Colleyville, Texas November 23, 2015
Editorial By Nelson Thibodeaux
Note: Comments from the public are posted on the bottom of this page and in the Letters to the Editor Section.
The overflow crowd at the November 17, 2015 City Council meeting responded to the attempt to change the long standing criteria in Colleyville from the 1.8 to 3.5 homes per acre in the High Density replacement that City Council is considering. The December 1st City Council meeting is expected to have an even larger gathering of Colleyville citizens in an effort to convince City Council from passing the issue. However, surprise, surprise, there is another item buried in the Agenda is item 6D;
Approval of a professional services agreement with Teague Nall and Perkins, Inc., for the negotiation and closing services for the property acquisition associated with the Glade Road Phase 1 Project, and authorize the city manager to execute the agreement.
This Resolution is to prepare for the acquisition of land along Glade Road and it appears to also clear the way for Eminent Domain action on Glade Road.
The High Density Proposal follows in the footsteps of the highly charged defeat of the Glade Road Citizen’s Petition on the May 2015 ballot. A large number of citizens at the meeting were upset with the current council’s attempt to change the density levels without a public vote, pointing out the majority of residents in Colleyville moved here for the rural feel, not to live next door to high density properties. In addition, there was a lot of discussion concerning this council’s lack of responsiveness to the public.
The number of citizens who put in cards opposing the change was 62 with 7 in favor. The current City Council has approved a number of high density projects in Colleyville and seeks to change the city ordinances to make it easier to file and win approval of these type of projects. However, in the overflow crowd, a number of citizens spoke against encouraging additional high density projects. One of the speakers was Joel Stanley, who has been in a battle to prevent a project, next door to his mother’s 5 acre single family farm, of 15 homes being built on the 5 acre adjacent property.
Citizens comments can be seen on the website including the mention of an “adversarial relationship” between the residents of Colleyville and the members of Council. The comment can be seen on the City’s Website. Click on the November 17 City Council meeting then go to the Citizen’s Comment section Item 7 and go to 5:06 on the video time line (below the photo) to hear comments about the City Council’s “adversarial relationship” with it’s own citizens, including the speaker pointing out that one City Council member was actually taking photos of citizens who were signing a petition at the polls during the Texas Proposition ballot recently, however she would not announce the Council Member’s name as not to cause embarrassment.
Witnesses to the council member taking photos stated that a number of photos were taken primarily of individuals who had stopped to talk about the High Density Petition.
The Council member identified was Nancy Coplen. LNO requested a written response explaining why she was taking photos; and to Ms. Coplen’s credit she responded as follows;
“As a trained poll-watcher and election judge, I’ve worked with others to ensure voting integrity at polling locations in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Iowa, New Hampshire and Virginia over the last two decades. As a private citizen and longtime advocate of integrity at polling locations, I know the requirements for citizens to fairly and legally promote a candidate or proposition. This past election on 3 November, I witnessed a young man violating the 100′ marker by being within 50′ of the poll while electioneering with a flyer of an unknown subject. This was most likely because he had not been properly instructed on the distance limits. I informed an election judge who I assumed would instruct the young man on this regulation. After hearing some reports from other citizens of electioneering at some of the other 6 Colleyville polling locations, I checked them out and was able to confirm that the 100′ electioneering regulation was being observed.”
Nancy Coplen endorsed and ran in tandem with the re-election of Mike Taylor in May 2015.
The May election resulted in the re-election of Taylor by the slim margin of 174 votes, out the 5011 votes cast. The primary issue in the election used by the Taylor/Coplen team was their agreement that the Citizen’s Initiative should be defeated. One of the critical concerns of the citizens behind the initiative was the potential of losing land and hundreds of trees to Eminent Domain action of the city. Taylor later commented to a newspaper that those who were for the Citizen’s Petition, “shouldn’t lose any sleep over it,” and Ms. Coplen committed to the “rural feel” of Colleyville.
At that time LNO posted an Editorial Titled, “Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes” In part the Editorial read: “The Vote NO proponents and Vote NO Candidates tell you there will be no major tree loss and NO EMINENT DOMAIN. In other words, when looking at the 10 ft trail THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN LAID IN TWO LOCATIONS, don’t believe your lying eyes! Simply look at the photo, this is not an illusion, the trees, as far as the eye can see, will be gone, so will be private property and/or at best the trail would literally be a few feet from these homeowners front door.”
