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Critics claim Rick Barnes (right) covered for Lisa Grimaldi (left) when she allegedly listed a false address as her home while serving as chair of Precinct 1109. Courtesy Facebook

In a state where top elected officials prioritize villainizing drag queens and attacking women’s rights to bodily autonomy, it’s easy to forget that most Americans — and Texans, for that matter — are tolerant, decent-minded folks.

Of all the Lone Star State’s counties, the largest ethical gulf between constituents and their elected leaders is arguably here. In Tarrant County, years of protests and grassroots efforts to push back on the self-serving interests of old white officials have led to no discernable changes in leadership. Given that status quo, the recent Republican-backed uprising against Rick Barnes surprised us.

The head of the Tarrant County Republican Party recently filed to run for the Precinct 3 seat of the county commissioners court (currently filled by Gary Fickes) and appeared to enjoy staunch right-wing support. County Judge Tim O’Hare (who previously held Barnes’ role) and Precinct 4 Commissioner Manny Ramirez were handily elected to their positions just a few months ago, and Barnes is likely optimistic about his political fortunes.

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However, among many local Republicans, recent emails — including one titled “Rick Must Go!”— indicate that all is not well in Barnesville. His numerous critics allege the party head failed to follow Federal Ethics Commission filing requirements and pay payroll taxes properly, and he allegedly abused his office to cover up for one precinct chair who falsified her address to allow her to represent an area where she did not reside, among other accusations.

Documents from the ethics commission, the agency charged with enforcing federal campaign finance laws, show the Tarrant County Republican Victory Fund that Barnes administers was fined $8,082 last year for failing to file proper federal campaign disclosures.

“Barnes neglected important financial duties and should not be entrusted with public funds,” reads one email. “He has not been transparent regarding [Tarrant County GOP] finances and projects, and there are legitimate concerns that this will continue if he attains public office. He allows his ego to get in the way of the deliberative process. Rick Barnes has stated that he will be resigning as chair to run for Tarrant County commissioner, leaving the new chair to cope with the devastation.”

Based on numerous social media photos and information from numerous confidential sources, Barnes maintains close connections with alleged scofflaw Lisa Grimaldi. One email passed among local Republican precinct chairs took aim at Barnes for allegedly covering for Grimaldi, who represented Precinct 1109 until recently, even as her numerous social media photos describe her home as Saginaw, which is not in 1109.

“As executive committee members, we call for the immediate removal of [Grimaldi] as precinct chair of 1109,” the unsigned email reads. “Is chairman Rick Barnes covering this up?”

The accusations of misconduct by Barnes and his friends continue to pile. Last week, our editor received an anonymous letter from a whistleblower alleging Grimaldi falsified her time sheets when working for Justice of the Peace Christopher Gregory beginning in 2019 until her recent departure to work for Judge Cynthia Terry at the 325th District Court. The allegations are consistent with interviews one of our reporters conducted with one former county employee and multiple insider sources who allege Gregory knew about the false timecards yet did not report the infraction or discipline Grimaldi. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said the incident has not been brought to their attention.

“I am intrigued by your email and the fact which you have alleged wrongdoing on myself but have never reached out to me,” Gregory replied after we sought comment from him. “The bases [sic] of your story or whistleblower’s statements and accounts are false or the story has been skewed to fit a narrative or agenda to ruin my good name.”

One confidential source who asked to remain anonymous to protect their privacy recommended we compare Grimaldi’s timesheets with data from county keycards that she used to enter and leave the building. Viewing those records would be helpful, but the DA’s office used the absurd argument that releasing keycard records would put Grimaldi in danger even as she no longer works for Gregory.

“As an employee in a court, the public can become irate if their tickets or cases are not resolved to their satisfaction,” the DA’s office wrote to us. “Should a disgruntled civilian wish, they could use the requested information to create a behavioral profile on a county employee as to when they arrive to work. This creates a risk of safety” for Grimaldi.

The open records department must be willfully delusional if they believe our aim is to publish the minutiae of Grimaldi’s movements rather than verify she worked 40 hours a week.

Neither Barnes nor Grimaldi responded to our requests for comment.

While it is refreshing to see local conservatives call out their elected officials for alleged misdeeds, Barnes is far from the only right-wing leader putting petty politics over good governance. As long as Tarrant County remains effectively a one-party county, our 2 million residents will be left relying on exceedingly rare dissent among the conservative ranks to boot unfit leaders who rarely receive public scrutiny.

 

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 concision and clarity.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Barnes is a total Tim O’Hare bootlicker. But what’s the alternative? A Republican WILL win Precinct 3 Commissioner and our only choices are Waybourn’s old lapdog (Maclelland) and a bankrupt Italian Mafia wanna-be who has only ever voted in one election (Gezim “Jim” Pollozani.) we need a real candidate to represent Colleyville and Southlake. All three of these guys are crooks.

    And that Gregory guy sounds like a moron.

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