Pharos-Tribune

Local News

December 30, 2011

Galveston utility superintendent, clerk resign

Pair say they can’t work with new council

GALVESTON — Galveston’s utilities superintendent and utilities clerk have submitted their resignations, saying they cannot work with new town council members and the citizens group that got them elected.

But the chairman of Galveston’s New Voice said the group and newly elected officials have simply tried to hold current council members and town employees accountable.

The group backed all five new town council members, who knocked out all incumbent council members in this spring’s primary and this fall’s municipal election. Those new members will hold their first meeting next week.

Bill Young, who has led the town’s utility department for much of the last 20 years, is resigning his post effective Saturday because of the “lies and deception from the concerned citizens group and new council,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

When contacted Thursday, he would not elaborate on what the lies and deception were.

“I’ve just had enough of it,” Young said. “I just think it’s going to hell in a handbasket.”

Young submitted a letter to the Pharos-Tribune in July 2009 that accused the citizens’ group of having a double standard.

Galveston’s New Voice, meanwhile, has framed itself as a group bringing needed change to the town.

But Young isn’t the only city official upset with the group.

Outgoing Clerk-Treasurer Connie Russell, in a letter, also spoke out against the actions of the group.

Russell was defeated by Christine Lewis in this spring’s Republican primary. Lewis was later charged in September with leaving the scene of a crash resulting in serious bodily injury, a class D felony. That case is ongoing.

And earlier this month, Vicki Wilson, utilities clerk for the city for the past three years, resigned her post effective Saturday.

In her letter of resignation, Wilson said she signed a circulated petition that asked Lewis not to take office.

Wilson said she had fielded many questions about the incident.

“Now the calls are about Christine taking office,” Wilson wrote.

“People realize this type of accident can happen to anyone, but it’s how you handle life’s situations that matter.”

A phone number for Lewis could not be located Thursday.

Wilson said the newly elected council ran as a group and she called for them to publicly apologize for any lies or rumors they may have allowed to spread.

“They used campaign fliers showing them as a group, and they had meetings with the very people they now denounce as the trouble-stirrers and lie- and rumor-spreaders,” she said. “It would change nothing as far as who will be running the town for the next four years, but I feel they owe it to the outgoing council, current town workers and especially Connie to make a public apology that is spread as much as the lies were. Even if the lies didn’t originate from the six of them, they all let them continue and reaped benefit from them.”

Chet Cree, chairman of Galveston’s New Voice, said much of what is being considered lies is simply concerned citizens asking questions about government business. For example, Cree said, town audits in 2005 and 2007 show a shortage of $25,000 and more than $29,000, respectively. He said when his group asked about the shortage, it evolved into people accusing clerk-treasurer Russell of stealing the money.

“We did not accuse her of stealing nothing,” Cree said.

He said he believes Young is upset because his group and the newly elected council had questioned Young’s decisions, including raised rates in water bills and overtime pay.

“As far as Mr. Young resigning, he needed to resign,” Cree said.

Young defended the city’s utility rates and said the new council will learn why the rates are where they are.

“They just don’t know what’s going on there,” Young said. “They think they’re going to lower the rates and that’s just not going to happen.”

• Jason M. Rodriguez is news editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5117 or jason.rodriguez@pharostribune.com.

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