Editor's Note: No evidence of criminal activity involving Kim Dobbs was found...See story "DA: No evidence of criminal activity involving Heath assistant" on Aug. 27, 2010.
Tina Winnett is wants the Texas Rangers to investigate her allegations involving wrongdoing at Heath City Hall.
Winnett, who describes herself as a citizen watchdog, said she spoke Monday with a Texas Ranger. She learned that the Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney’s office must request an investigation.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Williams said Wednesday that he could not comment on “potential or pending investigations.”
The allegations focus on Assistant City Manager Kim Dobbs. Winnett’s allegations against Dobbs include violating disclosure laws and authorizing $90,000 in “kickbacks” to her husband’s law firm. According to Winnett, Dobbs’ husband is a partner in the law firm that was hired to handle the appeal of a lawsuit that was filed against the city over the location and construction of the Amy Parks water tower.
Dobbs said she learned of the latest developments when she was contacted Thursday by a Herald-Banner reporter. She did not have sufficient time to develop a response as the newspaper was being prepared for publication.
Winnett voiced her allegations during a June 15 Heath City Council meeting. Mayor John Ratcliffe said city council members were not allowed to comment after her presentation. City officials also declined to comment later about her claims.
City Attorney Pete Eckert, however, provided a brief, written response to Winnett’s remarks made at the city council meeting.
“After review as city attorney of the comments made at the June 15, 2010, city council meeting, my response is as follows: There is no basis, either in fact or as a matter of law, for the allegations made or for the actions requested by the citizen. All referenced matters were fully and appropriately disclosed.”
Winnett said Wednesday night that she planned to hand deliver a letter to Williams Thursday morning. She provided the Herald-Banner a copy of the letter Wednesday night.
In the letter, Winnett said the meeting with Ranger Patton was “very informative as to the procedures that your office has to initiate in order for the Rangers to start an investigation.”
“I am very clear now in my understanding of the fact that your office has to request the Rangers to assist at a point that your office feels there is something to investigate,” Winnett said in the letter. “Ranger Patton commented that they need to be very sure about these things as to not get ‘hung out to dry’ with these kinds of complaints.
“Brian, am I getting ‘hung out to dry?’ I am more than willing to be ‘hung out to dry’ because what I am doing is the ‘right’ thing to do. I know you want to do the ‘right’ thing, so just do it.”
In the letter, Winnett went on to state: “I am very disappointed that it still seems that only I, the honest city employees and the honest Heath citizens are the only persons at this point (given the 250-plus pages of documents I have already secured) that absolutely knows and acknowledges there is very unethical and inappropriate behavior in the City of Heath’s management that should be investigated.”
Winnett then accused the district attorney’s office of “stalling.”
“I feel very sure that your office’s lack of action is just another stalling tactic used by many cities facing this type of fraudulent behavior,” she said in the letter.
To stall the investigation to give the city time to figure out how they can terminate Dobbs, Winnett wrote, “is not necessarily the right thing to be doing.”
“Sure, I would like to see her removed from her position, but that will not solve the inherent problems plaguing the city,” Winnett continued. “To continue to try to keep these types of matters quiet is doing a disservice to yourself and to the public you have sworn to protect.”
Criminal District Attorney Kenda Culpepper issued a brief statement in response to Winnett’s comments about the district attorney’s office.
“We do not comment on pending investigations. However, Ms. Winnett’s statements regarding the response of the district attorney’s office to this situation are both inaccurate and misleading,” Culpepper said Thursday morning.
According to Winnett‘s presentation at the June 15 city council meeting, in October 2001, the Amy Parks water project started in October 2001 and was competed in 2004.
“In 2002, due to closed decisions by the city to not send proper notices and to not conduct proper public meetings, the city ended up with a lawsuit started by the citizens living closest to the water tower site,” she said. “The litigation lasted from 2002 until 2009. The litigation lasted twice as long as the construction of the water tower itself.”
“One of the first things I found disturbing as I was researching the background of the companies paid on this project was that one of the partners of the law firm of Buford & Ryburn is (Assistant City Manager) Kim Dobbs’ husband.”
The firm took over the appeal of the lawsuit “and they continued to drag out the litigation for three years.”
The city paid the law firm almost $90,000, she said. Winnett added that Kim Dobbs never filed this conflict of interest information with the city, “as required by law.” She said the law firm also did not file a conflict of interest form with the city.
“The fraudulent behavior by this city employee (Dobbs), to be able to kick back funds to her husband’s company, should be something that the city addresses in its employee policies and ethics provisions, but I can find no record that the council has ever approved any type of employee policies or ethics provisions,” Winnett said.
She added: “The lack of these management tools generally allows opportunity for this type of behavior through weakness in the internal controls. An ethics policy alone can help in preventing fraud, in fighting fraud when it occurs, and in mitigating its damages. At the very least, behavior such as this should be grounds for termination.”
Winnett has leveled other allegations against Dobbs. Details of those allegations will be provided after City of Heath officials have been given an opportunity to respond.