What is it about tax collection that attracts what our grandmother used to call “colorful characters?” The resignation of Ron Wright (“Whence Red Light Cameras if Wright Replaces Barton?” Dec. 13) has prompted some interesting maneuverings by candidates seeking to become Tarrant County’s next tax assessor-collector. The job sounds about as exciting as counting blades of grass on a football field, but it pays $162,298 per year plus benefits and can serve as a political springboard of sorts. (Betsy Price worked as the top tax hunter for 10 years before being elected mayor in 2011.)
The general election will be held in November.
A former news anchor-turned-PR flak-turned-scarlet letter-wearing repentant is among the candidates. For many years, Mike Snyder was paired with Jane McGarry on the NBC5 nightly newscasts. Snyder was competent but hardly invigorating as news anchors go. He left in 2010 after his role was reduced, and McGarry followed his exit a couple of years later after her arrest for DUI.
Snyder began working in public relations after leaving the station and earned unwanted attention after pissing off The Dallas Morning News. This dates back to 2013, after Museum Tower was built next to the Nasher Sculpture Center just north of downtown Dallas in the Arts District. A glare from the tower reflected sunlight onto the sculpture center’s glass roof, warming the building’s interior and threatening sun damage to some of the art. Museum Tower took a PR beating in large part because Morning News writers appeared to side with the Nasher.
Snyder was hired to boost the Museum Tower’s public profile. He created fake Facebook accounts with which to interact in various comments sections defending and praising the tower. A recent column in the Dallas Observer described how Morning News staffers were cozy with the artsy types at the Nasher and condescending toward the owner of Museum Tower –– the struggling Dallas Police and Fire Pensions System. Why would the paper grovel for the Nasher and malign the Tower even though the 42-story skyscraper with luxury condos was built legally and according to city codes? Because, well, Dallas.
The Morning News revealed Snyder’s fake accounts with the temerity of the Lincoln assassination. You used a sock puppet rather than your real name to argue points being made online? The horror!
Snyder ended up resigning from the PR company he founded, issuing a sycophantic apology on the way out: “While the comments I made contained accurate facts and data, I regret I was not always transparent in the posting of comments on news blogs by using my own name. I am sincerely sorry and apologize to those people whom I offended using a screen name.”
Now, years later, the Morning News seems hellbent on ruining his chances to become Tarrant County’s tax guru. No fewer than five recent stories in that paper have recounted Snyder’s “dirty tricks” of yore despite the fact that creating fake Facebook accounts isn’t exactly a crime. We recall an even greater ethical breach taken by Snyder in the mid-1990s. That’s when he spoke at a Republican political fundraiser. A news guy who doesn’t have enough sense to curb his political leanings is what we in the business call a doofus bozo. NBC suspended Snyder without pay back then.
We agree with the Observer that Snyder is taking excessive heat from the Morning News for questionable reasons. Still, we have no love for Snyder and couldn’t care less if he is elected, although his name recognition probably gives him an advantage.
Another candidate for tax assessor is Wendy Burgess, wife of constable Clint Burgess. Political watchdog group Direct Action Texas published a story last week (“False CPS Reports Against Bo French”) accusing the constable of abusing the powers of his office. Direct Action reported that the constable sent messages to potential voters saying that law enforcement officers had responded to domestic disturbances at the residence of French, who is challenging Charlie Geren in the Texas House Republican Primary. Direct Action, through public information requests, found no evidence that police had responded to calls at the French home.
Also seeking the tax assessor job is Hurst City Councilmember Trasa Robertson Cobern, the daughter of duck-call maker Uncle Si Robertson from Duck Dynasty.
Wright, who will remain tax guy until the position is filled, is a colorful character himself. He drew both praise and criticism after putting “In God We Trust” on his office’s envelopes and refusing to enforce red-light camera fines. And, like Snyder, he drew the ire of his local newspaper after he declared in 2015 that his annual office fundraiser would no longer give money to United Way because that group gave money to Planned Parenthood, whose ties to abortions were attracting a lot of conservative heat at the time. United Way is the favorite charity of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the paper criticized Wright for his decision.
Never a dull moment at the tax office. Who would have thought?