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Zaidle fired, interim chief appointed

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MEGAN GRAY,

GRACE MARTIN and JOEY DAUBEN

The Ellis County Press

FERRIS – Lt. Mike Zaidle was fired last week "without cause," according to David Chavez and an interim chief was appointed, the latest news from a department still abuzz over the resignation of Chief Michael Braly. Zaidle, who could not be reached for comment, was alleged by fellow officers of leaking information to The Ellis County Press regarding allegations department employees were searching the Internet for prostitution and pornography sites.

Chavez, who appointed Corbin McGrath out of Gun Barrel City in neighboring Henderson County, said the Internet searches were for dating sites and that pornographic pop-up ads appeared accidently.

The firing also prompted Ferris Councilman Fred Pontley, an Ennis police officer, to resign, but city officials were told he didn’t want to step down after all.

Zaidle, whose son is the chief in nearby Palmer, is the last remaining officer from former Ferris Chief Jeff Cottongame’s administration, a department in which the ECP uncovered an off-duty security business being conducted by Ferris police.

Court documents showed Cottongame and former Lt. Sherman Swafford, now an officer with the Ennis PD, of writing checks and depositing them into a Commercial State Bank account using the city’s tax identification number.

According to the ECP articles several years ago, Swafford acknowledged he opened a second account for fund-raising, based on the advice of bank officials in the spring 2001.

The account, Police Project Fund, was intended to deposit monies from a golf tournament to purchase equipment for the police workout room, he said.

The main issue remained the officers operation of the Ferris Police Reserves account and the monies cashed on the account.

Off-duty officers worked security for the Ferris Independent School District and a lump sum check was paid to the Ferris Police Reserves.

The checks were then cashed, using the Ferris Police Reserve account, and according to Swafford disturbed in cash to the officers who worked.

Swafford and Cottongame said those policies have been changed because it is not in compliance with the Texas Commission on Private Security.

The officers maintained they did not know they were doing anything illegal and would use different procedures in the future if reinstated.

Cottongame and Swafford were fired Friday, Nov. 14, 2002 after an administrative inquiry conducted by then- Mayor Scott Born found the men guilty of numerous charges including falsification of official documents or records, insubordination, neglect of duties and illegal, unethical, abusive or unsafe acts.

Pontley, who now works with Swafford, voted to keep the former cops with Ferris, but his motion was defeated.


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Nelson Propane

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