I got several calls from Dwain “Moose” Whitfield regarding last week's editorial about his relatives working at Oakdale Park and employees eating out at Hooter's and other places on the city's credit card account. He wanted to correct several things in my column and explain some decisions he made.
First, Whitfield said that city crew worker Zach Hay is not his cousin. Hay also told me that. I stand corrected; my sources were wrong on that.
Second, Whitfield said that his wife, Sandra, with Adams Cleaning, was hired not by him but by Billy Huckaby, director of the Glen Rose Convention and Visitors Bureau who was over Oakdale Park's renovation until he was shifted back to focusing on events and City Superintendent Ronald Bruce was made the “go-to” guy at Oakdale.
I asked Huckaby about that. He said "technically" he hired Whitfield's wife, but said that Whitfield brought him her application materials and recommended her for the job.
At first Whitfield said three people had dined at Hooter's, although the receipt indicated two. He later called back to say that it did, indeed, look like two people had eaten there. The city reimbursed the two workers for the more than $48 for lunch, which seemed like a lot for two people. The receipt wasn't itemized.
As for hiring his brother-in-law, Waylon Adams, for $11 an hour – more than what some other people with more seniority were getting – Whitfield explained that the hiring was approved and that Adams was given more than the usual $10-an-hour starting wage because he was the only one who agreed to work weekends.
None of that, however, changes the fact that three members of the same family are working at Oakdale Park for the city and that workers are getting meals courtesy of taxpayers.
Whitfield provided figures that showed that city crews had saved the city $155,384.11 over estimated contractor bids. He said the meals were in essence "rewards" for saving the city so much money.
Meanwhile, more receipts from the city's credit card account show other meals charged for workers at Oakdale Park, including $135 to Hammonds, $39.87 to El Chico Cafe in Granbury, $39.18 to Jalapeno Tree in Granbury, $30 to the West End Grill in Cleburne and $30.04 to The Green Pickle. You can view these receipts at the Somervell Salon Web site at http://salon.glenrose.net.
This all still raises a lot of unanswered questions.
I don't know if the expenses were paid for with Certificate of Obligation money. Surely not, I thought, but I wanted to know for sure. I tried to find that out, but city officials have not responded to my request for information about whether taxpayers are going to be paying for the Hooter's bill for the next 20 years at the CO interest rate.
If the meals are a reward, who ultimately authorized them? Are they part of an established reward system? Are all city employees eligible or just those working at Oakdale Park? Did the Glen Rose City Council or mayor's office sign off on any employee benfits/awards program? Will this benefit be reported to the Internal Revenue Service as additional compensation to the employee?
I've gotten a lot of heat about my columns from certain people who want to know why I keep "stirring up trouble." I was taught that journalists are supposed to be the watchdogs of government and that how taxpayer dollars are used is everybody's business. People who work for the city government or the county, state or federal government should be held to a higher standard because they are entrusted with the most precious of public responsibilities, the spending of money earned by hard-working citizens.
The bottom lime is that no one seems to be doing much of a job of oversight or administering policy at Town Hall, which once again cries out for a city administrator to establish proper guidelines and procedures and make sure they are followed. Until then, taxpayers will be the ones ultimately paying for the lapses.