Perfect Timing: How Malcontent Wiseasses Tried to Prove a Point About Politics and Ended up Charged as Felons

White conservatives who tweaked an election in The Woodlands were just what Greg Abbott needed to prove he doesn’t prosecute only minorities for voter fraud.

In an emailed response to a request for an interview with Abbott, Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, wrote, "In terms of punishment, these cases are either decided by a jury or by agreement. In [the Jenkins] case, a jury heard the facts and made their decision. The Office of the Attorney General acts on referrals from the Texas Secretary of State or county election officials.  Those referrals are reviewed and investigated by our office and, ultimately, the facts of each case individually dictate the direction of our investigations. Those facts are ultimately turned over to a grand jury for an indictment or a no bill."

Abbott's crusade on voter fraud has taken on a different tone more recently as he fends off lawsuits from the U.S. Department of Justice and various special-interest groups seeking to undo voter ID, which he has championed and the state legislature approved in 2011.

As the front-runner for the GOP nomination for Texas governor, he's spending time around the state, giving talks and raising money. He's a pro-life, pro-gun rights, First Amendment guy, presenting himself as a representative of the common man.

Adrian Heath never thought he'd end up a convicted felon for getting involved in a local election.
Marco Torres
Adrian Heath never thought he'd end up a convicted felon for getting involved in a local election.
Attorney General Greg Abbott has pledged to fight voter fraud in Texas.
Texans For Greg Abbott
Attorney General Greg Abbott has pledged to fight voter fraud in Texas.

Heath and his comrades, all devoted Republicans, voted for Abbott in each of his three AG campaigns. Some of them have gone to see him speak at various party functions. Abbott is a frequent guest in the county. He has received $131,601 in campaign donations from Spring, Texas (population 54,000), since he took office in 2002.

"And I'll vote for him again," said Jim Doyle, whose home sits on a double lot in Conroe adorned with political signs including the message "No New Taxes" and "America vs. Obama."

"I mean, I sure can't vote for a Democrat."
_____________________

The 2010 road utility district election wasn't the first time Heath has poked the bear in The Woodlands. In 2006, Curry, Doyle, Heath and on that occasion Jenkins, as well as a few others, started filing nuisance complaints with the Texas Ethics Commission against sitting local officials, mostly relating to campaign finance reports.

"We got a lot of state reps on these and made a lot of them angry," Jenkins said, adding that since 2009, about half of the group's complaints have been upheld and the officials had to pay fines.

They were trouble for establishment figures like Williams, whom they heckled online mercilessly. In one case, Heath filed a complaint with the Travis County District Attorney's public integrity office over an open records issue. They also picked through Williams's campaign finance reports, finding errors that resulted in fines by the state's ethics commission totaling $950.

One evening in early March 2010, Heath was recreationally data-diving when he came across a taxing entity called the Woodlands Road Utility District No. 1. He emailed some of his confederates — Curry, Jenkins and Bill ­Berntsen — to tell them about this district that was racking up public debt.

The Woodlands Road Utility District was created in 1991 by state legislation. Known as a special district, it's allowed to levy a tax within its boundaries, where most of the property is commercial. The district has grown with The Woodlands itself over the years, amassing more property, levying more taxes and issuing $164 million in bonds. The district tax base includes such corporate citizens as Marriott, Hyatt, Benihana, Chevron Phillips, Baker Hughes and Anadarko Petroleum.

Critics of the road district, which winds through the area carefully to avoid putting residences inside its boundaries, contend that while those multibillion-dollar corporations may pay the taxes, the cost of commerce within the district is passed on to the consumer, and it's inescapable.

"I have to do business within the district," says Curry, one of the Woodlands Seven. "They add taxes to products because of the debt the RUD has put on the area. "

Heath dug in and learned the district was governed by five trustees who had been re-elected by default every year since 2000 — two one year, three the next — because the district believed there were no voters within its confines.

"I had an idea that maybe I could run for the board, and maybe some others, to see if we could be part of the process," Heath said. He phoned Mike Page, the lobbyist/lawyer who had been of counsel to the district since its inception.

"I'd like to run for one of the board spots at the RUD," Heath said. Page agreed that he could; the way the district was established, anyone from anywhere in Texas could be a candidate, with no residency requirement.

"But we have no voters in the district, and we haven't had an election since 2000," Page said.

That wasn't ringing quite true for Heath. He filed an open records request seeking more information on the district and quickly discovered 11 registered voters within the district. Two lived at the Residence Inn. One was registered at the Nexus Hospital. Two more were at businesses in a strip mall, and the rest were at various offices.

Heath went to Jenkins, Curry and several others with an idea. They could register as voters in the district, run for the three available spots on the RUD board and take over in a coup. "We would be these guys who came in and learned the system and made it work for everyone," Jenkins said.

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21 comments
fratdawgg23
fratdawgg23

The group seems to have had honorable intentions, but they should have consulted with an election/campaign/political law attorney. There may have been a loophole to exploit.

