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Illustration by Rob Israel @RobIsraelArt
Bless Us, O Lord, and These Thy Grifts

We’re not saying we don’t make mistakes. We do. Then we apologize, write a correction if necessary, and, now enlightened, do better. We operate this way because we are not evil assholes committed to the transformation of our once great, once free society into an authoritarian Christian caliphate. The great question of the age — why conservatives get away with being absolute pieces of shit while liberals must lose their jobs over tiny mistakes — emphasizes that there are now two Americas. One is semi-decent and strives for forthrightness. The other is cutthroat and win-at-all-costs.

And these two Americas are growing even farther apart thanks to the mainstream media’s lust for parlaying controversy into clicks.

CNN, The New York Times, the Star-Telegram, and pretty much every other legit media outlet with reach into the hundreds of thousands or more subsists on clicks for advertising dollars and possibly even subscriptions. As money spent on traditional media continues drying up — nothing can compete with photos of food and lingerie models — controversy, or so the msm believes, will keep us from scrolling away to IG or TikTok or whatever other newfangled apps there are. It’s the reason a once great publication like the Times gives oxygen to QAckheads and other right-wing wackos who just make shit up and pass it off as fact. Wasted on A.G. Sulzberger, Chris Licht, whoever runs the Startlegram, and everyone except maybe Bud Kennedy and The Atlantic is the fact that journalists will be the first to hang once the Christo-fascists take over. There’s nothing scarier to wannabe dictators like Ron DeSantis — and County Judge Tim O’Hare, District Attorney Phil Sorrells, and Sheriff Bill Waybourn — than a free, independent press. It keeps them up at night the way global warming and a government built on hate and the poetry of a 2,700-year-old magic book won’t let us non-Nazis sleep.

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While we Weeklyteers are not perfect, we are more than capable of discerning normal, democracy-loving people from the fascist trash you’ll read about in this issue and may have read about in our pages for months now. And Fort Worth, perhaps more than every other big Texas city, is lousy with DeSatan wannabes.

You may see their names in the Star-T, the Fort Worth Report, KERA, or the Business Press, but they’re going to be ensconced in some both-sides bullshit often skewing right because we live in fOrT wOrTH #wharsmahCOMEANDTAKEITflag?! We are not both sides-ing it here. When one America is committed to democracy while the other wants to silence minorities permanently by any means necessary, there’s no room for “both sides.” You have to choose.

Choose wisely. — Anthony Mariani

Protecting Rotten Eggs

Policing is big business, and local law enforcement shamelessly leverage their largesse to protect their own and influence Fort Worth City Council. Nearly $300 million from the city’s general fund was set aside for policing this year, and that doesn’t include the more than $100 million per year that comes from the fancifully named Crime Control and Prevention District slush fund.

The recent 5-to-4 vote by councilmembers and the mayor to reject civilian oversight was the most recent reminder of what campaign donations and support from the police and fire voting bloc can buy at City Hall.

The Office of the Police Oversight Monitor has been a demonstrable failure with nothing to show for more than two years of work other than some recommendations and zero disciplinary actions.

As head of the Office of the Police Oversight Monitor, Kim Neal proved worthless in holding crooks cops accountable.
Courtesy City of Fort Worth

As worthless as oversight monitor Kim Neal has been and as shamelessly in bed with police as Fort Worth’s five non-Black elected leaders were when voting down independent oversight of cops, the most virulent source of evil within the Fort Worth police department comes from its internal affairs division.

The mission of the OIA is to ensure that abusive thugs in blue are protected at all costs. Thank God folks like citizen auditor Manuel Mata and others are livestreaming police misconduct. Even the police department’s own body camera footage is now being used to force the hands of OIA’s goons when it comes to disciplining crooked cops.

In mid-2021, our magazine found OIA officers giving former Fort Worth Deputy Police Chief Michael Shedd the option of early retirement once he was caught allegedly sexually harassing a female co-worker. Following retirement, the vindictive captain filed open records requests seeking the identity of the whistleblower or whistleblowers who rightfully reported the alleged misconduct.

Even our writers have had first-hand experience of how the megalomaniacs at OIA operate. After documenting blatant lies from two OIA officers in early 2020, one of our reporters was yelled at by Capt. Bryan Jamison, who, over the course of an hour-long rant full of screams and barks, said we “should be careful!” about reporting police misconduct.

