Plot to trap former Missouri City City Manager backfires

A plot to criminally implicate the former Missouri City City Manager Anthony Snipes in a contrived “misuse of funds” case has ended up as a damp squib.

To make matters worse, the ill-fated complaint was drawn up in secrecy by the city administration.

Having found no crime, the district attorney’s office closed the case, but the administration did not disclose it to the city council for weeks.

On January 4, 2021, City Manager Odis Jones characterized the alleged “misuse” as a “bad policy” the city council had. He added that “staff was effective in implementing a poor design.” He also noted anytime they find a misuse of funds in this amount it was typical to notify law enforcement.

Jones made the remarks when the city council was making a budget adjustment as re commended by an external audit firm which scrutinized the impugned expenditures.

Councilman Jeffrey Boney reminded Jones about the startling criminal investigation and asked about its status.

Though the city had received the DA’s letter closing the case on Dec. 16, 2020, on Jan. 4, 2021, Jones told the council he did not know. He said he would ask the city attorney to inquire.

This newspaper had learned from the district attorney’s office that no investigation was pending, but could not get the confirmation from anyone in the city.

On Jan. 27, this newspaper made an Open Records Request and the city provided the documents on Feb. 9.

The DA’s office sent an email to Royger Harris, Missouri City's Performance and Strategic Initiatives officer, on December 16, 2020:

"Dear Mr. Harris

The Public Integrity Division has completed its investigation into the allegation of misapplication concerning previous City Manager Anthony Snipes in relation to the PEG funds. As you indicated when you submitted this complaint, there is likely an administrative issue. However, there is no evidence at this time to support the criminal allegation. This investigation is closed.”

Though Jones first mentioned in a memo to the city council on Sept. 8, 2020 that the DA was investigating the matter, at that it time it was merely a query from Harris to see if there was any crime in the expenditures.

Harris had submitted this to the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit for review on 08/28/2020. It was not a formal complaint.

Since the DA’s office asked for a sworn complaint, on Sept. 9, Harris filed a sworn affidavit, along with affidavits from two city employees directly implicating Snipes as responsible for the misuse of funds.

At the Oct. 5, 2020 City Council meeting, the following item was on the agenda:

Consider ratifying the city manager’s decision to submit concerns regarding public, educational, and government (“PEG”) fund expenses to the district attorney’s office and requesting an investigation.

City Manager Jones stated the item was to see if Council had any further questions on what was discussed in closed session.

Councilmember Boney stated he sent a public information request to City Secretary’s Office requesting documentation surrounding the alleged issued prior to the meeting where the item was discussed.

He noted he specifically asked Jones if he could provide the information as it was a serious matter, but Jones stated the information had been sent to the district attorney’s office and was under investigation.

Boney stated the next day City Council received an email from the City Attorney stating the District Attorney’s office let her know that there was no formal investigation and that a formal investigation into the PEG funds had not been initiated. He did not understand why Council was being asked to ratify a decision that was already made by Jones.

Boney stated he had not received the information he requested. He asked if the DA had the documents when Jones came to city council with the item.

Jones asked that City Council go into closed executive session.

City Council moved into closed executive session and reconvened when Boney expressed concerns over processes and could not vote on information he had not seen.

Council member Floyd asked that whatever material was sent to the District Attorney’s office it include details so they have the full scope for that particular account. Jones stated he would have staff do so.

Council member Anthony Maroulis stated the dates that the investigation was accepted by the District Attorney’s office were unclear and very little data had been provided to Council.

Councilmember Vashaundra Edwards moved to ratify the city manager’s decision to submit concerns regarding public, educational, and government (“PEG”) fund expenses to the district attorney’s office and requesting an investigation. Mayor Pro Tern Chris Preston seconded. MOTION PASSED.

Ayes: Mayor Ford, Mayor Pro Tern Preston, Councilmember Edwards, and Councilmember Sterling

Nays: Councilmember Boney, Councilmember Maroulis and Councilmember Emery.

Even after the November election, with the new mayor, Robin Elackatt in office, Jones had not shared the DA’s decision with the city council.

It is not known even today if the city council members formally received that information.

In September, 2020, this writer described the city’s attempt as trying to get a ham sandwich indicted, maybe, there was no ham in the sandwich even.

The article also rightly predicted that the DA would find no crime in this case.