AdrianHeath
AdrianHeath

http://www.scribd.com/doc/206514363/Application-for-a-Place-on-the-Ballot-Woodlands-Road-Utility-District-1

Please help expose the ludicrous structure and developer oriented existence of the Woodlands Road Utility District #1 by filing for a position on the ballot with me this year. Any resident of the state over 18 yrs qualifies. No requirement to live in the district for board members whereas the district is actually gerrymandered to preclude the involvement of voters in the community. I wish for 1000 applicants.

BobStevens
BobStevens

The people who were indicted in this case were a watchdog group who uncovered illegal activities of the "woodlands elite." Former representative Tommy Williams engaged in illegal activities along with attorney Bruce Tough and others get get these indictments. There were pay offs to the Attorney General office. 

When will Gregg Abbott and his minions prosecute the woodlands millionaires Kate and Dirk Laukien since they both changed their voting addresses to the Woodlands Railroad Utility District like these people did?

SoSezYou
SoSezYou

Hilarious antics of the real voter fraudsters....irrational baggers. Must suck to be stabbed in the back by the worst bagger in the state in Greg Abbot. 

Puller58
Puller58

So now to the appeals courts?

runlola
runlola

"Heath and nine others changed their voter registration addresses in April to 9333 Six Pines Drive, the Residence Inn. Several days later, McDuffee, Goeddertz and Berntsen, all among those changing their voter registration, filed as candidates in the May 8 board election."  


I am still completely baffled by these two sentences.  The deadline to file an application for place on ballot for the May 2010 uniform election date was March 8, 2010 and the deadline to file an application for write-in candidacy was March 15, 2010.  How exactly were they able to file applications for place on ballot in April?  Legally, they would have not been able to be accepted by the designated agent for Woodlands RUD per the Texas Election Code.  

johncoby
johncoby

who in their rightwing mind would even think about changing their voter registration to a hotel to get into office? They should go to jail for stupidity if nothing else.

AdrianHeath
AdrianHeath

The meaning to all Texans of these prosecutions by Abbott is that the will  of corporations, insiders and political cohorts outweigh the rule of law and the Texas constitution. No developer should be allowed to own and operate a political subdivision of the State of Texas for its own ends and out of reach of voters. see Art III Sec 52 (A)

Moreover, diligent citizens who take pains to follow the law by  consulting the highest authorities ( i.e. the SOS) are trampled at the AG's whim.

Republicans and Tea Parties don't want to clean their own house first.

If the AG was a Democrat they would all be on fire.


Think you have nothing to fear from your government? Think again.

joasis1
joasis1

If only they were democrats, then they'd have been applauded for their creativity and good intentions, probably even earning awards from Dear Leader and the ironic or paradoxical Holder Justice Department.

bdamages
bdamages

All this mischief arises from the fact that residents who are not property owners can vote in taxing authority elections, and property-owning non-residents cannot.  Another example:  mineral owners whose property is taxed cannot vote for school boards who set the rates on their property.

larrybradley
larrybradley

There was a time when enforcing an important law would not have warranted such a piece as this. Too bad those days are gone. To quote your heroine, Hillary, "What difference does it make?" what color they were or to which party they belonged? Here's a tip for your next story that deals with a court case, i.e., justice: Laws are made in order to be enforced. Unless there is judicial misbehavior during the trial or it is later proved that the defendants did not do what they were accused of doing, there is nothing to see here. Move along.

Shawn
Shawn

I stopped reading at "White Conservatives." If anyone had ever started an article with "Black liberals" or "Black" anything would be jumped on and make national news over their racism. Double standard that keeps feeding the hate.

tenmen
tenmen

pic of paper ballot is misleading, but the key in voter fraud!!!  we use little plastic voting machines.  Do you really think your vote counts on the plastic voting machine????  Back to paper ballots  where we can have some kind of accountability

AdrianHeath
AdrianHeath

@SoSezYou 1. Standing up to corrupt crony corporatist  local government is not irrational or fraudulent.

2. You got that right. Abbott is the fraudulent one

AdrianHeath
AdrianHeath

@johncoby I don't know who, but I do know that none of those involved in the RUD corruption case did that

BobStevens
BobStevens

@AdrianHeath Please investigate the satanic underworld of the Illuminati. These satanists are everywhere, in government, politics, healthcare, law, etc. Also, the Freemasons are satanists/illuminati. I am praying for you Mr Heath as well as Mr. Jenkins and the rest of your group. Thank you for all the wonderful work that has been done to fight corruption. Please talk to your friends about Jesus coming soon.
 The Peace Deal between Israel and Palestine will be the time of the Rapture. Obama is the anti-christ and pope francis is the false prophet.

alternateworld
alternateworld

@joasis1    The only irony is they were probably republicans and persecuted under a law that was intended to prevent democratic leaning voters from voting.  Let's see, that make 3 prosecutions.  Abbot is definitely catching all those thousands of fraudulent voters isn't he?

 
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