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.

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.

Page was prepared for that early May day in 2010. As the lead counsel of the Woodlands Road Utility District, Page was known for his crisp attention to detail.

A native of Biloxi, Mississippi, Page had graduated from law school at Louisiana State University in 1971 and headed to Houston and a job at Vinson & Elkins. He became a partner in the firm, then left in 1983 to join Joseph Schwartz and Peter Harding to form Schwartz, Page & Harding.

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.

All three lawyers were accomplished at representing special districts and land developers. Page took the legal reins of the Woodlands RUD from the start. Over the years, he has also come to represent just about any special taxing district in and around The Woodlands, including the township itself. The RUD, in particular, was a source of pride for Page.

Now, for the first time in the district's history, three incumbent board members of the Woodlands Road Utility District were being challenged. On May 6, Page sent an email to the board members advising them of what was happening. He was peeved about an article in the Conroe Courier about the newly registered Woodlands RUD voters.

"The Courier seems uninterested in this potential voter fraud, or in the benefits to the entire Woodlands community that the RUD has brought about over the last 20 years, courtesy of and at the sole expense of the business community in The Woodlands; instead, they are more interested in who complained to the DA and the fact that there has been only two or no voters in the RUD for almost ten years; they don't seem to understand or care that it is irrelevant how many voters there are if there are no opposition candidates; whether 0, 1 or 10,000 voters, if there are no opposition candidates, the election is called and then cancelled [sic] under the provisions of the Election Code in order to save taxpayer money---the voters are presumed as a matter of law to have voted for the unopposed candidates."

Two days later, the new guys won. Ten people voted for the challengers; two voted for the incumbents.

The ousted board members filed a flurry of actions to keep the new board members from taking over. They obtained a restraining order and sued the district to force nullification, and a June 2010 trial date was set in the 410th District County in Montgomery County.

A day after the election, the newly elected Pete Goeddertz, a construction contractor, was already planning changes.

"First, we need to get a grip on what exactly this board has been doing before us," Goeddertz told his fellow board members in a phone call. He planned a full review of the checks and balances and audits and anything else he could get his hands on. "I think we need to go through everything and have an independent audit done," Berntsen told Goeddertz and McDuffee.

But what they really wanted to do, ultimately, was to shut the RUD down. "We don't need another taxing entity," Goeddertz said. The others agreed.
_____________________

Visiting District Judge P.K. Reiter ruled in a two-page opinion in June 2010 that the Woodlands Road Utility District election was invalid, handing power over the district back to the incumbents.

Williams and Stilwell began to push for criminal charges against the rogue Woodlands voters. Along the way, a curious website popped up.

Montgomeryvoterfrauds.com featured photos that were used as part of the civil suit along with comments asserting that Heath and company had committed voter fraud. The right side of the home page blared "guilty of voter fraud," while the other side read "see the documentation."

"In a closely choreographed scheme, each member of the group fraudulently changed their home address to a hotel within the RUD..." a narrative on the site described. Links on the site led to testimony from the civil trial, photos of the homes of the voters that were taken as evidence in the civil trial as well as copies of the changed voter registration cards of the accused. The Woodlands voters had not been charged, yet the message was convicting them of voter fraud.

The site was registered in January 2011 to the Radar Agency, one of several businesses run by Bryan Eppstein, a political strategist and lobbyist. Since 2002, Williams has paid out $1.1 million to Eppstein for consulting, advertising and website services. Also among clients for Eppstein's lobbying services in 2013 was the Woodlands Operating Company — another business sharing space on the 11th floor of 24 Waterway with the Woodlands Development Company. (Heath, Berntsen, Curry and Jenkins filed a libel suit in district court against Radar in March 2013. The case is pending. Eppstein did not return a call or an email from the Press.)

The Woodlands voter indictments came in March 2012. Three of the defendants accepted deals to avoid the action. McDuffee took his in exchange for testifying before a grand jury against the others. "I told the others, 'It's over, guys; take the offer and get out of it,'" McDuffee said. Two other defendants, Ben and Robert Allison, followed McDuffee's lead, although they were never called to testify.

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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 topcommenter

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?

Puller58
Puller58 topcommenter

@AdrianHeath @Puller58 Pity that the appeals process is needed to mitigate prosecutorial misconduct and poorly written laws.

 
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