Citizens were told by Councilman Mogged and Taylor, that the threat of Eminent Domain was simply a ploy to get voters to Elect the opponents of Taylor and Coplen. In fact Councilman Mogged accused Councilman Putnam of attempting to mislead the public. Mogged said, there was no intention or thought by the City Council to use this government tool to force citizens to sell part of their property. This is a video from a Pre-council meeting that was used on a web site to encourage voters to reject the Citizens’ Initiative vote.
Further, in the efforts to elect Coplen and Taylor to the current City Council; the political flyer; Protect Colleyville Flyer, clearly states IN GIANT LETTERS AT THE TOP OF THE FLYER “Glade Road Accidents Are Up by 31%, which is absolutely UNTRUE and the proponents, Mayor Kelly, Council Members, Taylor, Mogged and Coplen, KNEW THIS INFORMATION WAS FALSE!
Also “No Eminent Domain” tactics would be deployed, never the less Resolution R153937 certainly appears a prelude to acquiring land for Glade Road expansion and IF, the land owner does not agree, then Eminent Domain will be used.
Prior to the May Election date, LocalNewsOnly.com put in a request under the Freedom of Information Act, requesting all correspondence pertaining to Glade Road, from Councilman Mogged, Taylor and Mayor Kelly. The response was delayed while the City sought an “Attorney General’s Opinion” on matters like revealing the emails of citizens, of which LNO did not request.
At the time, LNO received only 4 pages shortly before the May election date. However, after the election date, LNO receive 237 pages of correspondence. Amazingly out of 237 pages there were only 3 pages that featured Mike Taylor, in which he states that he will in the future have to use his personal email, because if he used his Councilman’s email provided by the City, that it would be subject to Open Records! So apparently Taylor does not want his emails subject to public scrutiny. Better yet there was O, ZERO, from the Mayor of Colleyville David Kelly, who was clearly against the passage of the Citizen’s Proposition in May 2015. So the citizens of Colleyville should ask, why the Mayor of the City elects to correspond on issues, but does so in a manner that is not subject to Open Records request.
LNO’s investigation was to ascertain if there was any information that was being withheld or being altered to fit the efforts of the majority of City Council to defeat the Citizens’ Initiative with the “Make Glade Road Safe” or “Protect Colleyville” alleged PACs, (although these PACs were never registered with the State of Texas).
Now after having the opportunity to fully investigate matters that occurred PRIOR to the May Election and after examining the Open Records Request, it seems evident that Councilman Mogged intentionally misled citizens. For example, during his high profile effort to defeat the Glade Road Citizens’ Initiative, Mogged used facts to support his claim that Glade had to be changed because there was a 31% increase in accidents on Glade Road. Note the following comment on the flyer………………
However, Mogged was aware the 31% was NOT ON GLADE ROAD, in fact the statistics provided by Chief of Police Mike Holder indicated there had only been 5 more accidents in 2014 over 2013, which is only a 13% increase and IN FACT there had actually been 39 in 2011, 34 in 2013 and 39 again in 2014 for an increase of only 13% the previous two years and actually a decrease in 2013 versus 2011. This was confirmed to Mogged and City Manager Jennifer Fadden on March 2, 2015 via an Email from Police Chief Mike Holder, see this link 31 per cent is 13 percent Highlighted.
On March 03, 2015 Mogged emails Mona Gandy and Jennifer Fadden with the following message (highlights added for emphasis): A copy of the actual email is here: Mogged’s safety angle.
Then Mogged contacts the City of Colleyville’s City Manager Jennifer Fadden AND Mona Gandy, the Communications and Media Director of the City of Colleyville announcing that he is going to use this “safety angle for capturing reader interest,” and asking for their feed back. Evidence that Mogged is asking City Employees to provide suggestions and collusion for input on his Press Release, where he plans to use “the safety angle” to urge citizens to vote against the Citizens’ Proposition of Glade Road and informs the City Manager of that fact.
