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Truths newsletter alleges controversial matters

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MEGAN GRAY

and JOEY DAUBEN

The Ellis County Press

PALMER – This town’s second controversial newsletter made its debut Monday and the result wasn’t surprising to those whose names appeared in it.

Though no "side" in the city’s fractious political atmosphere has claimed responsibility for the publication, the Palmer Truths newsletter alleges multiple infractions against current and former elected officials and individuals who voted in the city’s May 10 council elections.

In the first allegation about former mayor Don Huskins allegedly executing a secret contract with Councilman Greg Penny’s energy company, Huskins responded with an in-depth answer:

"Penny was not on council at this time," Huskins said of Penny’s employment with Power Max/Strategic Energy. "I lowered our city spending [to] save thousands of dollars. We are getting electricity at the rate of 9.9 [percent] instead of the 13.45 [percent] we were paying. I didn’t know there were laws saying I shouldn’t save the city money. Nobody has mentioned it was illegal or sent me anything...

"If the city deems this contract illegal, I will personally make the call to Strategic Energy and tell them so," Huskins said.

Huskins said he sent the contract over to City Attorney Larry Jackson for approval, but Jackson said he doesn’t remember that.

"No recollection [of getting that contract]," Jackson said. "I know he has indeed said this but, not that I recall. I didn’t [see a contract]."

The issue about the energy contract came up when City Administrator Doug Young saw a penalty for a late bill.

"I was trying to simplify billing with Strategic Energy and exploring the possibility of joining with the Texas Association of School Boards Electricity Aggregation Pool to secure favorable electric rates for the City of Palmer when the city secretary advised of a five-year contract with Strategic Energy via a third company, Powermax Energy," Young said. "I researched the timeframe of the contracts and could find no evidence of the contracts being brought to the city council of Palmer for approval."

Huskins said he did not profit from the deal with Penny’s company. Penny, who won his council seat this year after losing a mayoral election last year, said he would not respond to anonymous allegations.

"[The claims don’t] warrant a response," he said. "I will be happy to talk with any group or anyone that can place their name on something."

Other allegations in the newsletter included a list of several people who are alleged to have voted in the May 10 council elections but reside in homes outside of the city limits.

Ellis County Elections Department administrator Jane Anderson did not return e-mail requests for comment or clarification on the individuals named in the newsletter, but Palmer’s election judge, Julie Hall, did.

"If they think I have done something wrong [have them] go to the [Texas] Attorney General’s office and be done with it."

Page 2 of the newsletter alleges Hall of taking the ballot box to a back room and counting the early votes and election day votes with no one present, "in violation of Texas Election Code."

Penny’s wife, Elizabeth, who owns a café in the eastern Ellis County town of about 2,100, was alleged to have been talking on her cellphone with her husband.

She could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts to contact her Tuesday.

"She left with Charles Landrith," the newsletter states. "She talked incessantly throughout the day. She entered the counting room, but left before the counting was finished. All of the above are in violation of the Texas Election Code."

The final allegation stated 13 ballots were cast by voters who did not live in the City of Palmer.

The Ellis County Press obtained 29 pages worth of voters who cast ballots in the May 10 election, but the paper’s deadline prevented a thorough examination of eligibility and identified individuals’ comments from being obtained.


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