By now, many of you have seen or heard about a Facebook post shared by Kelsey Durham publicly on her Facebook page. In the post, Mrs. Durham expresses her discontent with a fee she received for a violation of Section 29-25 of the Aransas Pass Code of Ordinances. This section states the following:
Sec. 29-25. – Tampering.
It shall be unlawful for any person not authorized by the city to tamper with, alter or injure any part of the city waterworks or supply system, or any meter. Account holders will be assessed a one thousand dollar ($1,000.00) tampering fee for any part of the city waterworks or supply system found turned on or off without the authorization of the city. The tampering fee must be paid before services can be restored. When the account is vacant, the property owner will be responsible for the tampering fee.
(Ord. No. 1070, § 7, 9-18-63; Ord. No. 3973 , § 1, 3-15-10; Ord. No. 4030, § 2, 5-20-13 ; Ord. No. 2018-4226, § 1, 12-3-18; Ord. No. 2019-4270 , § 1, 10-21-19)
Though I am not investigating the administrative fee, I will speak briefly about it. Some time back City staff and Council visited about how to enforce illegal taps into and/or tampering with the City water system. By law, the City holds the option of filing class A misdemeanor criminal charges against violators or they could opt to impose a civil fine against their water account. The City chose to primarily stick with the civil fine, however, in each event, the City sustains the option of going with the criminal enforcement. In more serious cases, the City may elect to pursue criminal enforcement. For more details about this administrative fee, please contact City Administration.
Mrs. Durham continues on about an ensuing interaction she had with Code Compliance Official Cory Elrod while he was at the Aransas Pass Chamber of Commerce, where she was working at that time. Mrs. Durham said she confronted Mr. Elrod about the fine, and he responded by stating, “That’s what you get for hiring wetbacks.” Mrs. Durham expressed her discontent about how the matter was handled and with the unprofessional and racist commentary used by Code Compliance.
Here is the latest screenshot capture of the original post:
Early morning 03/12/2020, I was made aware of this post. Mr. Elrod is employed by the City and assigned to the police department. I take racism and allegations thereof very seriously. Racism and racial bias is not something that can be trained out of a person/employee. Therefore substantiated claims of racial bias or racism will likely result in immediate termination. The police department undergoes auditing regularly throughout the year by an outside company to make sure department activities comply with the racial profiling laws of Texas and the policy of our police department. Additionally, my staff is regularly monitored for policy compliance by supervisory personnel.
With that said, this post was the first indication to me that a staff member under my command might have resorted to racial bias in his professional capacity. I began my investigation into the allegations and first located the following case sheet (#1900009415):
Next, I researched body camera footage from the original event. I found and secured that video and have included that here for you to review:
I continued the investigation by performing in-person interviews with those either directly or indirectly mentioned as being involved. All were asked to provide me with written sworn statements. The following shared statements are for your review and placed in chronological order as they were collected:
While collecting Mrs. Durham’s statement, she shared with me screenshots from a Facebook message she received from Mr. Elrod after she took to Facebook with her post. The attached Facebook private messages between Mrs. Durham and Mr. Elrod caused me to revisit this matter with Mr. Elrod and secure an additional statement:
EVALUATION OF THE FACTS
Based on these findings, the only two witnesses to what transpired during the conversation between Mrs. Durham and Mr. Elrod are the two of them. Additionally, when Mrs. Durham had shared the illegal tap fine with me shortly after it was assessed on her water account, she never mentioned anything about Mr. Elrod engaging in the racist commentary. Mrs. Durham and I had visited on this topic on several more occasions as I assisted her in pursuing her appeal to the City Manager. Mrs. Durham never shared with me on any of those various occasions about there being racist commentary or motivation with the enforcement. Further, I spoke to Mayor Ramiro Gomez and the City Manager Gary Edwards about them being told about the racist commentary. Neither of them confirmed the alleged conversation by Mrs. Durham. The City Manager, however, did confirm that his last interaction did contain a statement referencing the comments allegedly made by Mr. Elrod to Mrs. Durham.
Mr. Elrod has been employed with the City since April 2017, and he has never been the subject any formal or otherwise founded/substantiated complaints. Contrarily, he has received several formal recognitions for his work within the City. Specifically, he has been recognized as follows:
- Helping the needy to acquire essentials such as groceries;
- Donating his time-off to directing community clean-up efforts;
- Training our youth on positive habits to protect our environment;
- Volunteering his time off to help direct our Police Explorers program;
- Was nominated for APPD Employee of the Year, 2019;
- Praised for being a strong team member/player by his peers;
- Recognized by court administration as a community advocate and for working with the citizens of Aransas Pass.
Based on the statements and evidence collected, I cannot substantiate the allegation of racial bias against Mr. Elrod. The complaint is unfounded, and this investigation is closed.