Article: Understanding US Politics in a Microcosm


by Elizabeth Jensen, PhD, PE

 

     A political truism should state: if you control the information to the voters, then you control the voters. This is a strong reason for why there are election laws; however, often these rules are ineffectively applied. An impressive example recently came up in a tiny neighborhood here in Texas which has universal applications. The summary is that an anonymous letter was sent to residents strongly supporting a slate of candidates for the neighborhood’s civic board. The letter included false statements regarding other residents in which everyone knew to whom the accusation was being leveled at (the community is small after all) [Reference 1]. Another candidate for the board also sent out a letter. Unlike the previous one, it was accurate, signed (acknowledging its author) and addressed similar issues of concern to the community. When the vote for the board was conducted, the results were 90 people voting for the slate of candidates on the anonymous letter and 30 for the responsible candidate. Sound familiar? It should.

     Now lets talk about the letter in Reference [1]. Such a document violates the spirit of Texas election law, should it apply to such a small semi-judicial organization. Advocating for a slate of candidates anonymously means that the source of the funding cannot be determined which is against our rules of open democracy. Additionally, the false statements [Reference 2] are not supported by any documentation and as the letter’s author is unknown, their intention cannot be determined. Did the author know the truth and publish the falsehood anyways? Of course in politics, free speech is paramount so the author may do this; however, as shown in Reference [3], the slate of recommended candidates knew that the statement was false, and I have no evidence of their setting the record straight. I do however have evidence of one of the candidates potentially illegally using his federal government email while making demands for private property to be handed over to a semi-judicial organization with which he was affiliated [Reference 4].

     Now Referee PAC has become an entity in this political farce through the fact that it undertook a research study on behalf of two residents in the community. As the neighborhood’s civic board at one point published its entire email list of residents to my business address [Reference 5], I granted myself permission to publish the results of this study, a crime analysis, to the residents [Reference 6] (a summary email regarding its processing is provided in Reference [11]). As there was no request for money, no statement in favor/against any candidate or issue, was topical to issues under frequent discussion by the residents [Reference 7], and reached less than 500 addresses, it was not only a legal but also an APPROPRIATE measure to take.

     Remember how I pointed out that the initial anonymous letter was in violation of the spirit of Texas election law? The response to my announcement of research results was met with the following statements [Reference 8]. Note that many of these individuals can be found in the initial discussion of the topic on Nextdoor in [Reference 7]. In fact, these residents didn’t stop there and began to call [Reference 9]; at this point their response could be considered border-line harassment. Again, in all of this, there are parallels to national politics. How did we get here? How is this behavior not only acceptable but rewarded? Notice that none of this is based in the traditional sport-themes of DEMs v REPs. This is non-partisan internal community politics acting out the behaviors and lack of ethics that we’ve seen nationally. Again, the provision of accurate data is attacked and rejected while anonymous sourcing of false allegations is welcomed and believed.

     We as a country have a serious problem in our very moral and ethical fiber.

     On a final note: depending on the reaction to this, I may post (a) the letter that was doctored to look like it was sent from the Sheriffs Office to residents (see Reference [10]) and (b) that the current civic board members may be in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act as well. As you’ll see in Reference [10], the implication is that the Sheriff’s Office provided official materials for the civic club to send to residents. To investigate details that were within the letter in contradiction to Harris County Attorney’s opinion regarding these contracts, I called, faxed in the letter when they couldn’t find it, and then was made aware that it wasn’t associated with the Sheriff’s Office.

References

[1] 
Anonymous Letter Pg 1

Anonymous Letter Pg 1

Anonymous Letter Pg 2

Anonymous Letter Pg 2

Anonymous Letter No Return Address

Anonymous Letter No Return Address

 

[2] 
Email Discussing Website Ownership

Email Discussing Website Ownership

 

[3] 
Website Email Addresses include Candidates

Notice that all of the candidates on the slate were on the email

List of Candidates that were aware the claim was false

Notice that all of the candidates on the slate were on the email

 

[4] Using a government email in the manner as shown, ordering Dr. Jensen to surrender the website that she owns, could be an abuse of authority.

