Top news stories of 2008
Compiled by JOEY DAUBEN and MEGAN GRAY
2008 Elections drawing near; Races shaping up in local precincts; Grand Jury requests Wilmer councilman testimony -
Republican precinct chart included upcoming primary races as Wilmer city administrator Thom Lauer received checks while his mother-in-law was on the council, according to allegations included in grand jury documents.
Ramsey’s race for DA started years ago; 3 vie for sheriff seat;
Rodney Pat Ramsey throws his hat into the ring for the county/district attorney’s race against Joe Grubbs, a race that began several years ago when Ramsey was nearly railroaded by the Ellis County criminal justice system.
2008 Candidates tackle immigration;
Republicans debate on illegal aliens at the local, state-wide and federal level.
Joe Grubbs denies Hellstern cover-up; Jury hands down life sentence in Doris Phillips murder case;
four Ellis County sheriff investigators and a defense attorney allege DA Joe Grubbs cover up of the husband of assistant prosecutor Cindy Hellstern.
Police say DA won’t help in Ovilla pseudo-doctor case; Ennis PD: Hellstern admitted driving car night of exposure;
An Ovilla doctor allegedly sedated his patients and molested them, but Ovilla police alleged Grubbs’ office of not helping in the investigation.
A crime for stealing illegal substance? Sign company to sue Joe Grubbs campaign;
Grubbs campaign refuses to pay for his entire 1,000 order of yard signs, according to a Dallas sign company. And the son of prominent real estate developer Joe Rust is caught up in a case involving stolen marijuana.
Special report: the sex offender issue;
District Attorney Joe Grubbs probates 100s of child sex offenders. CPS cases featuring sex crimes against their children only to be placed on probation by Grubbs’ office.
Palmer PD Chief resigns;
Scott Lynch resigned after a series of complaints launched against him, including being reprimanded for failing to wave to the mayor in public.
Copper thieves hit Ferris church; Wilmer boy rescued from well.
$7,500 worth of copper coils were stolen from Covenant Family Fellowship in Ferris.
Voters keep Grubbs, Trans-TX Corridor to cut 8,400 acres;
Revised route of the TTC could consume large amounts of Eastern Ellis County as voters re-elected the DA.
Councilman denies fraud allegations; Gallo doesn’t file for second term;
Waxahachie Councilman Joe Gallo, considered by many to be the city’s future mayor, does not file for a second term after allegations that his law office is not in compliance with state disability statutes.
Truckers plan to ‘park it’ in strike;
Drivers of diesel fuel trucks and other rigs plan to go on strike until their demands for lower fuel and ease of federal regulations are met.
Brown pulls ads over documents;
Ellis County Sheriff candidate Johnny Brown, angered by a controversial story about an incident in Dallas early during his career, cancels ads that were to run in The Ellis County Press and Red Oak Record.
Palmer’s Greenlee answers to taxpayer-funded strip clubs, bars
; Mike Greenlee, the city’s former mayor and incumbent councilman seeking re-election, had to answer for dozens of trips on taxpayer funds to strip clubs, bars and clothing stores.
Bardwell mayor’s attempt to silence ECP triggers criminal complaint
; Bardwell Mayor P.W. "Jinker" Gentry threatened The Ellis County Press news staff if they didn’t turn off audio and video equipment in a public meeting. The threats were later contained in a criminal complaint against the mayor.
City council, school board races heat up;
Ferris’ council race features the former editor of The Ellis County Press, and Byron Walker fends off multiple accusations and arrests in his re-election bid in Ennis for city commissioner.
Midlothian ISD keg party flyer resurfaces in race; Cindy Williams’ re-election campaign is once again hit with news that her daughter’s high school keg party flyer was circulating, the third time in her long tenure on the MISD school board.
103-1 vote increased school taxes;
Every school board in Ellis County voted to hike property taxes even after the state Legislature lowered them 33 percent. However, the one no vote came from Waxahachie ISD’s Mark Price, who served as the Ellis County treasurer for 10 years.
Caught in red tape;
an issue devoted to myriad regulations requiring baby DNA being entered into a national database; ag-use rules for would-be property owners ensnares many; new homes must be registered with the state.
Ferris Police Chief Michael Braly resigns
; in an abrupt move, the Ferris chief resigns for a job in Irving.
Waxahachie ISD inflated attendance figures;
the Texas Education Agency orders WISD to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars after it was revealed WISD officials inflated attendance records as far back as 2004.
Backers of a business-tax repeal lose hope;
Republican leadership in the Texas House of Representatives showed no signs of answering calls to repeal a controversial business income tax as part of a school funding solution.
