Collin County Politics: Citizens Unite!

November 8, 2022

Picture: Democratic candidates Jesse Ringness (HD66), Alex Cornwallis (SBoE), Sheena King (HD61), Josh Murray (County Judge), Rochelle Garza (Attorney General), and Iro Omere (CD4) show their unity while poll greeting at the Gay Library.

Covid Update: Collin County has 260,071 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 512 more cases than I reported last week and 1,566 of our Collin residents have died (1 additional death). Our transmission remains Low. Our flu and RSV rates, however, are kicking into high gear. We should still be wearing masks in crowds.

ICYMI: I hope everyone is following the story of the federal sexual harassment lawsuit against Collin County DA Greg Willis filed by SIX(!!!) current and former employees. The treatment of women is always the canary in the coal mine of how toxic an environment is. Don’t believe me? Just ask Iranian and Afghani women how their lives have changed within the last 50 years. People tend to dismiss sexual harassment as something to be tolerated within a good ole boys club but how would you like to be forced to press your body against your boss (in a “hug”) in which he moaned? Would you enjoy hearing comments about your appearance in which your boss says he “couldn’t help himself getting excited” because you “looked too good”? How would you like your career to be in the hands of a man who, after having his sexual advances denied, becomes threatening and erupts in “fierce rage”? Sounds fun!

People also tend to dismiss this kind of behavior because they don’t believe it impacts them. Wrong! Since Willis took office in 2011, felony prosecutor annual turnover increased from 8% in 2013 to 32% in 2022. The DA’s office has also struggled to hire entry-level prosecutors, so much so that Willis himself showed up to a Commissioner’s Court meeting to ask them to increase beginning salaries. The office had 12 openings for misdemeanor prosecutors because the turnover for attorneys was 22% this year, up from 12.5% last year. When you combine low pay with a toxic environment, no one will want to work there. This means our courts aren’t functioning the way they should and taxpayers will bear the burden of constantly recruiting new talent and training them. In short: we’re paying the literal price for alleged sexual harassment.

Elected officials don’t operate in a vacuum. Others were aware of Willis’ alleged misbehavior and turned a blind eye which is why all 4 county commissioners and Chris Hill were also named in the lawsuit. David Brignac, a Democrat running for district clerk, said Hill’s “integrity is questionable at best for allowing such a toxic and masochistic environment to fester under his leadership.” Hill’s integrity is questionable in general but this goes above and beyond his usual nonsense. Jeff Williams, running against Duncan Webb, questioned whether Webb can adequately serve as an elected official after the allegations. There are many reasons Webb can’t adequately serve but this is the icing on the cake. “This is what happens when partisan power dominates every level of government from McKinney to Austin.” If elected, Williams will “eliminate the culture of fear and harassment that has been cultivated for over a decade.”

The legal system in Collin County (remember, we’re the most lawless county in the state!) is a mess. Both Willis and his wife, Jill Willis, a state district judge in Collin County, are running unopposed. Lovely. The two have been around a long time and they’re not the only ones. It should bother every one of us that all of the judges in the county are Republicans, some of whom (spoiler alert!) are vastly unqualified. Whenever someone tries to buck the system and actually make rulings with compassion and justice in mind, they get taken down. Just ask Suzanne Wooten. Republicans can’t be bothered to police themselves which is why so many of them are under investigation, indictment, or are being sued (or all 3 at once!).

Speaking of Felonious Punk Ken Paxton (you knew I was talking about him, right?), he’s in trouble again. Although his campaign raised nearly $2.4 million last month, his campaign finance report was not only late but also refused to list who is funding him. Punk has already been fined for late reports three times this year. His office is charged with collecting unpaid ethics fines but, for the last two years, has declined to sue candidates and elected officials who collectively owe hundreds of thousands of dollars. I shouldn’t have to point this out but I feel compelled to mention that Punk is the state’s top law enforcement official. As such, he should be above reproach, an example to everyone about the necessity of following the law. Instead, Punk is a dangerous joke. The rest of the country is laughing at us. If Rochelle Garza wins, I hope she throws the book at him! Laws should apply equally to everyone, not just the poor or those lacking power.

