There’s something odd about Donald Trump’s Facebook page

“Donald Trump is running for president, and whatever you think of his chances of picking up votes, few candidates trump The Donald on social media.

“Yet there’s something strange about a lot of his online fans. Only 42% of Trump’s 1.7 million followers on Facebook are American, while most come from developing nations including the Philippines, Malaysia, India, South Africa, Indonesia, and Colombia, a Vocativ analysis shows.” | Click here for Business Insider article.


Lubbock County Auditor Office Enjoys Breakfast of Champions

Wander up to the seventh floor of the Lubbock County Courthouse annex some morning and you may encounter the aroma of sausage and eggs and find Lubbock County Auditor office employees enjoying the breakfast of champions.

According to Lubbock County Auditor Jackie Latham the meals are the result of a grateful part-time employee.

“[She] is like a seasonal employee that works for us…She kind of just, you know, just as a 'thank you' for her job and 'I’m glad that I work here and can I help ya’ll out.' And so she stirs up breakfast and kind of makes breakfast burritos on Friday morning for everyone that’s here. And so she kind of just mixes it up [sic],” says Latham.

Latham received a 6.6% "merit" raise last year; the largest in the county.

Sandstorm Scholar asked the Lubbock County Auditor if the employee/chef prepares these breakfasts while on the taxpayer’s time?

“She does,” answered Latham. "It’s possible that some of her time might be spent while she’s on the clock."

Can anyone think of a better way to show your gratitude? Or to endear yourself to your boss?

Latham is quick to point out that while the meal is prepared in the office break room, which is fully equipped with all necessary kitchen appliances, and on county time, the county does not pay for the food.

“I think that…everybody will give two or three dollars maybe. Or, I think some of them have, like, brought some of the food. It’s kind of like a pot luck thing sometimes,” explains the Lubbock County Auditor.

What’s worse than spending money like a drunken county commissioner? Spending it like a judge who has no accountability to the budget.

Indeed County Auditor Latham, who is responsible for reviewing financial procedures for all other departments at the county, can afford to pay for the food. The county auditor, who is hired by the Board of Judges, is the second highest paid Lubbock County employee, making more than any county employee except the medical examiner.

That should not come as a surprise since her salary is set by the Board of Judges also; a group that has no responsibility for balancing the county budget.

What’s worse than spending money like a drunken county commissioner? Spending it like a judge who has no accountability to the budget.

Some elected officials have derogatorily described County Auditor Latham as a "fifth commissioner." The auditor is, occasionally, a fierce watchdog over taxpayer money. That seems particularly true if a proposed expenditure does not benefit her. In last summer's budget meetings, commissioners suggested making a much needed contribution to the employee Health Savings Accounts. Latham, who chooses not to participate in the county health insurance, responded, “Are you going to cut me a check for that same amount since I'm not on the county insurance?"

We're surprised she didn't say, "Let them eat breakfast."

We're surprised she didn't say, "Let them eat breakfast."

Don't you love selfless public servants? We note that while county employees did not receive the HSA contribution, and received a mere 1.97% cost of living raise, Latham received a 6.6% "merit" raise last year; the largest in the county. In real numbers that was an increase from $119,084.94 to $127,000.

But let’s not exaggerate her importance: while apparently more valuable than almost every county elected official or employee, the county auditor does not, of course, make more money than the judges.

We don’t judge Latham too harshly. Some people are just, well, special.

And, after all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.


Hockley Co DA Challenger Richard Husen Admits $135,000 Federal Tax Liens

Richard Husen, Republican challenger for Hockley County District Attorney, answered questions from the Sandstorm Scholar Wednesday and admitted he has in excess of $135,000 in federal tax liens. Husen, former Levelland City Attorney, is running against incumbent District Attorney Chris Dennis.

The five federal tax liens filed against Husen by the Internal Revenue Service cover tax years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012 and 2013 totaling $135,793.83. The liens were filed during a period from 12/29/2014 through 3/2/2015. The liens are for 1040 taxes, i.e., individual income taxes.

Husen said that the liens were the result of his double reporting certain income which he earned as Levelland City Attorney and deposited into his law partnership account. That income, reported on a W-2, was reported twice, according to Husen.

Husen: "I did not deem it relevant to the issues that are facing the district attorney's office."

Husen served as city attorney for 30½ years before retiring in 2015. He said the tax liens had nothing to do with his departure from the city of Levelland position. Husen said he and his accountant have filed amended returns correcting the income number.

"Since we discovered that the amount of income being reported was actually substantially in excess of what was earned we have filed amended returns, both partnership and individual, for each one of those years. And since that time the amount that we have paid to the IRS is everything that we believe that was owed including interest. Right now it is my understanding that what the IRS is doing is going back and reconciling what I have paid with what would have been properly reported," said Husen.

