Thursday, March 12, 2009
The case of the disappearing Hays County voter fraud investigation
Despite numerous open record requests over those three years, requests that were brushed aside by the current Hays County District Attorney, Sherri Tibbe, and Tatum, the ACC voter fraud and forgery committed in San Marcos more than four years earlier was quietly disposed of without bringing anyone to justice
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By Charles O'Dell, Ph.D.
On December 17, 2005, the Hays County Sheriff Department filed a charge of Unlawful Use of Criminal Instrument against Mark Littlefield, campaign manager for state representative Patrick Rose.
San Marcos/ACC Yes! Coalition, run by Littlefield and financed primarily by well connected local developer Randall Morris, was collecting registered voter signatures calling for an election that would result in a multi-million dollar Austin Community College campus for San Marcos. Morris expected the campus would be built on his new 70 acre mixed-use commercial development site.
Following a citizen tip, the Hays County Elections Administrator certified that at least sixty-nine people had signed sworn affidavits their signatures were forged, and hundreds of more names, apparently of deceased people and from old voter lists that did not appear on current voter registration rolls.
Official incompetence or deliberate stalling?
Nearly a year later (September 5, 2006), Hays County commissioners’ court voted to appropriate $50,000, and authorized the Hays County District Attorney office to appoint a special prosecutor to examine alleged voter fraud.
In an interview following the commissioners’ court vote, Hays County District Attorney Mike Wenk acknowledged the request dealt with “irregularities involving the Austin Community College annexation petition,” a case Wenk had been investigating since April 2005, with the state attorney general’s office. Prosecutors said they were waiting to receive results of forensic tests including handwriting evaluations.
A special prosecutor was never appointed and those forensic and handwriting results have never been released to the public. Were they comparing the handwriting of the principles involved in organizing the election petition drive to the forged voter names?
Assistant State Attorney General, William R. Tatum was made a Hays County Assistant District Attorney and over the next three years he reportedly continued to investigate the alleged voter fraud for the State Attorney General Office.
Despite numerous open record requests over those three years, requests that were brushed aside by the current Hays County District Attorney, Sherri Tibbe, and Tatum, the ACC voter fraud and forgery committed in San Marcos more than four years earlier was quietly disposed of without bringing anyone to justice.
On February 23, 2009, Tatum changed the charge against Littlefield from the original Unlawful Use of Criminal Instrument, to a charge of Possession of a Forged Writing by information in his Motion to Dismiss. In a meeting without public notice, and after having “duly considered” the Motion, County Court of Law Judge Howard S. Warner ordered the revised complaint dismissed “in the interest of justice.” No one knows what Judge Warner “duly considered” since there are no pubic records available and the public was not given notice of the court hearings. In the absence of public notice these hearings were essentially conducted behind closed doors.
Special justice by and for the well connected
Clearly, major voter fraud was committed in San Marcos, but after more than four years of official investigations we could only find three pages of public documents: two pages of the initial criminal complaint, and the one page motion and order to dismiss. No pleas, no public hearings, no evidence, no nothing, just official concealment and silence…with one exception.
In a telephone conversation with Tatum on July 23, 2008, I was repeatedly assured that this case would not be dismissed as indicated in Judge Warner’s Register of Actions.
HaysCAN has an open record request pending with the Attorney General, but we expect all important public records will be excepted from disclosure...through an opinion to be rendered by an internal AG Office group. Neither Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe nor Judge Warner would discuss the Littlefield case with us, even though it was closed and no longer active.
Who are our county and state officials shielding from justice?
According to the Austin-American Statesman, others have also faulted Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for spending $1.5 million investigating election fraud but finding very little.
Hays County and Texas, we have a problem.
As co-founder of Hays Community Action Network (HaysCAN) in 2003, Mr. O’Dell strives to carry out the mission of ensuring open, accessible and accountable government. He is a long time and close observer of the workings of the Hays County Commissioners Court. He earned a degree in Agricultural Education and a Masters in Ag Economics at Texas Tech, and, later, a Ph.D. at The University of Maryland while employed as a Research Economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. Texas born and raised on a family farm, O’Dell is a Hays County Master Naturalist and a board member of the Ethical Society of Austin.
Posted by RoundUp Editor at 9:22 AM
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