Election: I’ve been hearing a lot of stories about electoral interference. Texas has made mail-in ballots as difficult to turn in as possible, meaning many out-of-state college students may end up not voting. The city of McKinney scheduled a basketball tournament last Saturday at the Old Settlers Rec Center on the East Side of McKinney, a polling location utilized by many people of color. The tournament effectively clogged the rec center so that it was difficult to find parking or see the voting signs. On Sunday, city workers started decorating around 7 a.m. for a Halloween party, thereby making voter parking difficult once again. Those 2 days were the only weekend times available for early voting. A lot of people can only vote then. Was this sabotage purposeful? I know what I think.

While driving to work, I heard KERA start an interview with both candidates for the Comptroller race. I had no hope at all that the interview would include hard-hitting questions or follow-up, so I turned it off. Wouldn’t it be great if the 4th Estate actually did their jobs and candidates were truly honest? It might go something like this.

Interviewer: What do you want to do as governor?

Abbott: Get more money, money, money and power for MEEEE!!!

Interviewer: What about the people of Texas?

Abbott: Who? (looks confused) Oh, them. (thinks for a moment) Well, I’ll allow them to live in my state.

Beto O’Roarke: Cites comprehensive plans for improving the grid, school safety, gun safety, decreasing climate change, funding public schools, improving our healthcare system, supporting civil liberties, decreasing corruption, and a host of other issues Texans care about.

Interviewer: What is your job as Comptroller?

Hegar: Well, like Eichmann did with getting the trains to concentration camps running on time, my job is to make sure the wealthy get what they want. (puffs up importantly) I provide the money.

Interviewer: Are you planning on eliminating the tampon tax?

Hegar: Hell, no! Why would I do that? We don’t want women getting any ideas, like having lots of their own money. They might (whispers) give money to Democrats.

Interviewer: How are you managing the huge influx of money from property taxes that’s supposed to go to public schools?

Hegar: It’s supposed to fund public schools? (looks confused) No, that money is for funding useless political stunts like sending National Guard troops to the border for months at a time and busing immigrants to blue states. It’s also supposed to pay law enforcement officers to attend ineffectual training on mass shootings. But hey! They’ll have a lot of fun doing it and will feel important. That’s worth the millions we’re spending on it, right?

Interviewer: Why are we paying $100 million more in state taxes to deny comprehensive mental healthcare?

Hegar: Healthcare is a privilege, not a right, and it’s only for those who can pay for it. Can you imagine what would happen if everyone was healthy and full of energy? (shudders) They might protest unfair policies or (whispers) even vote! They also might not be wage slaves to the companies that don’t pay enough or provide healthcare. I mean, we can’t very well ask these corporations to cut into their profits! No, it’s best for people to be sick and tired. Except for the rich. They need to be healthy in order to take all our resources.

Janet Dudding: Rattles off her numerous qualifications and innovative plans for Texas, including improving healthcare, the environment, creating jobs, and adding new revenue streams.

Interviewer: What ideas do you have for the Railroad Commissioner position?

Christian: We need to sing more! My band, the Mercy River Boys, almost won a Grammy award, so I’ve proven how singing can be profitable. It’s better than regulations or environmental protections. Who needs to take care of our environment anyway? Whenever we want more oil or some of that clean air, we’ll just take it. I mean, it’s not like we’ll run out anytime soon.

Luke Warford: Looks super cute and much more hip than old fogey Christian as he talks about embracing technology, innovation, and science because it’s too important to wait.

Collin College Board of Trustees: At long last, there’s some good news! In a stunning victory for the First Amendment rights of faculty members, administrators at Collin College agreed to a settlement that includes reinstating education professor Dr. Suzanne Jones, who was fired last year for her protected speech. As part of the settlement, the college agreed to a two-year, $230,000 teaching contract for her and to pay $145,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Although I’m sure there was a lot of gnashing of teeth from President Neil Matkin and others who seek to exert totalitarian control at the college, others were more realistic and democratic about the workings of higher education. Leaders at the Texas Faculty Association and the Texas State Teachers Association celebrated Dr. Jones’ return to the school in a joint statement, writing that she “never should have lost that position in the first place.” Damn straight! I wonder how many lawsuits the college will have to settle before they (and the taxpayers) realize they need to oust Matkin and get a real president.