And on March 4, Mogged wasted no time in putting out his press release: moggedpressreleasemar4
There is earlier evidence on February 20, 2015, in an internal memo from City Manager, Jennifer Fadden of what appears “collusion” between City Staff and City Council Member Jody Short .
The email memo from Fadden states: “I have spoke with both Jody, (Councilman Jody Short) and Chuck (Councilman Chuck Mogged), and believe we are on the path for a workable solution.”
Finally, bringing matters up to date on the High Density question; LNO inquired with the following question to City Manager Jennifer Fadden concerning the meeting of Joel Stanley at City Hall with members of City Staff, AFTER the project had been Denied on a 6 to 0 vote by City Council only the week before.
Question from LNO to Jennifer Fadden, City Manager
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2015 8:18 AM
To: Jennifer Fadden
Subject: Meeting between Mr. Stanley and City Staff AFTER the project had been denied.
Question concerning the Stanley property follow up. Jennifer, I intended to ask you prior to the Stanley interview on LNO and before the Tuesday night meeting, but just ran out of time with other issues.
My question is this; in a City Manager Style of Government; the City Council gives direction to the City Manager and she implements their policy. No Council Member has the right, in fact is prohibited, from giving any commands or instructions to a City Employee.
The City Council voted 6 to 0 to deny Mr. Fegan’s proposed project on Lavaca Trail. However, thereafter, in direct conflict with the council official stand that the project was denied; Mr. Stanley was invited to a meeting a City Hall.
This meeting included 3 of your employees. So based on the public action of City Council, my question is this meeting, that was focused around the 3 employees and Mr. Feagan’s, was for the purpose of trying to work out a deal on a project that had been denied. If this meeting was with your approval, then there appears a clear and direct conflict with a decision that was made at a public meeting.
If this meeting was without your approval, has there been disciplinary action taken with this employees. And/or under what circumstance and on who’s authority was this meeting conducted in what clearly Mr. Stanley believes the City of Colleyville was taking an advocacy position for this development. It would seem that the developer would be required to refile with a new plan and, in that case, the city’s role should only be from a consultation stand point that all technical aspects are met per city codes. As always, I appreciate your response to clear this matter up for our readers.
Nelson Thibodeaux, Editor LNO
Response from Jennifer Fadden, City Manager
Nelson: Thank you for your email and for the opportunity to respond. In the course of daily City business, it is not unusual for City staff to participate in meetings that they are invited to, as is the case here. On October 13, 2015, City staff, as well as Mr. Stanley and his engineer, Mark Assaad, were invited by Konstantine Bakintas, Mr. Fegan’s engineer to meet. According to Mr. Bakintas, “In an effort to address concerns expressed at the public hearing, we are requesting your participation at a meeting with representatives from the City of Colleyville.” (Please see attached email from Mr. Bakintas). This meeting took place on October 20, 2015, at Colleyville City Hall and Director of Public Works Jeremy Hutt, Director of Community Development Abra Nusser and Principal Planner Shane Pace from City staff were present, in addition to Mr. Bakintas, Mr. Fegan, Rhonda Berry, Mr. Stanley, and his mom, Ms. Stanley, and Mr. Assaad. City staff’s sole responsibility in this meeting was to provide technical expertise regarding the City’s development regulations. City staff did not advocate for any particular outcome during this meeting. Per the City Council’s discussion of this case on October 5, 2015, the City Council denied the rezoning request without prejudice and asked the applicant to try and resolve some of the issues with the setbacks, drainage and the design of a single loaded street (a street with development on only one side). As City staff, we work every day to serve the Colleyville community. We follow the policies established by the City Council, and carry out their directives. You’re correct that at the City Council meeting on October 5, 2015, the Council voted 6-0 (Councilmember Short was absent) to deny this proposal without prejudice (meaning the developer could bring it back at any time). At that same meeting, the City Council expressed a desire for the developer to work with the neighbors to see if they could work through these issues. So when the project engineer for the developer reached out to City staff and to Mr. Stanley and his representatives, staff was there to provide technical knowledge as to City regulations. Nelson, I hope this information is helpful. If I can be of further service, please let me know. Thank you, Jennifer Jennifer Fadden,
Sent: Friday, November 20, 2015 8:06 AM
To: Editor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Meeting between Mr. Stanley and City Staff AFTER the project had been denied.
