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City leader endorses candidates, causes flap
The Ellis County Press
RED OAK - Red Oak Mayor Ron Bryce sent out letters of support for three council candidates last week.

In his letter, Bryce stated he would be voting for Dawn Little, Place 2, Bill Brown, Place 4 and Andy Bell, Place 5.

Bryce has named this political force 'Little Brown Bell' and included with all letters a small brown magnet in the shape of a bell.

Little and Brown are running against two incumbents seeking reelection, Ben Goodwyn, Place 2 and Casey Hargrove, Place 4.

Bryce stated Little was 'uniquely qualified to help Red Oak keep moving in the right direction,' pointing to her occupation as a registered nurse and her status as former Red Oak Mayor Todd Little's wife.

Goodwyn did not agree with Bryce's endorsement of Little.

'Eleven months ago, Ron Bryce nominated me as Mayor Pro-tem, which should make me ‘uniquely qualified,'' Goodwyn said. 'He now contends that my opponent, Dawn Little, is ‘uniquely qualified.'

'Her only unique qualification is being the wife of former Mayor Todd Little, who is term-limited.'

Of Brown, Bryce said, 'I've known Bill and (his wife) Denise…for many years.

'He has mentored many young men, including my sons, in the Royal Ranger program,' speaking of a Boy Scout-like program hosted by the Assemblies of God.

Hargrove, Brown's opponent, said, 'Once you get past the cute slogans and meaningless sophomoric political rhetoric, there is a deadly serious attempt by the Mayor to stack Council with his close personal friends who will rubber stamp his hidden agenda.

'I think the citizens want their council members to decide issues based on accountability, integrity and equality, not based on who financed and endorsed your campaign.'

According to Bryce, Bell 'has experience creating jobs in Red Oak and understands the need to keep our tax burden low.'

He also wrote about Bell's involvement with the Parks and Recreation Board and the Chamber of Commerce Board as well as his participation in other community organizations.

Kris Reeder, Bell's only opponent for Place 5, said he was surprised to hear of the endorsements of his opponent from the mayor.

'I'm surprised to hear that Mayor Bryce is endorsing my opponent, in part because I've received phone calls from him where he offered me help and support.

'I certainly understand the power of endorsements; in fact I've been honored to receive the endorsement of 20 of this community's leaders and officials including four current councilmen, a previous mayor of Red Oak and others that I admire very much.

'I would have hoped that a sitting Mayor would try to stay a little more neutral, but he can support who he wants and I look forward to working with him if I'm elected.'

The issue of the ethics involved in this endorsement was broached by citizens, and in response Bryce said, 'I've promoted candidates and campaigns since I was elected.

'My opinion is that it's not only acceptable for a mayor to be involved in politics - it's entirely expected. After all, the mayor is the political leader of a community.'

Bryce's letter did not include the political disclaimer, 'Political ad paid for by,' which is a requirement on all political flyers or circulars that cost more than $500 to produce and distribute.

Bryce said his endorsement and all associated items were under the $500 mark and therefore no disclaimer was necessary.

All political expenditures over $50 total must be reported on a candidate's campaign finance report, but Bryce said it was a 'gray area' when it came to whether or not his expenditures would have to be reported.

'I decided to err on the side of caution and list the expenses in a campaign finance report,' said Bryce.

On the question of the ethics associated with this endorsement, Hargrove said, 'The Ethics Commission will decide what is legal; the citizens of Red Oak will decide what is ethical.'

In addition to openly endorsing candidates, Bryce has donated his own money to the campaigns of two council hopefuls.

Bryce donated $192 to Brown for 'stamps' and $90 for 'postcards/fliers.'

He also donated $500 to Brown's general campaign fund and $371.48 to Bell's fund.

Hargrove received one campaign donation over $100 which came from Lou Lebowitz of Dallas for $1,000.

Ali Sharaff of Ovilla donated $1,000 to Goodwyn's campaign and Goodwyn also received two monetary donations of $100 from Red Oak citizens.

Little, Bell and Brown did not return phone calls to discuss the mayor's endorsements of their campaigns.

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Nelson Propane

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