Commissioner’s Court: Hoo-boy! You’re going to want to hold onto your hats for this one! I’m not sure if Cheryl Williams is glad or sad she was absent from their 11-minute meeting this week. Nothing much happened until Public Comments. Josh Murray came out swinging by discussing the law firm they’ve hired to do the independent investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment against DA Greg Willis. Josh wonders if the firm – which does a lot of work for various cities, particularly McKinney – is truly independent and asks them to put it on a future agenda so they can discuss it in public. This brings up an interesting point: how did the court decide to approve an investigation to begin with? It sure wasn’t done in public but it should’ve been. As taxpayers, shouldn’t we be privy to how the commissioners plan to deal with major allegations against county employees? After all, we’re the ones who will be paying for the settlement should the case go against the county.

Josh then brings up the agenda item that approved the hiring of a specific law firm and exempting them from the bid process. Exempting businesses from the bid process happens a lot in this court. It may be for good reasons but how would we know? They never discuss it! Josh mentions this is the same firm Hill hired when he had to deal with the Lynne Finley situation. This raises another question: who decides what law firm they need to use? Josh (correctly) points out that if they’re going to railroad a firm through, anyone (Hill) having a prior relationship with them should recuse himself from having any dealings with them in his professional capacity.

Following Josh’s 3-minute public comment (to which the commissioners are not supposed to respond), Hill spends 4 minutes vomiting his stream of spite and misdirection. He begins (per usual) by mentioning Josh is a candidate for office and the court can’t speak for the veracity of his claims. Isn’t it interesting he only says this for Josh’s statements? Why doesn’t he say that for all the Republican sheep who consistently bring up electoral conspiracy theories? Hill goes on to say Josh’s comments usually aren’t truthful, that he’s never hired that law firm in his personal capacity. It was clear Hill chose his words very carefully, so he’s definitely hiding something. Hill asks Bilyeu if he knew of any conflicts of interest in hiring a law firm that does work for other cities. Bilyeu bleats out a no. Hill asks Bilyeu if they’ve engaged this firm for the investigation into a county department. How vague! Why not mention what the allegations being investigated are?

Bilyeu says no, that they needed to hire a law firm because the one they usually use has conflicts of interest because they’re representing county employees in lawsuits. Huh. How interesting! This seems like they’re burying the lede. Exactly how many lawsuits are ongoing against Collin County employees and why? Isn’t this something we should know? Bilyeu says they haven’t engaged a law firm to handle the investigation yet. Then why are they hiring this law firm and, most importantly, why are they exempting them from the bid process? Josh may be wrong in some of his assumptions but that isn’t the point. If the commissioners were more transparent with their decision-making, maybe people wouldn’t have to make assumptions. Also, it’s important to note that we learned more about the inner workings of the court from Hill’s 4-minute response than we did the entire rest of the meeting. We pay the salaries of these losers on the court and should be given the access to their decision-making that we deserve. This is truly unacceptable.

But if you thought that was the end of the drama, you’d be sadly disappointed. After Hill ended his response to Josh, he started going through his usual routine of ending Commissioner’s Court and calling to order the Healthcare Foundation. Right before he said Commissioner’s Court was adjourned, the recording abruptly stopped. There’s no recording of the Healthcare Foundation if they even had one this week (who knows?). I’ve been watching these meetings for years and I’ve never seen this happen. I imagine they did it because of what happened next.