 

[5] 
NHE Residents Email List Received

NHE Residents Email List Received

NHE Residents Email List Received

NHE Residents Email List Received

NHE Residents Email List Received

NHE Residents Email List Received

 

[6] 
NHE Official Crime Stats Email

NHE Official Crime Stats Email

NHE Crime Statistics

NHE Crime Statistics

 

[7] Nextdoor NHE Security Discussion

 

[8] 
From: "Roberson Jr., John Allen" 
To: info@refpac.org 
Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2017 02:14:59 +0000 (04/11/2017 09:14:59 PM)

Your personal use of NHE resident emails is unacceptable and possibly illegal. I will pursue this issue with friends in the DA's office in the morning.
If I receive any further emails from you I will consider it harassment and I will file charges against you.

Sent from my iPhone

> On Apr 11, 2017, at 9:11 PM, Referee PAC  wrote:
> 
> To include yourself in future NHE information emails, please reply:
> "include"
> 
>> On Tue, 2017-04-11 at 21:11 +0000, Roberson Jr., John Allen wrote:
>> How did you obtain my email address?
>> 
>> Sent from my iPhone

From: Amy Vance 
Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2017 13:21:29 -0500

REMOVE!!! 

It is wrong to obtain and use resident information without permission.

> On Apr 12, 2017, at 9:17 AM, Referee PAC  wrote:
> 
> To remove yourself from future NHE information emails, please reply:
> "remove"


On Wed, 2017-04-12 at 15:39 -0500, David N wrote:
> You don't live in our neighborhood get the hell out
> 
> Sent from my iPhone


Date: Wed, 12 Apr 2017 16:30:54 -0500
Subject: Re: NHE Official Crime Statistics
From: John S. Stiles 

Remove me from   your email list and do not ever send me email again or I will report you. Your email to me was unsolicited and not appreciated.

 

[9] Mr. Allen called and interrupted my responses at 9:05PM on April 11, 2017; when I hung up, he called back.

Ms. Vance called at 11:20AM on April 12, 2017 to demand information.

Mr. Niccum's spouse called and interrupted my responses at 5:18PM on April 12, 2017.  I ended up hanging up.

 

[10]
Civic Club Letter Appearing to be Official Sheriff's dept communication

Civic Club Letter Appearing to be Official Sheriff's dept communication, Pg 1

Civic Club Letter Appearing to be Official Sheriff's dept communication

Civic Club Letter Appearing to be Official Sheriff's dept communication, Pg 2

Civic Club Letter Appearing to be Official Sheriff's dept communication

Civic Club Letter Appearing to be Official Sheriff's dept communication, Envelope

[11]
Email organizing assistance

Email organizing assistance for processing the crime statistics, Pg 1

Email organizing assistance

Email organizing assistance for processing the crime statistics, Pg 2

The directions to my researcher were as follows:
  • Need to break down the _highlighted green_ [NHE streets] police calls as follows:
  • column 1: day of the week
  • column2: Description as either public outreach ("PO") or "help"
  • Column 3: Address
  • "PO" calls are almost entirely "meet the citizen", "information call", and some "vacation" check ups
  • "help" needs a breakdown into "internal" or "external"--"internal" is domestic violence, medical, welfare check, that sort of thing. "external" is criminal mischief, suspicious person, etc.
  • Finally, one last modification: looks like automatic alarms should get their own category in the PO/help-internal/help-external column.
  • So, column 2 options are: "public outreach", "help-external", "help-internal", and "alarm"
  • So, see how far you can get in five hours, and I'll see if I can pull together more funds for this analysis.
  • [on being requested for example]1st entry: Sunday, help-internal, andover
  • 2nd entry: Sunday, po, casper/lynwood
  • 3rd entry: mon,?,andover
  • 4th entry: wed,alarm,artesia
  • 5th entry:thurs,help-internal,bickett
  • 6th entry:thurs,help-internal,casper
  • [received affirmative response]cool. like "dist/other" could go internal or external, so if it's not clear, could just say "help-unknown" or something
  • Have no idea how to interp "terroristic thrt" either...prob help-internal knowing the neighborhood.
  • "traffic" is help-external
  • "neighborhood chk" is just "help-unknown" as well