The dangers posed by the police force’s OIA and well-monied unions go far beyond misconduct and megalomania. The Fort Worth Police Officers Association’s recent endorsement of county judge-elect Tim O’Hare, a man who describes Hispanics as “less desirable people,” shows a growing alliance between groups that place the interests of Christian Nationalism and white supremacy above all else.

Whether poor policing results from a “few rotten eggs” or not is moot when Fort Worth police leadership will do anything to cling to power and their cushy retirements.

Care Package

We can certainly blame Greg Abbott, his deplorable ilk, and their warped donors for the dreadful condition of this state.

“Hey, y’all!” Gov. Greg says. “Look at all these jobs! Never mind that Texas leads the world in mass shootings, we rank 45th in overall child well-being and 43rd in educational attainment, we’re the 11th most dangerous state in the union and ninth in poverty, and good luck trying to find help when you’re sick or having mental health issues, but people are working, sometimes two or three jobs at a time, so, hey, we’re doing just fine.”

And we should blame Abbott and the other jackals in Austin and the Fox Nation sheep who follow them. They’re horrible, terrible people. If only some system existed in which we taxpayers over the age of 18 could pick who we wanted to represent us in the halls of government …

Another little something Texas leads the way in is a lack of fucks given to pretty much anything that’s not sports or entertainment. Much in the way that we don’t care whether or not women have agency over their own bodies or if another school gets shot up by another sexually frustrated white male Republican, Texans don’t give two shits about voting. Statewide turnout for the midterms was a little over 45%, meaning that out of 17,672,143 registered voters, only 8,032,438 cast ballots. Even in Texas’ largest counties, turnout was under 50%, a considerable drop from 2018.

In one report, a lack of enthusiasm was cited, meaning we’ve now come to the part in our democratic experiment when we all need to be gung-ho about preserving and now restoring basic human rights. The point is that when Abbott and his Christo-fascist sturmabteilung come back to your house to tell you who you can love and who you can be after forcing you or your wife, daughter, or sister to give birth to their rapist’s baby, don’t look at us. We voted for Beto.

May the Pieces of Giblet Be with You

Churches have been scamming believers for centuries, but what’s going on at Mercy Culture Church seems downright illegal in its unethicalness.

Obedience to false idols like Landon Schott is taught at Mercy Culture Church.
Courtesy YouTube

Spiritual abuse abounds at the Northside charismatic church where human trafficking victims are coerced into telling their harrowing stories without pay so Mercy Cult, er, Culture can fundraise for a sex trafficking center that aims to cram 100 victims into a single building on the North Side. Even as area residents overwhelmingly rejected the reckless and dangerous project, Mercy Culture leaders continue to fundraise/grift for the ill-conceived center.

Pastor Landon Schott’s visions involve not-so-subtle ways to scam his followers into giving away their money. The grifter’s theme for this year is “expanding territory,” which non-brainwashed outsiders can read as “Buy a new house you can’t afford and use one of our elders/Realtors for the transaction.”

Thin-skinned Schott is a bully who uses right-wing conspiracy theories to rev up his followers’ fears and insecurities. While he may be able to fuel his ego during Sunday services, a growing segment of Fort Worth sees him for what he is — a money-grabbing chump.

The Green Bean Casserole Is Not Always Greener on the Other Side

“Family is family / In church or prison, you get what you get, and you don’t get to pick ’em.”

Kacey Musgraves sang it, and she’s from Texas, so she knows how football should work. Everyone has become accustomed to the Big 12 as it stands today, with 10 teams, because rebranding is expensive. Those considering, and actively planning to, abandon their conference family — looking at you, UT and OU — should be genuinely nervous about their next move because they’re going to toss the proverbial frozen turkey into the deep fryer.

We get it. Eating the same afternoon feast year in and year out can be tiresome. Mom’s cranberry sauce might not be as good as your wife’s, or vice-versa, but she always makes it because that’s the way things are done and it keeps everyone in the family happy. You could try and switch things up, but at what cost? Look no further than all of the former Big 12 family members who abandoned tradition for different holiday staples and bigger paychecks.

