In case you weren't aware, a war (of sorts) has been brewing in the otherwise sleepy hamlet of New Braunfels. Late last year, Leonidas Patrick "Mark" McGonical, a critic of a new can-ban law that keeps tubers on the Comal River from bringing disposable containers, launched a newspaper called the NB Citizen. Believing that the long-running New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung was just a tool of the political establishment, McGonical thought his new endeavor, the NB Citizen, would be the voice of the people.
But NB Citizen publisher Mike Reynolds and editor Matt Fields say their delivery drivers were harassed and intimidated by local police -- to the point where they ceased delivering over 18,000 copies of the weekly paper to individual homes, and now distribute through racks set up in local businesses.
Fields told Hair Balls that the newspaper filed complaints with the New Braunfels Police Department, accusing police of either stopping drivers or making harassing remarks on at least three occasions. In one instance, according to Fields, an officer told a driver that he would ticket her for littering if she missed any driveways; in another, an officer allegedly stopped a driver and asked her how she knew where not to throw the trash. In the third incident, an officer allegedly cited a driver for violating vehicle emissions standards. Fields said he immediately took the driver's car for an inspection -- which the car passed.
Fields said he let his concerns be known to police department higher-ups, telling them, "Y'all are going out and harassing my employees -- is this the game we're going to play?"
Fields and Reynolds also voiced their concerns at a March City Council meeting, during which none of the council seemed particularly interested.
Police Captain John McDonald told us he was only aware of one formal complaint, which he said was investigated and determined to be unfounded.
"It's just the normal course of our officers doing their job," McDonald said.
In a letter to a delivery driver who filed a complaint earlier this month -- the one who accused the officer of calling the papers "trash" -- Police Chief Thomas Wilbert wrote that the officer was only "following up on complaints...regarding unwanted newspapers being thrown in residents' yards. In fact, on a prior date, [the officer] personally took a report from a resident who contacted NBPD and demanded to press charges against the NB Citizen for littering in their yard, and a newspaper was taken and marked as evidence." (Apparently, people in New Braunfels have a lot on their plate.) We left a message from Herald-Zeitung managing editor Shawn Lewis and haven't heard back. (One aspect the H-Z has had fun with is reporting on the aggravated perjury indictment of NB Citizen publisher McGonical, who legally changed his name from Mark Jason Moore two years ago.)
Guadalupe County prosecutors say McGonical lied about his criminal history when he changed his name, neglecting to mention a 1989 burglary conviction, when he was 19.
McGonical maintains that the conviction had been expunged, and he was only changing his name to honor his family's Irish heritage.
We also sought comment from New Braunfels City Manager Mike Morrison, who the NB Citizen gang say is the one behind the intimidation tactics, but haven't heard back. Maybe he's too busy sticking pins in his McGonical voodoo doll. Either that, or he's busy running a city. We'll have to wait and see.