We asked Husen if the pressure of owing the federal government $135,000 created a vulnerability which criminal elements might seek to exploit?

"I don't agree that it creates a vulnerability operating the DA office because this concerns years well prior to my taking office. As far as I know most if not all of the amount owed has been paid. I don't agree that this creates any pressure or vulnerability from anyone who I would be in office prosecuting," responded Husen.

Sandstorm Scholar contacted incumbent District Attorney Chris Dennis for comment.

Dennis: "I don't care how you slice it, a need that large creates a vulnerability. To say otherwise kind of ignores common sense."

"I certainly think that type of exposure creates a certain type of need; and I don't care how you slice it, a need that large creates a vulnerability. To say otherwise kind of ignores common sense so far as I'm concerned," said District Attorney Dennis.

When asked if he disclosed the issue as part of the campaign Husen said he had not. null "I did not deem it relevant to the issues that are facing the district attorney's office that prompted me to announce my candidacy," said Husen.

Dennis disagrees. "It tends to indicate there are some management issues that might need to be examined," said the District Attorney.

Dennis said he manages a $485,216 annual budget.

What issues prompted Husen to run?

"The issues that are important and becoming more and more important are the number of cases pending. At any different time they have been increasing. They file 25 – 30 felonies a month but are only disposing of half that number."

Sandstorm Scholar asked if the District Judge had primary responsibility for managing the court docket?

Husen agreed that he does, but added, "The judge is somewhat limited to whether the DA is ready to try cases."

Husen offered no evidence that DA Dennis has not been ready to try cases.

Dennis says he is proud of his ability to move cases.

District Attorney Dennis responded to Husen's allegation saying, "There is an increase in cases filed. Crime is increasing. I dispute the idea that only half that number are being moved. That isn't true."

Dennis says he is proud of his ability to move cases and pointed to the Texas Courts website to validate his claim.

The website document, called Performance Measures, says, "A court should have a minimum goal of achieving a civil backlog index of 1.0 or less. On average, criminal cases should be disposed more quickly than major civil cases, so courts should maintain a lower backlog index for criminal cases than civil cases."

The accompanying document ranking the Hockley Co. District Court for fye 2015 shows a backlog rate of .6 for criminal cases. This suggests the court is operating effectively.

Early voting for the Republican Primary continues through Friday. The Primary Election takes place Tuesday March 1. Both candidates appear on the Republican Primary ballot.

Richard Husen Tax Liens

8-District-Performance-measures-PDF

10-Performance-Measure-Definitions


Will the Real Michael Bob Starr Please Stand Up?

It’s time for the real Michael Bob Starr to stand up and let us know who he is and what his record is.

Every other candidate in the Congressional District 19 race is from Texas. They have spent all or most of their lives in this district. Their footprints are easy to find. One owns a bank whose books are published in the public record. At least three hold professional licenses from the state. Any discipline meted out against them is in the public domain. Others are business people with lengthy history in the district.

It’s time we were allowed to look beyond the spit and polish.

But Michael Bob Starr is a stranger. He’s only recently become a Texas resident. We’ve found no record that he even owns property in Texas. Never has.

Of all the candidates, Michael Bob Starr is a mystery. Who recruited him to run? Who is supporting him? Even that last question is a secret for Michael Bob Starr. Starr is the beneficiary of dark money by way of a Super PAC organized to funnel money from unknown donors into a campaign to support him.

We call on Michael Bob Starr to release his military personnel record.

Starr is the classic carpetbagger. No one really knows who he is. He hopes to take advantage of a short election cycle and the cumbersome federal laws regarding the disclosure of contributors to do an end run on West Texas before voters wake up and start asking questions.

It’s time we were allowed to look beyond the spit and polish. Stop hiding behind the flag and the men and women of Dyess Air Force Base and show us who you are.

We call on Michael Bob Starr to release his military personnel record unredacted except where national security is compromised. The former colonel should release all military performance reviews, fitness reports, disciplinary actions, reprimands and commendations. In addition, Colonel Starr should ask that the Super PAC “Conservative Texans” immediately release the names and amounts of all donors. Enough secrecy.

We’d like to know why Starr wasn’t going to get his star.

There’s one thing you can be reasonably certain about an officer who retires at the rank of Colonel: he was never going to get a general’s star or he’d have stayed in. Generals in the Air Force are rarer and much better paid than congressmen.

We’d like to know why Michael Bob Starr wasn’t going to get his star.

The voters have a right to know Michael Bob Starr as well as they know Jason Corley, Jodey Arrington and the rest of the candidates. It is within Starr’s power to make that happen.