Federal mortgage fraud case has Ellis County link;
the indictment of an Oak Leaf man in a federal mortgage fraud case was the first sign of a coming housing market collapse.
Cities’ gun ordinances examined post-Supreme Court ruling;
the United States Supreme Court affirming an individual’s right to bear arms made for an interesting examination of local cities’ ordinances, such as Ferris, which outlaws slingshots and AirSoft guns.
Secret room in Red Oak reveals massive pot operation;
A total of 150 marijuana plants were confiscated in what was one of the largest drug busts in the area. The plants were set to produce, police said, 40 to 50 pounds of pot.
Red Oak audit reveals stolen $7,800;
city officials uncover a $7,800 theft from city coffers.
Constable told deputy to stop mortgage fraud probe;
one week after Precinct 4 deputy constable Mike Jones resigned, he alleged his boss, Steve McKinney, of hampering an investigation into mortgage fraud in Midlothian.
Cedar Hill pastor arrested in Precinct 4 mortgage fraud case;
Jones’ investigation led to the arrest of a Cedar Hill pastor in a wide-ranging case involving straw buyers and the luxurious Midlothian Honeysuckle Estates subdivision.
Write-in candidate for sheriff backed Ledbetter, McKinney;
Susan Welch-Rodriguez, the write-in candidate for Ellis County sheriff, backed challengers James Ledbetter (April 8 run-off) and Steve McKinney.
CareFlite contract has officials, firemen at odds;
county commissioners’ contract with CareFlite for ambulance service stirred the passions and debate among the county’s rural fire district workers.
Elected officials’ 4% pay raise approved;
despite some taxpayer opposition, commissioners voted to increase their pay 4 percent.
First campaign finance reports released;
the fall election campaigns revealed a Who’s Who of campaign contributors, including the $250 donation made to Commissioner Heath Sims by 40th District Judge Gene Knize.
Mid-Way Regional Airport manager resigns;
amid numerous lawsuits, allegations of corruption and hazardous-built airport hangars, airport manager Cam Fearis resigned.
4% pay raise upsets taxpayers;
county commissioner pay raise infuriated taxpayers across the county; a controversial incident at Maypearl City Hall involving the police chief also made headlines.
Waxahachie residents allege city of ‘getting rid’ of them;
Residents of Waxahachie Creek RV Park allege the city and Mayor Ron Wilkinson of using a master plan for parks and trails as a pretext to "get rid of them."
Barton helps sink bailout bill;
the $700 billion financial bailout bill passed by Congress didn’t get help from Congressman Joe Barton, R-Ennis, who voted against it.
Controversy surrounds ex-Bardwell chief;
the former chief of police for Bardwell, Michael Chase Meissner, was forced to resign in the West Texas town of Hawley after allegations of corruption and attempts to destroy evidence.
Political forecast: Hurricane Obama makes landfall;
both major parties and their local operations braced for a historic election and a swell of new voters.
Commissioners vote 4-1 to bailout flood-prone homeowners;
in a local bailout of their own, county commissioners voted to use federal money to buy out two homeowners who live near creeks.
Suspects in southern Dallas diesel fuel theft caught;
elaborate mechanisms used to trick fuel pumps and in turn, make off with hundreds of dollars in fuel thefts, caught up to the suspects in a Wilmer operation.
Constitution Party fends off activist’s "misrepresentation," attempted "takeover."
The local CP organization and the state affiliate fought off attempts by former Ellis County campaign consultant Chuck Geshlider for misrepresenting roles he had in the party, as well as an attempt to utilize some political activists for a "takeover" of the Ellis County chapter.
Officers become federally deputized in IRS task force
; officers in neighboring cities are tapped to become federally deputized under a controversial IRS task force stationed at Midlothian Police Department.
Glenn Heights land speculation;
a property owner asked how a developer got by with requesting an empty lot surrounded by dirt roads in the City of Glenn Heights could go from $3,500 in appraised value to over $20,000.
Court clerk under Texas Rangers investigation;
the City of Italy’s municipal court clerk is put under investigation.
Check scam hits Ennis business;
an elaborate check scam using Maverick Metal’s logo and bank information criss-crossed the country.
Italy City Council mocks, ridicules ECP expose;
shortly after the audio and video equipment stopped, Italy’s city council mocked and ridiculed The Ellis County Press news coverage of the alleged corruption in the city.
Jurors deal blow to CPS case;
defense lawyer Mark Griffith said a recent trial in which Child Protective Services was defeated was a sign that future families could defeat the powerful agency.
Milford councilwoman’s comments create controversy;
Roseanne Lockhart’s statement calling Hispanic residents "undesirables" sparked an outcry in the city in southern Ellis County.