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2009-01-01

January to June 2008

By Judith Pannebaker & St

‘It’s a wrap!’

This editorial recap recalls events in Bandera County from January to June 2008. It proved to be an interesting year. Bet you forgot some of the year's quirkier happenings. A retrospective of the rest of the year will be published in the Thursday, Jan. 8, edition of the Bandera County Courier. Enjoy!

January:
• After 20 years on the bench, 216th District Judge Stephen Ables, 59, announced he would not seek another term. Attorneys Joseph M. Davis, Harold J. Danford, Keith Williams and Doyle Weaver immediately threw their hats in the judicial ring.

• After coming before Bandera City Council a third time, an expansion of utility lines into the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction was finally approved in July 2007. A 3-2 decision came after a closed executive session with Municipal Attorney Monte Akers. Horst Pallaske and John Hegemier voted against the extension. In January, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott initiated an investigation after his office received several complaints alleging the July closed session had violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.

February:
• In a two-year criminal case that spanned three jurisdictions, Marie Trevino was finally reunited with her muffin tins - but not $60,000 worth of jewels, furs and Persian rugs she claimed were also seized by Bandera and Kendall County law enforcement officers during a 2006 “raid” on her rented home in Comfort. Trevino has filled a $15.5 million civil lawsuit against officers involved in the incident.

• With wins over Wimberley and Llano, the Bandera High School Bulldog hoopsters earned their first district championship in boys’ basketball since 2001. The Bulldogs ended district play with a record of 7-2, giving them a bye going into the playoffs.

• Attempting to answer Commissioner Bobby Harris’s question, “Where’s the jail?” Wayne Gondeck, AIA, of DRG Architects and J. Michael Hill of WG Yates and Sons Construction Company commented: It’s on the way, and the longer it takes, the more it’s going to cost. Reviewing the progress on the Bandera County Jail and Justice Center, Gondeck told the court not to expect anything to come in under budget, predicting, “There will be no discounts and no miracles.”

• A civil trail against Bandera County Sheriff Weldon Tucker began in San Antonio United District Court, Western Division of Texas, with Judge W. Royal Furgeson Jr. presiding. The litigation stemmed from a 1999 incident that occurred in 1999. As a Real County deputy, Tucker shot an unarmed Bradley Ham, then 34, as he was fleeing arrest for marijuana production. Ham’s left leg was subsequently amputated below the knee. Ham’s attorney, Gregory Yates, claimed Tucker had used excessive force during the apprehension, violating his client’s Fourth Amendment rights.

March:

• “If we sign this today, when do we start,” asked County Judge Richard Evans of the new jail and justice center. Both Wayne Gondeck and J. Michael Hill indicated the start date would be the week of March 10.

• After placing second in the race for 216th District Judge, Boerne Attorney Joe Davis withdrew his name from an April run-off election. As per Texas law, Keith Williams was declared the winner.

• Bandera County is suing Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to block the release of information requested by the Bandera County Courier about a lawsuit filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Bandera County Sheriff’s Office. The request concerned the settlement of a lawsuit initiated by Shelia Pumphrey after being terminated by Tucker in 2006.

Mainly citing attorney-client and work product privileges, attorney George Hyde submitted an 11-page brief to the AG indicating the reasons why the requested information should not be released. In turn, Hyde received a letter from Assistant AG Cindy Nettles of the Open Records Division, essentially advising him to release the requested information. Hyde then initiated litigation against the attorney general - without approval of commissioners court. Commissioners, of course, approved the suit after the fact.

• American Cowboy magazine designated Bandera as one of the “20 Best Places to Live the West.”

• After nine years of litigation and a six-day trial, Bandera County Sheriff Weldon Tucker was exonerated in federal court on claims of use of excessive force in a 1999 shooting incident. However, Gregory Yates, attorney for plaintiff Bradley Ham, wasted no time in filing motions for a new trial.

April:

• Fun and games at 777 Vegas Games Bandera Downs on Highway 16 South came to an abrupt halt when investigators with the Criminal Intelligence Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety declared the site a crime scene and confiscated 55 eight-liners from the premises. Lead investigator Captain Billy M. Fulton noted, “The machines were determined to be in violation of Texas statutes on gambling.”