Texas A&M, Missouri, Nebraska, and Colorado all left empty seats at an overflowing table to be served a triple-helping of humble pie. Not a single former family member is better than second worst in their respective division. In fact, TCU has more conference wins this season than all four traitors combined. Both A&M and Colorado are dead last in the SEC and Pac-12, respectively, with one win each. Missouri and Nebraska are both skimming the leftovers of cold green bean casserole with two wins apiece.

Amazingly, the Longhorns and Sooners are now hedging their bets that they can do better. Well, don’t expect the rest of us to save a place for you when you’re fighting for scraps in a conference that doesn’t give a crap that you were Mom’s favorite and always saved you the biggest slice of pumpkin pie or the most deviled eggs even when you showed up empty-handed and never helped with the dishes. Don’t worry, the new boyfriend — clad in purple — knows his way around the kitchen, listens to all of your dad’s terrible jokes with a smile, and is even going over to Grandpa’s next week to help him winterize the riding lawnmower.

Flock of Crooks

Along with having the most corrupt district attorney and sheriff in Texas, Tarrant County has the ignominious distinction of being home to the most incompetent, lazy, and corrupt administrative judge in the state. No, we’re not talking about George Gallagher, who heads Tarrant County’s judiciary, but rather another old, white, rich, black-robed crook — David Evans.

It is worth remembering that every corrupt act committed by a Tarrant County judge over the past 10 years occurred on Evans’ watch. Our extensive review of judicial paperwork not normally seen by the public reveals that he was OK with letting criminal court judge Chuck Vanover skip work for Vanover to speak at a police officer’s 25th-anniversary memorial, a personal choice that does not qualify as a reason for requesting to be replaced by a visiting retired judge, which is probably why Vanover didn’t bother checking off any boxes denoting the reason for his day trip to hang with his friends in blue.

Evans has used his office to allow visiting retired judges who earn upwards of $750 a day to skirt Article 16 of the Texas Constitution, which mandates that all elected and appointed public servants take and properly file the two-part Oath of Office, which includes that pesky anti-bribery statement, before entering upon the duties of their office.

Our ongoing research is finding a pattern in which retired judges are assigned to dirty cases as a means of doing the bidding of DA Sharen Wilson and other corrupt county officials.

False titles abound in paperwork from the Eighth Administrative Judicial Region, the area Evans oversees that encompasses North Texas. Retired County Judge Jim Hogan, for example, was given three judicial titles over the past few years alone. Assigning non-senior judges as senior judges possibly allows misdemeanor judges to preside over felony cases while unqualified to do so.

Evans is so utterly incompetent that the Texas Office of Court Administration recently released a memo that should have been titled “Directions on How to Not Botch Judicial Assignments as David Evans Has for 10 Years.” The document detailed the proper procedures for approving and assigning retired judges. Glaringly missing from the memo that was likely penned by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht was any mention of how and why visiting retired judges should follow Article 16 of the Texas Constitution.

Based on our extensive research, easily dozens of Tarrant County defendants have been unlawfully imprisoned and sentenced due to Evans’ incompetence. No one should believe or trust the rulings of any judge in the Eighth judicial region while he remains in office.

Chickenshit Media

Like their national counterparts, local news outlets appear to be dying to out-right-wing one another for clicks at a time when our freedoms are under attack from well-monied Southlake PACs that openly call for bullying minorities, especially LGBTQ+ youth, and installing a real-life Gilead right here in Fort Worth.

The priorities of Timmy “Mexicans are less desirable people” O’Hare, who was recently elected to the top elected county position, include creating an office to investigate “election fraud,” which, in the warped mind of a Tucker Carlson-worshiping sycophant like O’Hare, could mean four years of dealing with fabricated allegations being passed to a DA’s office headed by one of the laziest former judges in Tarrant County history, Phil Sorrells.

For the past year, the Star-Telegram, KERA, the Fort Worth Report, and other mainstream media outlets utterly have failed to push back against O’Hare’s abhorrent lies, first about his Republican opponent, Betsy Price, then about his Democrat rival, Deborah Peoples.

Thanks in part to the complete failings of local reporters to call out O’Hare’s false statements and all-around shittyness as a person, minorities can expect zero protection from county leaders. O’Hare outright hates them. When asked by one of our reporters if he would protect trans youths from bullying, he responded with Biblical jargon, even as Jesus was never the asshat our county judge-elect is.

