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Councilman resigns over cop firing

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The Ellis County Press

FERRIS - Councilman Fred Pontley resigned his seat Monday, June 16, after Chief Michael Braly fired Lt. Mike Zaidle two weeks ago, according to a letter Pontley – who did not show up for the council meeting – submitted to his colleagues. Braly, who resigned amid allegations the city council and mayor were "micromanaging," left the city on June 9 for a job in the Irving Police Department.

Pontley, who could not be reached for comment, was a vocal supporter of former Chief Jeff Cottongame and then-Lt. Sherman Swafford, who is now at the Ennis Police Department. Zaidle was the third in command during the previous administration.

According to 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.

Pontley, himself an Ennis Police Department officer, supported Cottongame and Swafford during an expose into Ferris Police Department bank accounts and off-duty security the officers were conducting.

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

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.

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, once voted to keep the former cops with Ferris, but his motion was defeated.

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