News

Beleaguered police chief quits

By Ian White

RANDALL Aragon, the former La Marque police chief who quit two years ago to become top cop in Fairbank, Alaska, is out of a job after quitting amid accusations of abuse of his office.
The city issued a news release late on Monday that Aragon had tendered his resignation four days earlier, with his departure effective on Friday, October 30.

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He was not on active duty at the time, having been returned to gardening leave on October 25 by incoming mayor Jim Matherly after less than a week back in harness following reinstatement by outgoing mayor John Eberhart.
The reinstatement ended a month or so of paid administrative leave while city officials investigated a former police chief’s accusations that Aragon, left, had touted his services for a $600 contract to conduct a commercial security assessment that his officers could have provided free.
Eberhart called him back on October 19, three days after police sergeant Allen Brandt was shot five times in the city, reasoning that the department needed his leadership in its hour of crisis.
Matherly took the mayoralty from bitter rival Eberhart on October 24 and sent the chief home again one day later, arguing that his reinstatement had come too early because the investigation into his actions had not yet been completed.
Aragon, who wrote a popular column in The Post while at La Marque, threw in the towel in his hope of exoneration two days after that.
By horrible coincidence, his resignation came the day that Brandt, who had been released from hospital several days earlier, returned for scheduled surgery to remove shrapnel from an eye, an operation that led to complications from which he died on Sunday.
The shrapnel had pierced his eye when his body armor deflected one of the bullets with which he was shot. Reports suggest that his other injuries were to his legs.
The Post was still trying to reach Aragon for comment at press time on Friday. He had previously declined to say anything about the allegations against him during the investigation, promising a full statement on the matter at its conclusion. The Post understands that the city is still conducting the investigation despite his departure.

By Ian White

THE STATE’S supreme court was still waiting on Friday evening to post receipt of the last briefing document in county judge Mark Henry’s much-delayed case against senior Galveston district judge Lonnie Cox.
Houston attorney Terry Adams had until the court clerk’s office closed at 5:00pm to file a reply brief in his appeal on behalf of Henry and his fellow county commissioners in their argument with Cox about which of them has power over the county’s justice administration department.adams-terry-houston-attorney
The reply brief represents Adams’ right to respond to a brief in which Cox’s attorney, Galveston-based Mark Stevens, rebutted the commissioners’ argument that the court should review a lower appellate court’s ruling upholding a June 2015 decision against them by visiting judge Sharolyn Wood.
A court official told The Post at 5:15pm that no documentation had been posted but said that did not mean Adams, left, had not filed the paperwork and that it was entirely possible the court clerk’s office had yet to post its receipt.
In the case, the commissioners are arguing against Wood’s ruling that Henry should stand trial on contempt charges for failing to abide by orders in which Cox declared that Henry had illegally fired justice administration department director Bonnie Quiroga in July 2014 and that she should be reinstated.
The state’s first court of appeals, which sits in Houston, found that Wood had not erred in her ruling, leading the commissioners to petition the supreme court in February, since when Adams has proved a master of brinkmanship, repeatedly calling for extensions of time to state his case.
In the most recent example, on October 24 he asked for his reply-brief deadline to be extended by eight days from October 27 until Friday on the basis that his computer had died, irretrievably frying his work on the document.
It was his second request for an extended deadline for the reply brief, which was first due to be filed by October 10.

Former school board member convicted of defrauding frail elderly neighbor

By Ian White

CONTROVERSIAL former school trustee Shirley Fanuiel was due to be sentenced on Tuesday in a felony-theft case punishable by a prison sentence of up to 99 years.fanuiel-shirley-2014
Fanuiel, left, who was a trustee at La Marque independent school district for many years, was found guilty on Thursday of stealing real estate and an annuity together worth between $100,000 and $200,000 from near neighbor Wade Watkins, who was in his 80s and was suffering declining mental health.
Prosecuting counsel assistant district attorney Robert Buss told judge John Ellisor during a six-day bench trial in Galveston’s 122nd district court that Fanuiel, 67, had obtained a general power of attorney over Watkins, who was about 83 at the time, on June 22, 2009, and transferred ownership of his annuity to herself the same day.
Several weeks later, she obtained the deed to his home eight blocks from her own home at 1819 Rosalee Street, La Marque. Watkins, believed to have been a lifelong friend of her family, was made a ward of the county’s social services department in 2011 and died in 2013.
A spokesman for the DA’s office said on Monday: “According to the evidence presented, Shirley Fanuiel did nothing that benefited the victim after she obtained his annuity and home. The victim moved into an elderly friend’s home down the street before being taken to a doctor by a different friend during the summer of 2010. The doctor diagnosed the victim with advanced dementia and noted that the victim was totally incapacitated.”
The office’s major fraud section began an investigation into the matter after receiving a citizen’s complaint and the defendant was indicted in her full name of Shirley Ann Fanuiel in March 2014.
According to the DA’s office, the range of punishment for first-degree felony theft begins at five years and also includes probation.
The office did not give Watkins’ address but the central appraisal district shows that Fanuiel owns 2622 Rosalee, in the block where he was said to have lived by prosecutors at the time of her indictment. According to the appraisal district, she owns a further seven properties in the city in addition to her home.
Fanuiel first joined the school board in 1995 and soon made enemies of other members, notably Don Singleton, as well as former College Of The Mainland board chair Bennie Mathews and the chamber of commerce’s late president Jimmy Hayley, for her outspoken views.
She also had a checkered membership history, first failing to complete her re-election application in 2012 and running into another re-election glitch last year. On the first occasion, she was reappointed by the board after no one else stood for her seat. It appears that, in 2015, a procedural misunderstanding caused her absence from another re-election ballot but, in any case, by then the board was months from being
dissolved by the state’s education commissioner.
In her professional life, she was for many years one of three economists in the planning and regulatory department at the Galveston branch of the US Army Corps Of Engineers.
While there, she was the subject of a protracted dispute in which an officer responsible for signing her time sheets refused to do so citing unwillingness to be terminated for corroborating fraudulent documents after noticing that, on many days, Fanuiel spent several hours out of the office while claiming to be present and working.

