By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
KYLE – The intriguing saga of “Kyle Klips,” which peppered the 2006 city council elections in Kyle, may have come to a quiet close. Following a February hearing, the Texas Ethics Commission has ordered the heretofore anonymous publisher, local activist Maxine Weatherford, to pay a $100 fine.
The order said Weatherford took sole responsibility for the publication, which circulated around Kyle in the weeks leading up to the May 2006 city council election for the western district seat. The publication encouraged voters to pick challenger Serena Starkey over incumbent Todd Webster and vote against a charter measure that would require five council votes (rather than a simple majority of four) to remove the city manager.
Following the election, in which Webster and the charter measure both won, the Kyle City Council called for an investigation of Kyle Klips, which published anonymously and posted a printing receipt for $866 on its website, kylenewsletteroftruth.com.
State law requires that any person or group spending $500 or more encouraging voters to vote for or against a candidate or measure must register with the Texas Ethics Commission. No entity connected with the 2006 election in Kyle was thusly registered.
After its investigation, the Kyle council ordered that complaints be filed with the city’s ethics commission, the Texas Ethics Commission and the Hays County district attorney. The city’s investigation, conducted by council attorney Sheila Limon and the Kyle Police Department (KPD), most prominently linked the publication with Weatherford and Sherry Anderson of Kyle.
However, the order from the state ethics commission quotes Weatherford swearing that “I was solely responsible for the content and material contained in the Klips,” and that she “was the one responsible for the creation of Kyle Klips.”
The ethics commission said Weatherford produced and distributed political advertising without a proper disclosure statement, entered into a contract (for website hosting) with the intent to injure a candidate or influence an election, misrepresented the source of the campaign communications, failed to maintain a record of all reportable political activity, failed to file campaign finance reports, and made an unauthorized campaign expenditure.
However, the commission also found either insufficient evidence or no evidence for charges that Weatherford involved herself with a political committee, since she claimed sole responsibility for Kyle Klips.
According to the ethics commission, “credible evidence” shows that all the volumes of Kyle Klips contained express advocacy and, therefore, were required to include political advertising disclosure statements. But Kyle Klips contained no such disclosures until May 8, 2006, when the Kyle Klips website claimed to be political advertising by “Willard Todd.”
As the order continues, “The evidence shows that ‘Willard Todd’ bore no responsibility for the political advertising and that the respondent was solely responsible for the volumes and paid all the costs associated with them.”
According to Limon’s findings, the post office box for the newsletter was registered to Anderson, while the newsletter’s website was established in Weatherford’s name. The state ethics commission’s order on Weatherford said the post office box was “physically rented by another individual whose personal information was used for the rental agreement,” but adds that Weatherford paid for the rental and read some mail from the box. The state order also said Weatherford funded the website.
Anderson and Weatherford were among the ringleaders in a 2003 ballot measure to recall then-Mayor James Adkins.
The state ethics commission posted its order concerning Weatherford on its website. The order stipulates that Weatherford “neither admits or denies the facts … or the commission’s findings and conclusions of law” described within the order. The commission posted no such order concerning Anderson, Starkey or Nolan Ward, who were named in the city’s investigation.
Soon after the city’s investigation, the city council removed Anderson from its ethics commission.
Webster resigned from the city council last fall, after his father in Ohio contracted a terminal cancer. Ray Bryant won a special election for Webster’s seat last November.Email | Print