Worried about the militarization of local law enforcement? O’Hare is endorsed by the very police unions who ensure cushy salaries and pensions for broken police departments whose members bully and harass Black and brown communities while putting on their dudebro best when hitting on TCU chicks, uh, we mean “policing the West 7th area.”

Pathological liar O’Hare openly courts Mercy Culture Church, a place of worship that frankly checks all the boxes for a cult. We’re not saying that either Mercy Culture Pastor Landon Schott or O’Hare could be the Antichrist, but if Satan were to come to Earth disguised as one of us, the Lord of Darkness would probably put on some chinos, take a little Southlake moolah, open a church, and begin spiritually abusing parishioners under the guise of “helping” them.

Journalism works best when calling out insidious powers and exposing evildoers who abuse their ill-gotten wealth and power to pummel the more vulnerable members of society. While other papers may be OK with a forcibly installed theocracy in Tarrant County, this magazine is going to take its First Amendment mandate seriously by identifying the grifters, charlatans, and crooks who hide their bigotry behind their faith, money, white privilege, and the party line.

O’Hare of the Dog

Who deserves a Turkey Award more than our new county judge, the Mad Rabbit himself? Tim O’Hare is the guy who cost Farmers Branch almost $8 million unsuccessfully defending in court his plan to ban undocumented immigrants from renting there. Gosh, where’s your white sheet and hood, Tim? And in the Republican primary for county judge, he destroyed Betsy Price for having the temerity to meet with Black Lives Matter protesters, when our former mayor was just doing her job. Then when he faced Deborah Peoples in the general, he slandered her by tying her to BLM riots because, well, she’s Black. He also ran commercials filled with smiling families — all lily-white and visibly affluent, so we all know exactly who he represents and who he doesn’t.

During the pandemic, we were lucky outgoing Republican County Judge Glen Whitley took a non-ideological stance toward public health, declaring COVID-19 a health emergency and mandating masks. We better hope we have no more pandemics because O’Hare has promised to do the opposite, leaning the already majority-Republican Tarrant County Commissioners Court toward the loony right.

What he’ll do once in office is play for Fox “News” airtime by railing against, in his own words, “woke, far-left liberalism and cancel culture,” which, obviously, we’re not exactly bombarded with every day in Tarrant County. That won’t stop him from tilting at those windmills, though. And, appallingly, he plans to appoint an “election integrity officer” to look into accusations of nonexistent voter fraud. Like Republicans’ favorite “strong” man du jour, Ron DeSantis, O’Hare’s effort will be directed mostly at people of color, who are just trying to exercise the right to vote. Seeing as how nothing makes Tiny Tim happier than suppressing minority voices, “turkey” is really about the nicest thing you can say about him.

Freddie Freeloaders

It’s a tale as old as time: media company isn’t making any money, media company sells out. We don’t have to fault them. We understand capitalism sucks. We also don’t have to like it, either.

In a world of whiny doggerel, twangy fakery, and incessant baby-baby bullcrap, KNTU was a safe harbor, a place where Mingus mingled with Miles and Coltrane could get melodious with Thelonious. Gone. All gone. One of the last straight-ahead spots on the dial on the planet, UNT’s 88.1-FM now consists of painful, ear-drubbing crotch-rock and grunge tunes that may be great but do not need to be heard again by anyone for another 20 lifetimes.

A decline in listeners, student volunteers, and corporate underwriting is what drove Mark Lambert, KNTU manager of programming, news, and operations, to replace some of the greatest, most ennobling music ever written or performed with shit that’s on our workout/yardwork playlist at home. The jazz will return, to 88.1-FM HD2 (?), next month or early January after KNTU installs “new equipment,” but for those of us who don’t have fancy digital radios in our vehicles, it’s the end of the world as we know it, and, no, we don’t feel fine.

Fowl Sheriff

The Tarrant County sheriff’s department is running an expansive campaign to lure new hires. “If you’re ready to work in a dynamic and challenging environment, then we’re looking for you!” one ad reads.