Wait for it … you’ve surely guessed – yet another delay in county’s supreme court case

By Ian White

THE ATTORNEY representing county judge Mark Henry and his fellow commissioners in their case against district judge Lonnie Cox has won yet another delay in putting his argument to the state’s supreme court – and this time it’s for the hoariest old excuse in the post-typewriter age, a computer glitch.
After a string of excuses including a past dental appointment, a post-deadline long weekend and moving to a new firm while somehow remaining at the same desk, Houston lawyer Terry Adams once again asked the court for more time to prepare his paperwork in the case pitting the county’s executive and judiciary against each other.adams-terry-houston-attorney
Adams, left, took the case, in which the county’s law-court judges and executive officers are at loggerheads over who should run the Galveston justice center’s administration department, to the supreme court early this year after the state’s first court of appeals upheld a ruling against his clients that was handed down by visiting judge Sharolyn Wood in June last year.
Adams wrote to the supreme court late on Monday afternoon, saying his office computer had died at the weekend and destroyed all the work he had done preparing his clients’ case so far – the hi-tech equivalent of the errant schoolboy’s pathetic last-ditch “dog ate my homework” bid to foil a teacher’s deadline.
It seems the justices are somewhat more lenient than the not-so-gullible average teacher, however, and on Tuesday they granted Adams an eight-day extension of time in which to file his final paperwork in the case from Thursday’s previous deadline until Friday, November 4.
It was the second time this month Adams had requested an extended deadline. On October 7, he cited work in another supreme-court case when asking for his time to be extended from October 10 to Thursday’s October 27 deadline.
He had already persuaded the court three times to grant him extra time to prepare paperwork in the case, successfully presenting delay motions on April 29 for 15 extra days from May 3 to May 18, on July 11 for 35 days from July 18 to August 22 and on August 18 for 16 days from August 22 to September 7.
Those requests delayed his major document, his brief on the merits of the case, while the subsequent requests are holding up the justices’ receipt of his reply to the merits brief of his opponent, Galveston attorney Mark Stevens, who is representing Cox.
This time, Adams wrote: “The requested extension of time is necessary because the undersigned experienced a serious computer and external hard-drive malfunction this past Saturday afternoon when the power went off at his law firm which caused him to lose the current version of the reply brief on the merits that he has been working on diligently. The undersigned has not been able to retrieve the brief and he has been working hard to reconstruct the brief to the point where it was before being able to move forward.”
In the past, Stevens has usually objected to Adams’ delaying tactics but this time he did not do so.
In an exclamation of exasperation, he reacted with the line: “Backup files, anybody?”

New mayor kicks cop out of city hall for second suspension

By Ian White

FORMER mid-county top cop Randall Aragon is back on gardening leave after a change of mayors in his Alaska city.
The former chief of La Marque’s police department had spent just four business days back at his desk after then Fairbanks mayor John Eberhart called him back from suspension on allegations of abuse of his office.

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Aragon, left, who left La Marque in November 2014 to lead the Fairbanks police department, had been on paid administrative leave since September while the city investigated a previous police chief’s accusation that he had tried to obtain a $600 contract to perform security-assessment work his officers could have performed at no charge to an unnamed businesswoman who had requested the service.
In the meantime, his deputy, Brad Johnson, took charge of the department.
Eberhart reinstated Aragon on Wednesday, October 19, in the wake of the nonfatal shooting of a police sergeant and the arrival in town of some 4,500 Native Alaskan conferees, saying the department needed his leadership.
But Eberhart was in his last week as mayor and was replaced on Monday by a bitter rival, councilmember Jim Matherly, who had beaten him in the city’s municipal elections on October 4.
On Tuesday, Matherly sent Aragon home again as the investigation into the allegations against him are not yet complete.
“I thought it was a little premature to bring him back, considering the investigation isn’t complete,” he was reported as saying by local newspaper The Daily News Miner.
The city’s personnel director, Angela Foster-Snow, who is conducting the investigation, issued a statement on Tuesday, saying: “Chief Aragon will remain on administrative leave until a final report has been received and a determination has been made by the mayor and the city council as to the outcome of the investigation.
“Deputy chief Brad Johnson will resume the role of acting chief during this absence.”
Aragon told The Post last week that he will not comment fully on the issue until it is resolved.
• Last week’s report misstated that Eberhart was up for re-election on November 8. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by that inadvertent error.