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No documentation for theft accusations

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pictured: Left-City Administrator Mike Cardenas
Right-Councilman Nita Jenkins

Coined in the 1950s, the term "McCarthyism," is currently used to describe demagogic, reckless and unsubstantiated accusations - as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents.
Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy served as a Republican in the United States Senate from 1947 until his death in 1957. During the 1950s, he became infamous for claiming that large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and their sympathizers had infiltrated the federal government. Ultimately, however, his tactics - and inability to substantiate his claims - led him to be censured by the Senate.
Bandera City Council was subjected to its own brand of McCarthyism during a Thursday, Feb. 13, meeting. At that time, Councilman Nita Jenkins accused City Administrator Mike Cardenas of using city equipment in his private fence-building business - specifically "a posthole digger."
In her attack on Cardenas, Jenkins indicated documentation in her possession would prove that he had, in fact, absconded with a posthole digger. "I got you," she added for emphasis.
The next day, the Bandera County Courier filed an Open Meetings Act request for Jenkins' documentation. City Secretary Linda Boshek forwarded the Courier's request to Cardenas who, in turn, handed it off to City Attorney Zachariah Evans.
At 3:24 pm, Feb. 19, the Courier received an email from Boshek noting: "As required by the Texas Open Meetings Act the City of Bandera is stating that after talking with the Council Member Nita Jenkins, there are no documents to produce."
Earlier on Feb. 19, Jenkins demurred from offering an explanation of her charge against Cardenas until after a review of the audiotape of the council session. "I was just asking questions that night," she said. However, Jenkins admitted saying, "I got you," reiterating, "(Mike Cardenas has) done so many things. We finally got him. He's not been true to the city." She requested an audiotape of the Feb. 13 meeting, noting that she would have a statement for the Courier after reviewing the recording.
An audio recording of the Feb. 13 proceedings obtained by the Courier proved Jenkins' recollection of the exchange incorrect. A transcript of the incident follows:
Jenkins: "I have personally heard you after meetings (say) you don't need this job, you have your own job. Do you have a business of your own, Mike, that we don't know about?"
Cardenas: "Yes, ma'am."
Jenkins: "Is it possible that you used city equipment to help you run that business?"
Cardenas: "No, ma'am. I have my own equipment."
Jenkins: "I understand a posthole digger that belongs to the city was out at your house and now it's missing."
Cardenas: "No."
Attorney Evans: "Ms. Jenkins, if I could, you're straying off the topic. We're talking about his employment with the city right now ..."
Jenkins: "The reason I went off in that direction is because (Cardenas) has three people working for him and the city is paying their salaries and he hasn't had time to train them but he has time for his own business."
(At this point, the tape indicates that Evans again attempted to halt Jenkins' line of questioning again - to no avail.)
Mayor Don Clark to Jenkins: "We can't get into this. The lawyer's told you to stop. We're talking about (Cardenas') employment with the city right now."
Jenkins: "I have some of this documented" ... inaudible ... "I've got you."
Cardenas: "Did you get that, Zack, the last comment Ms. Jenkins made?"
Evans: "Yes."
Cardenas: "Thank you, sir."
Jenkins: "Good, I appreciate it."
When asked to comment on Jenkins' accusation, Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier said, "I would be interested in seeing her documentation."
Mayor Clark had no comment and Councilmen Jim Hannah and Glenn Clark did not respond to emails sent about the incident to them.
In an interview, Cardenas disavowed any knowledge of Jenkins' accusations. "I have my own equipment for my business. In fact, I purchased it from Cody Tripp. Bandera Bank financed it for me. I can provide financial documents if you want."
After noting that the city owns a dirt auger, he added, "I have a rock auger. If the city crew is doing work and I think they might run into rock, I'll bring my rock auger - at no cost to the city." Cardenas declined to speculate on what precipitated Jenkins' attack against him.
For her part, after reviewing the tape, Jenkins also declined to comment to the Courier on her undocumented allegations that Cardenas had misappropriated city equipment.