Josh left his glasses in the courtroom, so he came back to retrieve them. He and Hill got into a heated discussion, then Hill slapped him across the face. Josh called 911 and the sheriff’s department is now investigating a possible assault. This could be a felony, which means there would be YET ANOTHER Republican candidate facing a felony indictment. Sheesh! However, you know Hill always has to have the last word. He put out a statement claiming he held Josh in contempt of court again and that the allegations of him slapping him were false. Isn’t it odd that he believes he can hold someone in contempt of court if court isn’t in session? Given the abrupt ending of the recording, he’s definitely going to claim court was still going. However, if that was the case, then why was he out of his seat? Wouldn’t the other commissioners have been present? Are they going to lie for him? We know Darrell Hale will. The real question is: are Duncan Webb and Susan Fletcher willing to sacrifice what little integrity they have? I won’t hold my breath.

I can’t believe I’ve had to write this THREE TIMES during this column but remember: we’re the most lawless county in the state.

Julie Luton of MADC poll greeting.

Allen: Is there something in the water in Allen? In April, former Allen Mayor Pro Tem Gary Caplinger pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of child pornography, with one charge including intent to promote. He was still serving on the city council when he was arrested and had to resign. Such a proud moment for Allen! Caplinger was sentenced to 10 years in prison (5 years for each count) and a 10-year probationary period to be served upon his release. Yay! A dangerous predator off the streets. Well, not so fast.

It seems Caplinger was released after serving only 6 months in jail based on what’s known as a shock probation. In a shock probation, the judge re-sentences the prisoner to probation after the offender has served about 3-6 months, and the prisoner is released under supervision. Shock probation is usually considered for a first-time offender and if a judge believes the prisoner has a chance at reform. This is all sorts of wrong in Caplinger’s case. Pedophiles are notoriously difficult to reform, so why was he worthy of early release? Is it because he was a Republican politician? Was it because a Republican judge was swayed by the appeals of his powerful friends? How many others get a sweetheart deal for such a despicable crime? Never forget: Collin is the most lawless county in the state. Republicans must believe we need to live down to the description. Never, ever let them say they’re the party of law and order.

But Caplinger isn’t alone in enjoying underage sexual interactions, physical or otherwise. Two AISD teachers – Tony Mattei and Jeffrey Miranda – have been arrested for inappropriate relationships with students within the last 2 years. Interestingly, AISD’s internal investigation into the allegations against Mattei didn’t find anything. Shocking. And now Neil Riddick, a board member for the Allen ISD Foundation, resigned his position after being caught in a sting operation where he tried to meet an underage boy for sex. Riddick also was very close to those involved in the We the People of Allen PAC although they’re now disavowing his participation. Sure.

Whenever Republicans at school board meetings or at the polls try to call us groomers, be sure to educate them about whose party is the biggest threat to families. I wish the news media would step up on stories like this but they don’t. It’s difficult to find reliable sources because while the media appears to like covering arrests, they get real quiet about the outcome.

McKinney City Council: The council finally passed a redistricting map. Instead of the ones they’ve spent hours agonizing over, we got Map H, a “compromise” for all concerned. Sure. I absolutely trust that. Mayor George Fuller said the map had been “put out to the public” 5 days prior for review but I’m not sure how they publicized it. I always find it so fascinating how little transparency we insist upon from our elected officials. Dr. Gere Feltus said Map H provides an opportunity for growth in District 3 while respecting minority rights as much as possible. In other words, she damned it with faint praise while secretly acknowledging this was the best we were going to get. This whole process was incredibly disappointing but I always knew the Feckless Four would get their way. That’s just how we roll in North Texas: greed over people. Kudos to Dr. Feltus, Justin Beller, and Patrick Cloutier for fighting the good fight. You did your best.

McKinney School Board: Their latest board meeting was fairly quiet, especially when contrasting it with other meetings over the last year. Although they had 10 public speakers, only 5 were right-wing extremists, so perhaps that’s progress. I appreciate the board putting public speaking at the beginning of the meeting so they can get the craziness out of the way and continue on with their business. One such item was approving the proposed school calendar for 2023-2024. The new calendar moves the first day of school to August 9th. Although some people have concerns about the early start date, the benefit is having more holidays during the school year to reduce student and faculty burnout, especially in the Fall. Most people would rather pick up an extra week in August than in May. 

