ANALYSIS: Dirty politics muddies vote

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Protesters win some; lose tie-breaker

By Sheila Hatfield / The Ellis County Press

FERRIS – Lines have been drawn over the past few months, with protesters of Ferris City Hall scandals and two councilmen on one side and Mayor Micheal Driggars, City Manager Bill Jordan and two councilmen on the other.

The protesters have been begging for the city council to, “clean up their act,” by Driggers and City Secretary Callie Green resigning because of their affair, a city ethics violation – as well as, Jordan for 11 counts of sexual harassment to female city employees.

There were no clear winners with the vote results from last Saturday.

The mayor’s side retained both of his council members, Clayton Hunter, who was running unopposed, and Bobby Lindsey, who’s position was not up for re-election this year.

Hunter, according to some, misled voters, with the city hall receptionist Misty Macdonald lying to voters, reassuring them Hunter’s position was NOT up for re-election and, “He is not on the ballot.”

Even so, Hunter only received 220 votes out of 334 ballots cast. Many voters left his box unchecked even though there was no opponent.

Driggars did not run for mayor this year.

Residents who have been begging the council to “clean up city hall” retained Councilman Rick Barrett who also was not up for re-election, and gained Councilwoman-elect Sherie Chapman and unopposed Jim Swafford as the mayor-elect, although losing him as a council vote.

Chapman, with a vote of 160 defeated Rudy Amor (50) and Jo Monroe (99), but a third place was lost by only three votes with a past council member, Jay Walsh, winning over Michael Martinez 164 to 161.

Residents were urging Martinez Saturday night to “demand a recount of the votes,” since early voting sign-ins revealed at least one illegal vote.

Former Ellis County Constable Gary Witherspoon voted, listing his address as 413 W. 6th Street – the actual location of the Ferris Post Office.

Witherspoon used to be a Ferris resident, but moved away several years ago. Calls to him went unanswered. This apparent voter fraud was reported to the Ellis County elections office by at least two people.

Driggars, Hunter, Walsh and Lindsey were reported as having told residents, “vote only white,” a reference against Hispanic candidates Martinez and Amor, and, “If Martinez is elected, Charlie Hatfield will become our new city manager.”

“That’s so ridiculous,” said Hatfield, “Why would I want to work for the city, when I barely have time for the newspaper, my gun classes and other commitments?”

On voting day, Hatfield was asked to leave from the front of the library after voting.

“You have too powerful of a presence in Ferris that might influence voters,” said Election Judge Tony Padilla, apologizing and requesting the departure almost immediately after Lindsey entered the library to vote.

Jordan sent an official directive to employees May 4, stating, “No employee shall have a non-city-business relationship with any vendor, contractor, benefactor or any other person having a business relationship with the city… ”

The memo was sent out one day before a Cinco De Mayo celebration party was to be held at Bea Wallace’s mansion in Ferris.

A post was made on Facebook following the celebration naming the party as a congratulations party for Walsh winning a council seat.

Walsh was not at the party, but his opponent Martinez was.

As it stands, “The “good ol’ boys,” as exclaimed by Lindsey at last Tuesday’s May 1 meeting, will now have three council votes (Lindsey, Walsh and Hunter) against Barrett and Chapman, unless a Martinez re-count is successful, in which case, Swafford could break a tie vote against the “Boys.”

“Only the good ol’ boys showed up!” exclaimed Lindsey at Tuesday’s meeting after a lack of quorum had to be called when Barrett and Swafford were not present.

Some “good ol’ boys” define themselves as “good country, community-minded citizens, but at least one Ferris woman at the meeting, who was born in the north, described the “boys” as “uneducated, beer-guzzling, redneck racists.”

The votes will be canvassed at a meeting on Wednesday, May 16 when new council members will be sworn in, according to Green. Until then, the current council will preside.

Eighty-two percent of votes cast on the bond election lent a resounding, “NO” to Jordan’s attempt to build a city complex. The vote was 272 to 59.

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