On Sept. 8, 2011 a joint gathering was held between the White Settlement City Council and the White Settlement Economic Development Corporation at the new Arroyo’s restaurant on Cherry Lane. A grant check from the EDC was presented to Arroyo’s and members of the council, EDC, and some of their spouses’ meals were paid for by the EDC.
In November, White Settlement citizens Ron White and Gunnar Rasmussen met with Police Chief Jack Ely to discuss their complaints about this Arroyo’s gathering. They felt as if the gathering was a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act, and that it represented a misappropriation of public funds. Rasmussen is a former White Settlement city council member, and both he and White were members of the EDC board from 2010 to mid 2011.
The four complaints that the White Settlement Police Department looked into were if a joint meeting had taken place, had notice of the meeting been properly posted, the payment and means of payment of the meal, and an open records violation regarding providing information to White about the Arroyo’s gathering.
As for the first complaint, the WSPD found that according to official definitions, the Arroyo’s gathering did not constitute a meeting. The gathering was found to have fallen under the “ceremonial event, press conference” definition and since no formal action was taken there was no violation.
On the second complaint, WSPD determined that notice of the gathering was properly posted by City Secretary Amy Arnold. While it was posted only 48 hours before the event, an informal gathering wasn’t held to the same 72 hour prior posting regulations that apply to official meetings.
On the payment of the meals, the WSPD report states that it is “common practice within city government that spouse’s dinners are paid for during ceremonial or team building events.” The meal cost $144.46 and was charged by Mayor Jerry Burns on a city credit card. The budget item it falls under is “marketing and promotional.”
When looking into the fourth and final complaint, the WSPD found that Arnold complied with all information requests from White within the allotted amount of time, therefore there was no wrongdoing.
This investigation is now closed, with the WSPD finding no wrongdoing in this matter. City Manager Linda Ryan expressed to the Grizzly Detail that she had no comment on this matter, and after indicating he had received our questions last week, EDC Director Jim Ryan did not contact us with answers. White and Rasmussen were contacted, but neither provided any information or comment on this matter before our deadline.