New hires can enjoy benefits beyond the starting $22/hour pay. Not mentioned in the ad is a disclosure that the jail is managed by a sadistic sheriff, Bill Waybourn, who has cultivated a culture of death at the detention center under the guise of being tough on crime.

Since 2017, 43 men and women have died at the jail, a sickening statistic that makes the facility one of the deadliest in the state. Waybourn’s public rhetoric would lead some to believe that his 5,000-plus detainees are murderous sociopaths, when the vast majority of defendants in Texas jails overall are legally innocent because they have not pleaded or been found guilty, and crimes like marijuana possession and criminal trespassing make these people a danger to no one.

Waybourn is a frequent visitor to Mercy Culture Church, whose QAnon-loving leaders are obsessed with saving human trafficking victims even as Pastor Heather Schott, based on our conversations with two former victims, exploits them to raise funds.

Tarrant County’s Trumpy sheriff is right about one thing. There is good and evil in this world. The loved ones of those 43 souls undoubtedly see the negligent jailers and Waybourn himself as just that — evil.

Cookin’ Over Kindling Paper

Once Molly Ivins and Bob Ray Sanders graced the Star-Telegram’s editorial page, but now only clowns serving up warmed-over Fox “News” talking points are allowed. A snapshot of the last week in October will tell you all you need to know. Poor Startlegram readers were punished by a masturbatory column by well-known hack and right-wing radio blowhard Mark Davis congratulating himself for 40 years of being all that’s wrong with the mainstream media, and a few days later, we had to endure Nicole Russell’s tongue-bath of Greg Abbott. Under her steamy gaze, the governor came across as some sort of Dalai Lama shouldering the burden of life to lift us all up — except the people who died during the snowstorm, the women who will die being forced to give birth against their wishes or doctor’s orders, and the children who will be torn to pieces by AR-15s in Texas classrooms.

Every single day, Star-T readers are pummeled by conservative “writers” specializing in incoherent rants a la Tucker Carlson with a side of Laura Ingraham’s moral posturing. Evidence, shmevidence — these writers like their opinions not only evidence-free but bereft of facts. One loud and proud “columnist” claims to know more about viruses than any of them damn elitist epidemiologists, and another, before the last rise in GDP, declared that everybody knows we’re already in a recession. (Everybody.)

Nothing’s wrong with right-wingers having their say, but when that’s all you’ve got, you are completely unrepresentative of Fort Worth, which sloughed off the title of the only red urban city in Texas some years ago. A solution: Just rename the paper the Southlake Star-Telegram and be done with it.

Talking with Your Mouth Full (of Crap)

In the aftermath of Beto O’Rourke winning Tarrant County in 2018, the terrified Bible-thumping gun nuts began loading up their ammunition in many grand gestures of desperation. Perhaps the most unabashedly desperate comes to us in the form of the Grapevine cellphone “company” Patriot Mobile.

Opening its doors in January 2022, Patriot Mobile is clearly just a lazy façade for the money machine driving the Christian Nationalist super PAC of the same name plus “Action” toward keeping Tarrant County red. And it’s working.

After Donald Trump bootlicker Steve Bannon told his sheep that, to “save the nation,” they needed to acquire seats on public school boards, the baaahh-stards started winning elections, no little thanks locally to Patriot Mobile Action.

“Patriot Mobile Action’s launch included 11 school board victories, and PMA is now working to keep Texas red in the November general election. From the courthouse to the White House, PMA is fighting for Christian conservative principles.”

What the white, wealthy, Christian racists/bigots have campaigned against — “pornography” in children’s literature and Critical Race Theory, which is not taught in any public schools — are nothing but distractions from the real problems inundating primary education[,] like shootings, teacher shortages, and post-pandemic learning losses.

Patriot Mobile Action doesn’t care about real problems, just boogeymen to scare weak-minded voters toward conservativism, a.k.a. living in fear. How are book banners and LGBTQ+ haters and outright racists winning local school board elections? Patriot Mobile Action pumped $500,000 into right-wing campaigns last year alone. That’s a lot of fearmongering to the braindead and lazy.

As evil as Patriot Mobile Action is, the group is not without a sense of humor. In its list of 10 goals, the most prominent is “protecting the First Amendment,” which Patriot Mobile Action calls “freedom of speech and religion,” leaving out “freedom of the press.” Conveniently.