The board discussed assembling volunteers for the Site-Based Decision-Making Committee for this school year. The SBDM committee reviews the district improvement plan and the staff development needs to enhance the learning environment. It’s comprised of parents, community members, and business representatives. While community members must reside in the district, business representatives can come from outside the district. This seems odd. It’s important that we have representation on this committee since SEL/McKinney Lives Kind – a topic the right-wing extremists hate — is one of the areas of focus. If you have any interest, please apply!

Big Hathole Chad Green mostly kept his head down although he did bicker a few times with Board President Amy Dankel about inconsequential stuff. However, during a conversation on the Team of 8 Training, it came to light that Hathole once again hasn’t recorded any hours of training from the Texas Association of School Board conference. Attendees have 48 hours to record their hours. Hathole claimed he did complete the training and would reach out to ensure he received credit. It’s so strange that none of the other board members have any issue attending or recording the hours required for training. It almost makes you wonder why it is Hathole wanted to be on the school board in the first place.

Plano School Board: Their most recent meeting was fairly quiet, with recapture once again being a major point of discussion. The trustees went over the Financial Accountability audit in which PISD received an A rating. The only low-scoring area was Indictor 8 which measures short-term liquidity. This is significantly impacted by recapture. Angela Powell asked who in the state came up with the recapture. This is a surprising question from a school board member since you’d think she’d know. Her cluelessness continued though as her reply to David Stolle’s answer (“the legislature”) was to ask if they should give them feedback on it. I’m pretty sure they have been, lady!

Per usual, the board discussed recapture as if it was something that just recently happened and blamed “the legislature” with seemingly no awareness that these are the Republicans most of them support. Their passivity about the upcoming dire financial situation of PISD continued as they realized Indictor 8 is written in such a way that would make that impossible for high recapture districts. The consensus seemed to be Austin ISD would never pass this either. Yay? No one suggested the possibility of working with other high recapture districts or the legislature to reform school finance. To be fair though, the majority of the board is Republican. They never have solutions, only complaints and outrage.

The 2022-2023 calendar was also discussed. Three calendars were presented (A, B, and C) with A perceived as the least favorable and C as the calendar that staff, parents, and students all liked. All calendars align with Collin College’s fall break. Calendars B and C winter breaks align with the surrounding district’s winter breaks and have more balanced 1st and 2nd semesters. Jeri Chambers spoke strongly in favor of C, as it is the most balanced for the spring semester. This seems like a no-brainer decision but then Powell suddenly interjected that she liked calendar A for the weeklong fall break. Stolle pointed out that with a winter break, a Thanksgiving break, and a full week fall break, there would be 4 weeks off in an 8-week time frame and it would be better to move some of those ‘days off until spring.

Never one to be swayed by logic, Powell insisted families want the fall break to plan vacations in nice weather. The best I can say for her is that perhaps she’s unaware of the reality that most families can’t afford or take the time off to plan vacations mid-year and would be scrambling for childcare during all these breaks. Instead of going with C, the calendar everyone seems to want, the board tabled the discussion and requested more parent/student/staff survey data.

Oppression, organized as ours is, will appear invincible up to the very hour of its fall.

Frederick Douglass

Local Politics: Although this election is a deeply important one, our democracy will continue (we hope) no matter the outcome. As I hope you can see by reading about all the corruption in our county, it isn’t enough to just vote and then forget about governance. We MUST shine a spotlight on what our elected officials do. It may be our only avenue of influence. Please sign up to join the team covering your city council or school board. Everyone is welcome. Contact me at and let me know you’re interested.

Comments 2

  1. Thoughtful and thorough coverage well articulated as always. I also feel in the know after reading. Thanks

  2. I’m not positive, but I think you actually said Collin County is the most lawless in Texas FOUR times. Yay for us. We win.

    Thank you for all the information on our local communities. Although I don’t live in Plano or Allen, it’s interesting and helpful to me to see what is happening in areas that share McKinney borders. We’re all fighting the same battles … school board protests, ISD financial problems because of short-sighted Republican “leadership”, and corruption. I do think that Allen might have won the most perverted trophy with all their pedophiles.

    All I can say is that everybody needs to vote. Nothing changes if we don’t vote.

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