DeSoto Residents Share Concerns About City Council’s Processes

Mayor Proctor listens to City Manager Brandon Wrights reply concerning the fraud hotline procedure. Photo from Council meeting webcast

At last night’s DeSoto City Council meeting, public comments centered around issues and concerns regarding leadership and transparency. There were three speakers, a concerned resident, a candidate for Place 2 City Council and the former Councilmember Kay Brown-Patrick.

The first speaker, Ms. Murchison addressed council regarding two items, the first being Nance Farms. She discussed procedures which should be followed before anything is done regarding historical sites such as Nance Farm. She said it was her opinion that such procedures were not followed.

She said council set up a committee comprised of only council members and not people from the community as well so there was no community input. “And then you eliminated the Historical Foundation,” she said. “I would appreciate it if you would follow the procedures that are in place with the State of Texas.”

In reviewing the January 3rd, Texas Historical Foundation Board meeting when this was discussed, City Manager Wright explained that while the Historical Foundation was being terminated, a larger new foundation would be formed. They would create a cultural arts and history committee and be establishing a new foundation. He was saying while the city would be terminating one, it was creating something “bigger and better to allow new grant monies to flow into it.” Councilperson Raphiel moved and Marks seconded to approve this and a vote was unanimous to approve moving it to the consent agenda where it was passed later that evening in the council meeting by a 6-0 margin.

The second item Ms. Murchison addressed was in reference to the arches which are planned for the parks. “According to the information that was provided by the architects that are doing it, they said and I quote – I was at the meeting (January 26 public engagement town hall meeting) – ‘he was selected because of his affinity with the Black Lives Matter’. He also told me that the basic theme was Black Lives matter that was stated at the meeting.”

“My response that was ‘That’s unfortunate.’ According to the icons that I saw on that handout that was provided everyone does not know what some of them mean. I do. I’d like you to revisit that.”

“Also, finally, you want to put up a sign,” Ms.Murchison continued. “The sign that I suggest the city puts up is ‘DeSoto, welcomes criminals and criminal activity.” At this point, she was told her time had concluded.

The next person to speak in citizens comments was former Place 2 councilmember Kay Brown-Patrick. She began by saying “I come to you today with my hat … of concerned citizen on my hat – particularly around transparency and integrity in processes. On January 10th, the city received a allegation to the city fraud hotline pertaining to Mayor Proctor. The question was regarding ticket sales for an event, a real estate transaction that took place with a developer that come before council on numerous occasions and then alleged business financial exchange that’s attached to the developer according to that claim. That was submitted on January 10th. Those claims go to city management and to the mayor. Council was not informed of those claims.”

She continued, “On January 19th, the resident sent council an email notifying us that she had been trying to get responses to her claims since October of 2022 and had not received a response and so therefore went through the fraud hotline and did not receive a response and felt again compelled to notify council.

On January 20th we received an email from a resident that is well known to council and in the community pertaining, asking questions, about whether or not Mayor Proctor was eligible to run for the special election for Mayor in 2021. That email also included links and documents that allegedly supported that claim. Council, if not for that email, would not have been notified about the claim.

My statement is today about the change in conflict of interest in the processes of how the claims are submitted and received … so they are received by the city manager and the mayor council is not made privy to that. We’ve seen it recently in my case, how timely and expeditiously the process took place and how many days it took.

Now, I’m looking at one month and there has not been one special meeting, one executive session, and council has been inundated with emails from this resident about why she is not getting a response to her emails and in that those responses asked why the city manager was not responding … and his response was we don’t respond to the citizens that make the claim. That needs to change as well. You all know how to reach me in response to the answer to my questions. Thank you for your time.”

Mayor Proctor then asked City Manager Wright if he would like to respond in regard to where the claim or where the response to the fraud hotline complaints go – provide facts for that?

CM Wright responded, “The City operates a fraud hotline. The purpose of that is to provide an opportunity for anonymous tips to come in … Anyone actually, employees of the organization, members of the public, can go ahead and submit fraud complaints to the city. When those emails come in they are – they come in to a group of individuals – I myself am not on that list – I believe that the mayor’s email is on there, one of the deputy city managers, the finance director as well, are on the receiving end of those emails so that they can be properly reviewed and investigated,” he responded. “I‘ll go on to say all claims that come in are reviewed. They are analyzed. Findings are produced from those documents. There is absolutely a process for receiving those filed complaints, reviewing those complaints, and then, with the appropriate parties producing the results of those filed complaints.”

“If it involves an employee for example, the organization at large is not made aware of that. The supervisor and management and things of … are kind of brought into that loop to properly address those situations. That’s the general process that we use,” Wright concluded.

Mayor Proctor responded, “Just speaking to the one that was brought up in particular by Miss Brown-Patrick, I did not receive the complaint. So, that did not come to me as he mentioned that I am on the receiving end as are other members in terms of creating a system of checks and balances for the fraud hotline. I did not even receive the complaint that came in in regard to her complaint that she made mentioned. As well, I did not receive those because we do have a system of checks and balances for that very reason. – of staff as well as council members that are part of that .”

Mayor Proctor continued, “There are also two additional council members that are part of the audit and finance committee which oversees the fraud line. For again, those particular reasons, to make sure that there is always a system of checks and balances. We want to provide facts in terms of what’s happening … There has been, as even in her instance, there was a reasonable amount of time given for her to provide a response as was I given a reasonable amount of time to actually provide a response to those complaints.

City Manager Wright or City Attorney, Gorfida, either one of you can respond to this in terms of responses that are given to individuals that submit something because the fraud hotline is designed to be anonymous so the city does not provide responses back to individuals who provide information through the fraud hotline. If you want to speak more to that to clarify?”

The next citizen comment was from Gilbert Graim. Mr. Graim said “A city elected official means that your neighbors and piers trust you to be our voice behind doors we can’t enter – to light the torch when we have no light or in dark times – to uphold integrity in times when it’s easy to go with the flow, and to lower self for the betterment of the city as a whole. I watched some of you all as availability changed after you all was elected. I’ve even been ignored by some of you when I reached out to the numbers provided on the city website.

Lastly, I’ve read many posts from concerned, frustrated and confused residents go unanswered while our words continue to fall on deaf ears. In the last several council meetings, and even tonight, I’ve witnessed discord. I’ve seen responses from one member to another be overly passive aggressive and irritable.

I want to go on record and say this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘We need leaders not in love with money, but in love with justice. Not in love with publicity, but in love with humanity. Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the pressing urgencies of the cause of freedom. A time like this demands great leaders.’ Those words brought tears to my eyes because when they were spoken, the people in charge did not look like me. But today they do. I want to tell you, each of you, a time like this demands great leaders,” Graim concluded.