Anti-Family Get-Togethers

No governmental system in Tarrant County creates more abject suffering for us non-wealthy folks than the courts. Fueling the misery is greed on the part of judges and attorneys who use children as pawns to force parents into seemingly endless court appearances where often baseless claims of abuse or alcoholism too frequently lead to protective, restraining, and no-contact orders with criminal consequences.

The Tarrant County Family Court Building is where families are torn apart and greedy attorneys and judges make big bucks.
Courtesy Tarrant County

The non-rich cannot participate in Tarrant County’s sadistic anti-family court system, which leaves those loving parents restricted or outright barred from seeing their children. Wealthy parents who can afford to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire law firms that underwrite family judge campaigns enjoy unfair advantages in court.

Life is good for the leeches/attorneys who prey on this system of suffering. So good, in fact, that they enjoy vacations with the very judges who rule over their cases.

Through the efforts of victimized local parents like David Henderson, Larry O’Neal, and Brooks McKenzie, Texans are rising up and setting the groundwork for a future when judges and attorneys — not parents — are fined, disbarred, and imprisoned for violating the U.S. Constitution and penal codes.

McKenzie said the problems in Tarrant County’s family courts have to be made so embarrassingly obvious that the nation takes notice.

“I’m not a fan of the federal government except when the state refuses to do what it is supposed to do,” he recently told us. “If the feds come in, we will have judges in prison, and that’s where a lot of them should be.”

Gobbling Up Government Access

Within the City of Fort Worth and the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office are high-paid suits who make life miserable for government watchdogs and everyday folks who have the gall to request information that may prove embarrassing to public officials.

We, of course, are referring to the open records departments of the city and county. Locals like Terry Roach and Cody Highloader have taken to YouTube to voice their frustration at county obfuscation intended to protect corrupt police. Roach alleges Benbrook cops unlawfully detained him a few years ago. When he requested the relevant bodycam footage, staffers at the DA’s office said the footage couldn’t be released because some sensitive information needed to be redacted.

Any high schooler with a TikTok account could probably figure out how to redact video footage, yet the county open records staffers somehow can’t. Or won’t.

The county recently used loopholes in the Texas Public Information Act to withhold communications between Sheriff Bill Waybourn and the right-wing Claremont Institute, which has alarming connections to antigovernment militia groups. Last year, Trump wannabe Waybourn attended a course for sheriffs organized by Claremont, and our request was for communications between Waybourn and the institute that panders to Christian Nationalism and white supremacy. While the emails we sought were from government servers, the DA’s office successfully convinced the state attorney general’s office that the communications could be exempted from disclosure because the subject matter discussed was personal and not professional.

Attorneys with the city and county probably delude themselves into thinking that they serve the public interest by releasing things like old water bills and funding announcements for new traffic circles, but ask for evidence of no-bid contracts, police misconduct, or emails that could reveal a dumpy Trumpy sheriff gabbing with small-dicked militia members, and you will hit a wall of bureaucratic jargon and stall tactics that serve special, white, moneyed interests and no one else.

Smorgas-mortarboard

First off, props to the hardworking adjuncts, professors, and low-level staffers at Tarrant County College (TCC). The service you provide our community is invaluable. TCC’s leadership, though, pull up to the table.

This year saw a steady stream of former employees reach out to our magazine with horror stories about mismanagement, abuse by managers, and wrongful terminations. Many of the accusations were levied at the college’s HR department, whose head, Gloria Maddox-Powell, allegedly bullies perceived enemies while giving unwarranted raises to allies. The HR chief allegedly loves snitches who prove their loyalty to her by turning on colleagues who dare question her leadership.

This Lord of the Flies-type environment sounds toxic at best and downright self-destructive at worst. Allegedly incompetent middle managers are allowed to remain because the leadership at the top is even more incompetent.

Former chancellor Eugene Giovannini, who served from 2016 until early this year, was terminated for ordering the firing of TCC fundraising executive Kristen Bennett. Court documents tied to a subsequent lawsuit suggest Giovannini retaliated against her for petty personal reasons.

During our research into that story, a local attorney who asked to remain anonymous sent us court transcripts from another lawsuit in which a former employee alleged he was terminated by Giovannini without due process. Transcripts in the 2021 document reveal the chancellor did not know what tenure was. TCC settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.

