-Article as posted by the Brookshire Times-Tribune
Waller County District Attorney Breaks Silence – Details Alleged Conspiracy to Hide Landfill from the Public
-March 15, 2015
For four long years, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis held his tongue. Even in September of 2013, when the County Engineer Orval Rhoads accused him of telling county officials to keep the 15 story Highway 6 landfill deal a secret from the public.
Mathis now admits that false revelations made his life a “living hell” because so many townspeople turned on him.
Mathis was required under state law to keep lawyer-client communications confidential and even though he asked to be released from his legal obligation, former County Judge Beckendorff and the now ousted commissioners would never let Mathis tell his story. Mathis has now been freed of that obligation by the new Commissioners Court and Mathis is exposing the conspiracy of silence and false statements that so many Hempstead residents have suspected.
Mathis says he never believed Judge Beckendorff was ever against the landfill. In July of 2011 Beckendorff told a packed audience he only found out about the landfill in May after the company had applied for a permit and was obligated to keep the deal a secret because of a confidential agreement. That was Beckendorff’s story before Dolcefino Consulting proved through phone records he had been talking with the landfill bosses for months before he claimed he even knew about the landfill.
Beckendorff then claimed he was trying to keep the landfill company from coming. Beckendorff told the same story under oath to a Waller County jury and kept it a secret because of an agreement with the landfill. The DA now says he has no knowledge of any such agreement.
Mathis clearly suggests Beckendorff wasn’t telling the truth to the public from the start. Mathis says Beckendorff told him early in 2011 a business worth a “lot of money” was coming to the South End of Waller County but didn’t bother to mention at first it was a landfill. Mathis assumed the negotiations were for tax abatement. Mathis claims when he did find out it was a proposed landfill he was told it was being put by “Odis Styers place”, far away from town and out by a Superfund site. Styers was a County Commissioner at this time. Mathis says he was not told until May that the landfill is coming to Hempstead and is “shocked and angry” but obligated under law to remain silent.
“I feel confused and betrayed and can’t understand why Odis Styers, who is supposedly my friend and commissioner would allow this to happen, not just to Hempstead, but to my family. The DA’s parents own property near the landfill’s site.
On September 9, 2013 Mathis first confided to his staff at the District Attorney’s office in an email now obtained by Dolcefino Consulting.
“It may be a rough road this week. Ole Wayne Dolcefino has me in his signts.”
The Mathis e-mails may spell big trouble for County Engineer Orval Rhoads. Rhoads claimed Mathis advised him and Judge Beckendorff to keep a planned visit to a Georgia landfill a secret in early 2011, and even showed them how to do it. Mathis disputes that story and says he was asked by Rhoads and Beckendorff if it was ok for the landfill people to pay for them to fly to see another landfill they owned. Mathis says he advised them the trip was legal if the, “Landfill company gave the money to the court publicly and the court agrees to the travel as a donation to the county.” Mathis says Beckendorff and Rhoades didn’t like the answer and decided to pay their own way. Mathis says Rhoads asked him about making the trip on a holiday and “I did tell them to save their receipts in case at some point in the future it could be reimbursed.” Rhoads and Styers made the trip, but kept it a secret from the public. Neither has ever turned over their receipts proving they paid for the trip. Mathis says he was still “in the dark” about any plans for the landfill coming to Hempstead at this point.
Mathis says after the landfill deal became public he had a heart to heart talk with the former County Judge and encouraged Beckendorff to oppose the landfill and believed “the people would forgive him if he tried to do the right thing now.”
The revelations will likely add fuel to continuing calls for a real criminal investigation into the landfill deal, including whether any county officials gave false tetimony to a Waller jury. Taxpayers are being forced to make about three quarters of a million dollars in restitution for the violations of the Texas Public Information Act and Teas Open Meetings Act by the former Waller County Commissioners Court.
Early this month, commissioners fired the law firm that helped fight public information act requests by Dolcefino Consulting and others.
Dolcefino Consulting was stymied in efforts to obtain e-mails from former Commissioner Styers and Rhoads. Another former county employee involved in the early landfill dealings was Robin German. She claimed many of her e-mails were destroyed by a computer virus. German worked for Beckendorff early 2011 before becoming the county election official. German and Beckendorff exchanged hundreds of text messages, many late at night, but the content of those messages has never been made public.
Dolcefino Consulting continues our investigation into this landfill scandal.
“This landfill should never be built and the Texas Commission on Environment Quality should do the right thing and stop it,” says Dolcefino Consulting President Wayne Dolcefino. “This huge pile of trash will be horrible for the environment, and we now know this deal stinks in more ways than one. The TCEQ has a chance to send a message about transparency and integrity. A lot of people are watching.”