The four candidates offer their qualifications at forum; Nehls and Brady trade snarky comments
By LeaAnne Klentzman
In a candidate’s forum hosted by the Needville Chamber of Commerce last week, all four Sheriff’s candidates were present and accounted for.
Because there is no incumbent in the race for sheriff, the candidates spoke alphabetically. First was the current chief deputy, Craig Brady. He packed the house with his administrative personnel and family, thanking them for all their hard work.
In his prepared remarks he talked about crime rates. Brady advertises that he is “uniquely qualified to continue to run the Sheriff’s Office “ which has misrepresented crime solve rates to the state and federal government for at least 10 years.
That fact was brought to the public’s attention by candidate Troy Nehls. Once the abysmal crime solve rate was put in the public purview, Brady immediately pulled a group of detectives and a sergeant from their regular duties and reassigned them to fix the crime solve numbers and send new reports to the state and federal government.
While it gives the current administration better numbers to talk about, no one knows what the true numbers are.
Were they not reported correctly the first time, or is the Sheriff’s administration just that incompetent?
Is candidate Nehls correct when he says Fort Bend County sheriff’s office has never solved more than 4% of the burglaries in the last 10 years, based on the numbers they, themselves, reported to the FBI? Or, is the abysmal crime solve rate a collection of reporting errors as the chief deputy has intimated?
At first the chief deputy said the abysmal solve rate was a computer problem linked to a software update two years ago. In a previous forum he called it a glitch. Then when it was brought to his attention that the last 10 years were also that abysmal, at this forum he said the problem was resolved and had been caused by one employee who was improperly “hand” reporting all the crime solve numbers. He said that too has been corrected.
Brady also said that the millions of dollars that the Sheriff’s office spends in overtime each year is only 1% of the budget which would be 1% of a 50+ million dollar budget for the last several years. Then in closing Brady repeated Nehls’ closing statement of “If I don’t have a better crime solve rate at the end of the first 4 years in office, I will fire myself,” Brady scoffed then said, “Well that will be the third place he will have been fired from,” as he walked off the stage.
That aside comment made sense after the forum was over as one of his employee’s family members were handing out flyers with a copy of a Richmond police department termination memo.
The next speaker was candidate John Minchew. In his allotted 5 minutes he discussed his background in police work and his business experience. Minchew said he is the CEO of two private investigation and security businesses both in Houston and in the Valley. Prior to that he was VP for the Wackenhut Corporation directly responsible for 2,700 employees and a budget 90 million dollars.
Minchew said he has the knowledge and experience to “rub two quarters together and make a dollar.” He said he has been a success in business after serving in law enforcement, and now wants to give back to his community.
Minchew also pondered out loud why candidate Brady would spend over $300,000 campaigning for a job that will pay him $100,000.
Minchew also identified current mismanagement when he discussed the fleet of 2011 Sheriff’s patrol cars that have been sitting on a parking lot for over a year and have never been outfitted or put in service. He said with those vehicles still sitting there, the Sheriff’s administration ordered another 38+ 2012 cars and all those are sitting waiting for the proper equipment.
Candidate Troy Nehls was the next to speak. He said he was honored to serve the citizens of Fort Bend County as the twice elected Constable of Precinct 4 and wants to be elected the next Sheriff. Nehls said he is the only candidate in the race with advanced education; he recently earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Houston Downtown and has long held a Bachelor’s Degree from Liberty University.
Nehls briefly discussed his military background and said that it made him the man he is today. He retired in 2009 as a Major in the Army Reserve. During his service Nehls was deployed to Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Nehls said he was motivated to seek the office of Sheriff after being “shocked” at the crime solve rates. He listed the solve rate of robbery as 18%, theft 5%, Sex Crimes 33%, burglary 5%. He said those solve rates are the result of poor management and lack of leadership. Nehls told candidate Brady, “These numbers are yours. You own them, whether you like them or not.”
Nehls identified his plan to address the crime solve rate by changing the working hours and shifts of detectives. Detectives have been working four 10 hour days per week. They are all off either on the weekend or half are off on Monday and the other half on Friday. Crimes that need a detective’s attention over the weekend are handled by the on-call detective which rotates each week.
Nehls also said he would implement an evening shift for detectives. When Nehls acknowledged his wife in the audience, he bragged on her for being a highly respected and knowledgeable principal at an LCISD elementary school who earned her position herself; saying “and I didn’t promote her.” That comment was a swipe at the recent promotion of the chief deputy‘s wife to a position that was newly created, not posted for eligibility or interest within the agency, nor follow existing policy or guidelines for promotion.
Billy Frank Teague was the last, and most experienced candidate to stand before the crowd. Teague is a 45 year Texas Lawman. He has served in city, county and state law enforcement.
Teague and his wife Joan, a retired Sheriff’s Office detective sergeant, have lived and worked in Fort Bend since 1974.
After arriving in Fort Bend from Arlington police department, Teague served the citizens as a patrol deputy, detective, and detective sergeant at the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriffs Tiny Gaston and Ervin Hurta.
Teague left the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Office to become a Texas Highway Trooper. After 20 years Teague retired from the Highway Patrol and became a Commander at the Richmond police department.
He identified the problems facing the Sheriff’s Office as budget constraints, manpower allocations, the tediousness of running a large scale jail operation, and addressing the mental health issues that impact law enforcement from first responder to detention facilities.
Teague said he will lead the Sheriff’s Office with integrity, an obligation to service, leadership, and vision.
After all the candidates spoke, they mingled with the crowd as Brady supporters passed out flyers on Nehls. It was reminiscent of four years ago when Billy Frank Teague ran against Sheriff Milton Wright and his supporters, Craig Brady and company, went around passing out a (since paid) tax lien against Teague. Teague was a single digit percentage point from beating Wright back them.
It will be interesting to see if the voters are interested in qualifications of the candidates or just the bully pulpits.