Until TCC’s board of trustees hires competent leadership who cease mistreating adjunct teachers and low-level employees, the campus’ woes will never end. The slow but steady brain drain from fleeing employees should be seen as a sign that TCC’s status quo is working for top administrators and no one else.

A TAD Overcooked

Tarrant Appraisal District recently took the long-overdue step of hiring a public relations firm. For years, the appraisal district that sets property valuations has engaged in nepotistic hirings, alleged workplace retaliations, and botched software updates that led to some of the record rates of property tax protests.

And all of these problems have occurred during the tenure of Chief Appraiser Jeff Law.

Law’s most recent flub is over the handling of employee Randy Armstrong. Late last year, TAD’s director of residential appraisals took it upon himself to file a slew of baseless allegations against local Realtor Chandler Crouch. In the letters sent to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) under TAD letterhead, Armstrong alleged Crouch appraised homes for far lower values than what the Realtor sold them for and that Crouch rarely appeared in person to represent clients at TAD headquarters.

Basically, Armstrong was miffed that Crouch was making extra work for TAD’s staff. A TDLR investigator later dismissed the allegations. As public outrage over Armstrong’s false allegations and misuse of government resources to file the complaints grew, Law took no action and neither did TAD’s board for several months this year. In August, they finally voted to suspend Armstrong and Law for two weeks without pay. While Armstrong was responsible for the baseless complaints against Crouch, the board noted Law did not take proper steps to discipline Armstrong, which allowed the problem to fester.

Tarrant County’s appraisal district will never earn the public’s trust as long as Law and his cronies remain in power. The board’s limp actions reveal TAD’s elected leaders’ failure to grasp the severity of the problems at TAD.

Not So Warm Goodbye Hug

Good ol’ boy J.D. Johnson is on his way out after 36 years of alleged backdoor deals, misappropriated government property, and other forms of graft as county commissioner. For nearly four decades, contractors seeking Precinct 4 county projects knew where to send reelection campaign donations.

After decades of allegedly crooked leadership, J.D. Johnson’s departure from the commissioners court couldn’t come soon enough.
Courtesy Tarrant County

In 2011, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court approved $16,312,855 to cover the construction costs of Tarrant County Northwest Sub-Courthouse in Precinct 4. Following the 2012 completion of the 58,000-square-foot county headquarters, staffers with the project’s contractor, Steele and Freeman Inc., donated $17,500 to Johnson, based on campaign finance disclosures. Though not illegal, the quid pro quo represents business as usual in the northwest precinct.

For the past two years, former Precinct 4 employees have provided first-hand accounts and evidence that Johnson misused county employees for personal projects that often dealt with his reelection campaigns. Area voters, apparently, have had enough. The March primary defeat of Johnson’s son, Jody Johnson, to Manny Ramirez can be seen as a referendum on the commissioner’s tenure that was characterized by misused government resources to help wealthy donors and few others.

Stuffing

After spending too much money on tickets and overpriced drinks — and now parking — you can pay even more for VIP access to oversold shows at Dallas venue Amplified Live. Enjoy the throngs of GA attendees below from your own personal SRO balcony above. You’ll have the best view when the fire marshal shuts it down like they did on Nov 5, when two-thirds of the triple bill W.A.S.P., Armored Saint, and the Michael Schenker Group performed. As Amplified is refunding our tickets, at least we got to see two out of three acts for free, although if we’re being honest, it’s rumored that W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless uses vocal tracks, so we probably didn’t miss much anyway. For the show being oversold by 600 tickets, the band blamed “the promoter,” a.k.a. the venue, and the venue claims the assigned capacity number is incorrect and that it’s being fixed now. Still, if you’ve ever been elbows to assholes at an oversold show, you know that’s b.s. It was way too crowded in there regardless. Luckily, nothing disastrous has happened yet. Yet. This venue doesn’t need to have a larger occupancy on paper. It needs to be less greedy.

This article has been updated to correct a city council vote tally.

This column reflects the opinions of the editorial board and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. He will gently edit it for factuality, clarity, and concision.

It was way too people-y at Amplified Live recently.
Photo by Greg Reneau

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