Monday, February 19, 2018

Man convicted of theft now leads Elderville Water Supply Corp.

By Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Jan. 14, 2018 at 6 a.m.

Elderville Water Supply Corp. meeting Tuesday November 28, 2017. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo)

Day-to-day operations at Elderville Water Supply Corp. continue with a man convicted of felony theft at the helm and its top two managers suspended — all amid a criminal probe.

Directors have called a special meeting Tuesday to decide whether to appoint an interim general manager to replace Ernie Paul, who was suspended this week after five years as the head of Elderville, which supplies nearly 2,800 water customers southeast of Longview.

With Paul and Office Manager Chelisa Moore suspended indefinitely without pay, the employee left to lead utility operations is Dean Carrell, who was hired in October 2016 by Paul initially as a consultant, board member David Connor said Friday.

With Paul and Moore suspended, Carrell and his son are among the five remaining full-time employees.

"The manager title was never given to him," Connor said about Carrell, but he added, "It doesn't matter what he's called; (Carrell) is in charge out there."

Carrell has a six-year-old conviction for second-degree felony theft after admitting to defrauding $20,000 from the city of Sonora in Central Texas when he served as its city manager, according to reports and court documents.

Connor said he didn't know about Carrell's Feb. 10, 2012, guilty plea in a Sutton County district court.

Carrell received eight years' probation after admitting that, in 2009, as Sonora city manager, he asked a subcontractor to bump up the price of a sewer inspection job by $20,000 and return it to him and two of his workers, according to the Italy, Texas, Neotribune.

The two workers were his son and his daughter's boyfriend, according to the Neotribune, which wrote about the incident in March 2014 when Carrell was public works director for the city of Italy.

According to the report, the subcontractor told authorities that Carrell wanted the kickback of $20,000 because "he felt he performed a lot of hard work in getting the city's sewer system in compliance and that he deserved some money for all of his efforts." The Texas Rangers launched an investigation at then-Sonora Mayor Jed Davenport's request, according to the Neotribune.

Connor said he knew nothing about Carrell's criminal history and isn't aware what other board members have known about it.

"As a board member, I've been stonewalled and so I don't know anything," Connor said. "I don't know what anybody else knows."

Sutton County court records indicate Carrell has made court payments as recently as three weeks ago.

An agenda for Tuesday's special meeting at 5 p.m. indicates Elderville directors will go into closed session to deliberate the employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties and/or discipline — including possible termination — of the general manager, as well as to deliberate an employee grievance.

Directors have released no details about the grievance or about the suspensions.

Moore, the daughter of Board President Milton Portley, was suspended Dec. 11 after Elderville Water Supply's accountant found irregularities in its books, Paul has said.

The Gregg County Sheriff's Office has an open investigation into the corporation, according to Cpl. Josh Tubb.

Before entering closed session Tuesday, directors will discuss and possibly take action on whether to hire a Longview accounting firm to train office employees, review overtime policies, rescind an unapproved holiday taken by employees Jan. 2, appoint a credentials committee, purchase new water meters and continue arrangements with the city of Lakeport regarding sewer billing.

"The water quality and the delivery have been maintained," Connor said, "so we're going to work through this and get it right.

"I just hate to see our name in the paper and I hate to see Elderville Water Supply's name in the paper."



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