City Manager email@example.com
ATTENTION ALL PUBLIC OFFICIALS: A “Reply All” to this email could lead to violations of the Texas Open Meeting Act. Please reply only to the sender.
Nelson: Thank you for your email and for the opportunity to respond. In the course of daily City business, it is not unusual for City staff to participate in meetings that they are invited to, as is the case here. On October 13, 2015, City staff, as well as Mr. Stanley and his engineer, Mark Assaad, were invited by Konstantine Bakintas, Mr. Fegan’s engineer to meet. According to Mr. Bakintas, “In an effort to address concerns expressed at the public hearing, we are requesting your participation at a meeting with representatives from the City of Colleyville.” (Please see attached email from Mr. Bakintas).
This meeting took place on October 20, 2015, at Colleyville City Hall and Director of Public Works Jeremy Hutt, Director of Community Development Abra Nusser and Principal Planner Shane Pace from City staff were present, in addition to Mr. Bakintas, Mr. Fegan, Rhonda Berry, Mr. Stanley, and his mom, Ms. Stanley, and Mr. Assaad. City staff’s sole responsibility in this meeting was to provide technical expertise regarding the City’s development regulations. City staff did not advocate for any particular outcome during this meeting. Per the City Council’s discussion of this case on October 5, 2015, the City Council denied the rezoning request without prejudice and asked the applicant to try and resolve some of the issues with the setbacks, drainage and the design of a single loaded street (a street with development on only one side). As City staff, we work every day to serve the Colleyville community. We follow the policies established by the City Council, and carry out their directives.
You’re correct that at the City Council meeting on October 5, 2015, the Council voted 6-0 (Councilmember Short was absent) to deny this proposal without prejudice (meaning the developer could bring it back at any time). At that same meeting, the City Council expressed a desire for the developer to work with the neighbors to see if they could work through these issues. So when the project engineer for the developer reached out to City staff and to Mr. Stanley and his representatives, staff was there to provide technical knowledge as to City regulations. Nelson, I hope this information is helpful. If I can be of further service, please let me know.
Thank you, Jennifer Jennifer Fadden,
As a former City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem only 15 years ago, I can flatly state that these types of “blurred” lines, between staff and council politics, were not played by the City Manager Bob Stripling or city staff members.
There was ALWAYS a bright line between the City Manager and his employees that council members are by law not permitted to cross. Further, the involvement of any staff member in the internal workings of a political question simply was not going to happen under City Manager Stripling’s watch.
However, the evidence today seems to suggest that the line between the City Manager’s office and Council Politics may not be as distinct as it should be.
In fact it is getting harder to tell where City Council politics ends and apparently where City Staff involvement begins!
To better clarify this last observation; LNO has forwarded the following questions to City Manager Jennifer Fadden
As you may recall LNO had requested all correspondence regarding Glade Road, PRIOR to the MAY ELECTION DATE.
However, the city elected to delay the response by requesting an Attorney General’s Opinion. The result was the Texas AG simply stating that certain information, such as the emails, could be redacted. Prior to the election date, LNO received 4 pages of information.
However, sometime after the election date LNO received 237 pages. In a review of these pages is the following copy of an email to Mona Gandy and Yourself from Councilman Chuck Mogged. My questions are as follows:
1.) Under what circumstances have you allowed city staff to become involved one on one with a City Council member, such as Mona, providing advice.
2.) Under what circumstances have you personally provided input to a member of council pertaining to a “strategy” concerning matters in an open election.
3.) Under what circumstances have you corresponded with a member of council who has provided you with a message that an “angle” was to be deployed to influence the public vote, versus providing clear and documented information to the public. For example using the “safety angle” that accidents have doubled on Glade Road, when in fact that is not true, in fact there were same amount of accidents in 2014 and 2011 on Glade Road and actual increase on Glade was only 13%.
4.) Under what circumstances did you release an Attorney’s opinion to the public , that was Attorney Client privilege” concerning his opinion the Citizen’s petition would make it difficult to properly repair Glade Road.
Thank You Nelson Thibodeaux