the lack of hearing and jail time 5 days before Christmas and an additional fine of $80,000. It appears that after spending almost two hours in Judge Phifer’s chamber with Laza’s Bankruptcy Attorney William Lively, Stutes got none of what was requested. Once more wasting our tax dollars just like he did in September 2018 in the first Contempt of Court motion he filed.
Next in line to make a statement is Council Member Mitchell Jordan, who wants to make it clear this isn’t just about Jerry Laza. Jordan states, “I know it is a lot of money and I am really bothered by how much money it is.” Jordan goes on to explain that he is not bothered by the fact that the City of Palestine is showing Ordinance Violators that the City will go after them no matter what. I hope he can grasp how ludicrous that statement is. You will go after someone no matter if you are breaking the rules, regulations, protocols, procedures, processes or laws? You will go after them even if it violates their Constitutional Rights? I hate to break the bad news to Mr. Jordan the Palestine City Charter does not allow you to take it that far.
Moving past Mr. Jordan, Council Member Joe Baxter pipes in with a request for Ron Stutes not to file anymore motions with the Court and let the Bankruptcy Court and the Judge Phifer do their job. Mr. Baxter also adds he doesn’t feel it appropriate to pay Stutes to learn Bankruptcy Law on the City’s dime. Personally, I believe that is the most intelligent thing I have heard out of City Council is some time. In response to Mr. Baxter Ron Stutes gloats about how Laza’s property is being sold off… Disgusting at best. Ron Stutes also boasts that he forwarded the names of some real-estate brokers to the Bankruptcy Trustee. I’m not even sure if I want to know what that is about. Go team, I’m happy to hear that you have conspired together to ruin Laza’s life!
I don’t know enough about Bankruptcy to know if anything that Ron Stutes claims is true. I will say it turns my stomach to listen to them talk about how they destroyed Jerry Laza’s life in the manner they would if they were deciding new office furniture. I also find it disappointing how they seem to have forgotten the whole case, City of Palestine vs. Jerry Laza, has been accepted in the Texas 6th Court of Appeals and is only on “stay” pending the Bankruptcy release. They haven’t won anything. If and when the Appeal is perfected and found in Laza’s favor they really should be wondering how they will restore him damages which they are responsible. City of Palestine you have violated Jerry Laza’s Civil Rights in case you missed something.
During the actual City Council meeting that takes place after the work session citizen Gloria Perrin made a compassionate statement to City Council Members. She was in attendance at Laza’s Contempt hearing and witnessed the exchange between Laza and Stutes. Her statement can be heard here:
After watching both videos I’m not sure what to think about what I saw and heard. This case has been reported and written about for three years. While the Palestine City Council and their Contract Attorney may claim they don’t read the newspaper, Facebook, Texas Monthly, various websites or watch the News I find it hard to believe they have such an abstruse understanding of what is actually happening to tax paying small business man, Jerry Laza on our dime.
It boggles the mind.
But then again, it’s Typical Palestine & they just got a Burger King, so it has to be fine, Right?