Monday, October 22, 2007

City of Mansfield changes Debt Collectors due to questionable political campaign contribution

City Council plans to consider hiring new debt collector
By ROBERT CADWALLADER - Special to the Star-Telegram - Oct. 22, 2007
MANSFIELD -- The City Council tonight will consider hiring a Round Rock-based law firm to replace the city's fired debt collector.

The staff has recommended McCreary, Veselka, Bragg & Allen, which collects delinquent property taxes or court fees and fines for about 450 taxing jurisdictions statewide. The firm has no collection clients in Tarrant or Dallas counties.

The council terminated the city's contract with Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson of Fort Worth on Sept. 28, taking issue with a $2,000 campaign contribution the firm made to Mayor Barton Scott after his election in May. The move apparently did not violate local or state campaign finance laws, but the council called it inappropriate and also voiced concerns about investigations of Linebarger contributions in other cities.

Scott, who blamed council politics for Linebarger's firing, said he will question the recommendation for McCreary because the staff did not conduct a full selection process, including advertising for proposals.

"When we start playing political games with vendors, we are not acting in the best interests of the citizens," Scott said.

Staff officials said they didn't advertise for proposals because the process would have taken at least 90 days. The city has no one collecting back taxes.

As a corporation, McCreary is prohibited by law from making political contributions, a McCreary official said. Although individual employees are allowed to donate to local candidates, no employees will donate to Mansfield public officials, President Harvey Allen said.

That could become the law in Mansfield anyway. A council subcommittee is considering revising the city's ethics ordinance.

"I will tell you, we as a firm get virtually no solicitations for campaign contributions from anybody," Allen said. "And I think that's because we have the reputation of not doing it."

Linebarger, as a limited liability partnership, is allowed to make political contributions.
Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

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