Complaint Filed With DA Accuses Arcola Mayor Of Running City 'Like A Bank'
by FortBob
May 10, 2006 | 807 views | 1 1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A candidate for Arcola City Council has filed a complaint with the Fort Bend County District Attorney's office accusing Arcola Mayor Alvin Gipson of illegally extending credit to city employees on behalf of the city.

Council candidate Tom Hilton says in the May 3 complaint that former Arcola police chief Donald Chaney, who just tendered his resignation to the city, requested a $1,000 advance on his paycheck on March 6, and requested a $500 advance on April 3.

According to documents filed with the complaint, Gipson approved both requests, and a third - for a $400 paycheck advance by another city employee. Gipson did not return phone calls for comment on Wednesday. Chaney could not be reached for comment.

Hilton said his complaint "has nothing to do with politics; it has to do with the law." Mayor Gipson "is treating the city like a bank."

"It's against the law for a city to extend credit," Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey said Wednesday. "So if the city was giving someone an advance on their paycheck, that's improper; that's illegal."

It's the second such complaint Hilton has filed against Gipson in two years. On March 16, 2005, Hilton filed a complaint with Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright, in which he accused Gipson of authorizing "pre-payment" of then-city administrator Albert Tibbs Jr.'s monthly salary for November and December of 2004, and January of 2005.

Tibbs began working for the city in November and left in mid-January, after the city pre-paid his entire month's salary, Hilton said, adding that neither Wright nor Healey acted on the 2005 complaint.

However, Healey said Wednesday that if such a payroll advance were made in the past in Arcola and has happened again, "I think an investigation should take place."

The 2005 complaint against Tibbs may have further implications.

The City of Arcola was put into receivership - roughly the governmental equivalent of bankruptcy - from 1992 until 2001, after it failed to meet debt obligations to the Texas Water Development Board.

Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert, who acted as receiver on behalf of the state, said Arcola had about $3 million in claims against it by debtors, but only about $35,000 in the bank.

Hebert recalled that some of the claims with the city were "worthless," but "all the valid claims were paid off dollar for dollar."

During the receivership, city officials weren't allowed to meet, "there was no mayor or city council," and there were no city services, Hebert said.

The city not only defaulted on obligations to the state water board, but also on federal grants used to begin building a wastewater collection and treatment system.

The system wasn't completed, because the city stopped paying the contractor, who left the job. "It was working, but it had never been finished or accepted. But they just turned it on." Hebert recalled.

"It was a real disaster area. Why nobody was ever indicted is beyond me," Hebert said. "The FBI took all the records" because money was owed on federal grants. But they never took legal action.

After nine years, the city was able to fix the wastewater system, and raised enough tax revenue to pay off its debts, with a surplus in the bank. Hebert requested the receivership be lifted. However, to do so, the city had to meet certain state requirements.

"They were required to hire a city administrator," Hebert said. "They were required to hire a private operating company to operate the wastewater treatment plant."

Hilton said the city administrator's position required someone with at least five years of experience administering a city. But on Nov. 10, 2004, Gipson "hired a Baptist minister with zero years of experience."

Tibbs, who has moved out of the area and could not be reached for comment, resigned in January of 2005 "because he got tipped off that I was going to reveal" he had no experience as a city administrator, Hilton said.

In his complaint to Wright, Hilton calculated that Tibbs quit Jan. 18, but had been pre-paid by Gipson for the whole month of January and thus owes the city $2,311.20. He said Tibbs never repaid the money.

Also, Hilton said, Arcola never has hired a city administrator to replace Tibbs - so it has been out of compliance with the terms by which the state of Texas released it from receivership, for more than a year.

"They have these laws and these requirements," Hilton said, "but no one's minding the store."
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May 15, 2008
Finally Arcola City has hired an Administrator 2007 and future improvements to be made. Good to see that 2008 May election voters defeated former mayor Alvin Gibson(CAND.) to prohibit misleadership or city bankruptcy.
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