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San Jacinto News-Times - Local News
Stories Added -  June 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company

Commissioner caught in web of statutes is making corrections
San Jacinto News- Times - June 2009
(See bottom of article for links in PDF format)

COLDSPRING – The law states that if a commissioner owns a company and that company plans to do business with the county, he must fi le a confl ict of interest disclosure statement with the county.

Last month San Jacinto County Pct. 2 Commissioner Royce Wells admitted to the San Jacinto News-Times that he owns Charley’s Tire Service in Shepherd and to filing a confl ict of interest disclosure in the county clerk’s offi ce in 2004 and stated that he had done nothing wrong. Monday, however; Wells admitted that he was unaware of a new version of the confl ict disclosure laws and that he was doing business with the county without the proper disclosure statements filed.

As of January 1, 2006, commissioners are required to file conflict disclosure forms with the county if the commissioner or a member of the commissioner’s family is employed by anyone who is doing business or is planning to do business with the county. Vendors who do business with the county are also required to fi le conflict of interest questionnaires and the commissioners’ disclosures and the vendor questionnaires must be posted on the county’s website. According to Wells, his son-in-law Dwayne Wright, operates Charley’s Tire Service and has since he took offi ce as county commissioner in 2004. “He (Wright) pays the sales and federal taxes on the business and some of the money flows through my income tax return,” Wells said Monday.

A search of taxpayer sales tax records indicate that Wells paid sales taxes on the business from 1998 until 2008 when his son-in-law took up the sales tax payments.Current or updated records indicating who exactly owns Charley’s Tire Service are not available in the San Jacinto County Courthouse. A “Doing Business As” (DBA) fi led in the county clerk’s offi ce in 1997 showed that Charley’s Tire Service was owned by Wells, his wife and his daughter. The DBA expired in 2007. No copy of a confl ict of interest disclosure was found for either his wife or his daughter.

Since Wells is not to vote on purchases from Charley’s Tires made by the county or promote his business with the county, he said, “I never do the purchasing. My employees do all the purchases at Charley’s Tire Service.” Wells didn’t explain who gives his employees permission to purchase from Charley’s Tire Service or who signs the affi davits for those purchases that are submitted to the county auditor for payment.

In the 2004 statement Wells fi led with the county clerk he affi rmed under oath, “I shall abstain from any discussion, vote or decision involving this business entity or real property and from any further participation in this matter whatsoever.” Most bills paid by the county are voted on in masses by commissioners. Wells was observed during the last commissioners’ court meeting as abstaining from voting on the passage of county bills. Wells said he knew nothing about a new law that went into effect in 2006 or that he is now required to post his confl ict of interest disclosure statements on the county’s website.

Wells said he will be taking care of getting the correct statements fi led with the county and posted on the website. Statements needing to be filed with the county include his confl ict disclosure statement, a disclosure by his son-in-law and anyone else in the family that may have an interest in the business and a disclosure statement from the vendor – Charley’s Tire Service. As of Monday morning no posting was made on the county’s website.

Tracey Novosad, secretary to San Jacinto County Judge Fritz Faulkner, said, “I received a note from Mr. Bill (San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Bill Burnett) this morning with information to get posted on the website. It will get done this week – maybe by this afternoon.” In the May 21, 2009 edition of the San Jacinto News- Times Wells said, “It’s common knowledge that I own Charley’s Tire Service.”

He also said that Pct. 4 Commissioner Mark Nettuno purchases his tires from Charley’s Tire Service and that Pct. 1 Commissioner Laddie McAnally purchases tires there also. County documents indicate that Nettuno has spent about $7,213 at Charley’s Tire Service since going into office in 2007. McAnally said, “I have not purchased a tire from Charley’s Tire Service.”

McAnally said he purchases his tires from Southern Tire out of Dallas, Texas where the government has a contract and he can get them at a discounted price. Although Wells said it is “common knowledge” that he owns Charley’s Tire Service, McAnally said he was not aware of that. “I assumed that his daughter and son-in-law owned it,” McAnally said.

Pct. 2 is largest customer of Charley’s Tire Service
County documents obtained from the San Jacinto County Auditor’s office indicate that San Jacinto County has spent about $58,948.38 at Charley’s Tires since 2000. Between 2000 and 2004, prior to Wells’ becoming Pct. 2 commissioner, the county spent $9,175.81 at Charley’s Tire Service. After becoming commissioner in 2004 and through June 6, 2009, the county has spent $49,772.57 at Charley’s Tire Service. The majority of the $49,772.57 spent by the county since Wells became commissioner was by Commissioner Wells in Pct. 2 where $25,654.29 of his road and bridge budget was spent at Charley’s Tire Service.

Want to read more about the law? Go to http://www.lrl.state.tx.us

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