Haltom City Fire PAC Investigates Facebook Posters and Commenters, Even Posting Their Water Bills Illegally for All to Review
HALTOM CITY, TX, June 15, 2022 /24-7PressRelease/ — Haltom United Business Alliance reports new members joining monthly amid growing concern by the business community in Haltom City that their anonymity is a high priority. What started with just a handful of business owners in early 2021 concerned about how hard it was to come to or operate a business in Haltom city has grown to dozens of dues-paying members, with membership increasing 10% per month the last 2 months.
Their newest concern is maintaining being un-named as members in the face of personal attacks by the Haltom City Firefighters Committee for Responsible Government, the firefighters PAC. During the recent election cycle, the group’s apparent leader Jason Steele made numerous requests under the open records act, requesting water bills, code violations, and also from government agencies for arrest and conviction records.
He proceeded to post the documents he obtained in Facebook groups, including the HCFCRG site and HCPTP. HCPTP is owned by Tiffany Chandler, a Haltom City council person, and one of the administrators of the page is Eric Morris, another council person elected in the last election who was supported by the PAC.
The PAC isn’t afraid of confrontation or breaking the rules when someone comments negatively on any of their social media posts or their comments, Steele, often immediately, makes an open records request for all their city records, code violations, residents at a given address, even their water bills. He recently unlawfully posted the water bills to show that a city council candidate had paid bills late.
Also, he requests all the Department of Transportation and police records. He’s not afraid to post arrest records, even when an individual was not convicted, and then call them a criminal, as he recently did with Nicole Neyra, a candidate the PAC didn’t support. It’s no wonder that the members of the business alliance don’t want to be identified, so the Fire PAC can sic the code enforcement officer on them. “It’s not clear if his ties with the law enforcement community afford him access to records not commonly available to others,” said Joe Palmer, HUBA’s Director of Communications.
The PAC reports donating thousands of dollars supporting candidates and initiatives, but it is very critical of anyone who doesn’t support its candidates and has referred to HUBA as a special interest group. HUBA is indeed a special interest group, as is the PAC, and over the past year has lobbied on behalf of the business community for less regulation in the city to help revitalize the southern and central parts of the city.
The Firefighters PAC’s web page lists as its officers Thomas Anderson, President; John Summers, Vice President 1; Jayson Steele, Vice President 2; Josh Waits, Vice President 3; and Chris Anderson, Secretary. It’s not readily apparent which of the officers of the PAC approved or participated in the illegal posting of an individual’s water bills and shut off notices. Mr. Steele highlighted in that post the number of times Nichol Neyra had had her water turned off, paid late, and even the usage.
Texas House Bill 872 H.B. 872 was recently passed by the state legislature and became law. This new law keeps water bill information, including shut off information completely confidential from public disclosure. The open records request for this information was delivered by email to the city secretary, and cc’d to Rex Phelps, Haltom City’s City Manager. City managers typically approve or deny such requests, often after checking with the city’s legal counsel.
“It’s not clear how Jason Steele’s role as a fireman in Haltom City influences his ability to obtain reports on people from various law enforcement agencies and other city departments, or why he cc’d the City Manager,” says Ron Sturgeon, one of the few business persons in the alliance willing to speak about the matter. Sturgeon adds, “It seems, in his current role leading the PAC, Steele can say or do as he pleases, whether his actions are lawful, ethical or not, acting with impunity, perhaps even acting in concert with city officials. Also, it seems doubtful that all records requests are cc’d to the City Manager.”
Additionally, Steele posted addresses and maps of the children of candidates on social media to “prove” that they didn’t live in Haltom City. The pattern of posting personal, and in many cases, nonpublic information is disconcerting.
Steele has had scrapes with cities before, losing a lawsuit with the city of Southlake (No. 02–11–00229–CV.) In that case, which Steele brought against the police department alleging that he had been wrongfully terminated, he lost. He then appealed and lost again. Southlake Chief of Police Goolsby stated as part of the proceedings: “The most significant charges against [Steele] that I thought should be sustained were the charges involving his untruthfulness․ I thought those charges were the most important because there was no doubt that [Steele] had been untruthful.” The court found that Steele was not truthful or credible, and that he had sent emails posing as others. The court noted, “the fact that [Steele] intended to deceive the Department and interfere with or prevent the Department from finding out the identity of the sender of the email.” The court found his behavior unbecoming of a police officer.
HUBA has confirmed to its members that their names will not be disclosed without their prior written consent. To date, none have been interested in disclosing their membership, out of fear of retaliation from the police or fire department or city staff including code enforcement. HUBA is hopeful the Fire PAC will act as a better corporate citizen in the future, and that it will let the election process work as lawfully intended.
About Haltom City
Haltom City is a medium-sized city between Dallas and Fort Worth in Tarrant County, TX. The city is diverse and majority working class, with a growing population that is approximately 10% Asian-American and 45% Hispanic. Haltom City benefits from being only minutes from both DFW Airport and Downtown Fort Worth, with direct access to major highways including I-820 and SH-121. Small businesses that have historically provided products, services, and jobs to residents included a once thriving automotive industry. The city has seen a decline in small businesses, especially automotive businesses. The city is healthy financially, with median household income growing around 8% in the past year. Haltom City has an opportunity for continued growth through undeveloped land and many vacant buildings, especially in major corridors close to the city’s center. The city has good staff and a city manager who is interested in seeing more businesses come to Haltom City, but they can only do as directed by City Council.
About Haltom United Business Alliance
Haltom United Business Alliance (HUBA) wants to give members of Haltom City’s business community an advocate and to keep those businesses informed about issues that affect them. They want to make sure Haltom City is business friendly and nurtures small business growth, including automotive businesses, and bring more restaurants including breweries and a major grocery store to the city. New businesses and growth in existing businesses will create a stronger tax base which will allow the city to pay its first responders wages that are competitive with surrounding cities while improving Haltom City’s facilities and infrastructure. HUBA believes that the southern and central parts of the city need a revitalization plan, to prevent further degradation in those areas, and wants that to happen before the inner-city experiences increased crime and more blight. As retail and office uses are in decline, its more critical than ever to attract new businesses. They believe that such a plan requires a strong relationship and support of the business community. Anyone who owns a business in Haltom City is eligible to join HUBA. Dues are $20 annually or $50 for a lifetime membership, and membership is 100% confidential. To join, contact Joe Palmer at (682) 310-0591 or by email at [email protected]. Visit the group’s Facebook at Haltom United Business Alliance.
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