• Pipe Creek’s BR Lightning Ranch was included in Texas Monthly magazine’s article “68 Awesome Things to Do with Your Kids.” Owner Bill Rivers has worked hard to ensure nonstop kid- and western-centric activities at the ranch.

• Votes have been counted and recounted in the contested - and acrimonious - race between incumbent Nathan Macias and challenger Doug Miller for the House District 73 seat. The recount ended with Miller again on top with a 17-vote winning margin. However, Macias filed an election challenge in Comal County District Court, seeking a new Republican Primary election.

May:

• An ongoing battle has been renewed between residents who complain that live entertainment makes their houses rock, and owners of local venues who insist they are just giving tourists what they want - music, music and more music.

In response, Police Chief Jim Eigner announced a change of policy for handling noise complaints. His memo to entertainment venues stated: “Effective May 1, 2008, any establishment found to be in violation of the noise ordinance will be cited and required to appear in municipal court.”

• After a relatively short deliberation, a jury in the 216th District Court of Bandera County terminated the parental rights of Tara Robben Giblin-Cowley, 33, of Pipe Creek, from her 11-month old son. Previously, she had been convicted of failing to report sexual abuse. Her former husband was sentenced to three consecutive life terms and four consecutive 20-year terms in the Texas Department of Corrections for sexually assaulting the couple’s three children, as well as numerous others. In addition, Giblin-Cowley has been indicted on several counts of sexual abuse of a child. That case is pending.

• Retail doyenne Peggy Ashmore celebrated the grand “re-opening” of Shoe Biz, a Main Street retail staple for over 20 years. The emporium was destroyed last August in a fire that swept through two businesses and seriously damaged Bandera’s iconic OST restaurant.

• Citing monetary considerations, District 73 Rep. Nathan Macias announced he had dropped a civil lawsuit contesting the Republican Primary Election.

• “To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a bar has been cited for violating the sound ordinance in Bandera,” said James McGroarty, owner of the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. His entertainment venue received the citation when monitored decibels exceeded the allowable 70 decibels as designated in the City of Bandera Sound Ordinance.

• Approximately 200 business owners and associates participated in the Thursday, May 22, community workshop on the City of Bandera Comprehensive Land Use Master Plan. In Bandera - city or county - that’s enough people to win or lose an election.

June:

• Pet owners were warned that a dog killer might be plying his deadly trade in Bandera County. “Strychnine poisoning is a horrible, horrible way for a dog to die,” said John Mohar, a resident of Bear Creek Road, who witnessed the agonizing throes of his neighbor’s dog on June 5. According to Mohar, a trio of dogs had apparently consumed something along the side of the public roadway between 5757 and 4462 Bear Creek Road. The “something” they had reportedly gnawed was definitely laced with antifreeze and possibly with strychnine, as well.

• Don’t look yet, but work on a new Bandera County Road and Bridge facility to replace the one destroyed by the devastating floods of 2002 is apparently slated to start shortly. Funds allocated to the county from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be used to construct the road and bridge facility, according to Judge Richard Evans. He proposed finalizing the project “expeditiously” and “moving forward.”

• Louis Edward Vannatter, 71, of Medina died Saturday, June 7, leaving behind a legacy of community service and love for his fellow man.

• A civil lawsuit filed against the Cowboy Capital Pet Assistance League and its Executive Director Marlene Heavner has been scheduled for the 216th Judicial District in Kerrville. The civil litigation stemmed from allegations by TE “Gene” Carnes and his wife, Gay, that dogs under the care of CCPAL killed one of his goat(s).

Carnes sought compensation of $25,000 for exemplary damages and $50,000 as damages for private nuisance from CCPAL and Heavner, as well as attorney’s fees. When the lawsuit was finally settled, however, Judge Karl Prohl awarded Carnes just $30 for his trouble.

• Some residents of Bandera River Ranch had been without water for eight days. After the situation reached a boiling point, Homeowners Association President John Morgan called a meeting on June 17, to update residents about the tony subdivision’s latest water woes.

Water problems have purportedly plagued the development, located off Highway 16 South, since its inception.