Reckoning Day: Tamez, Jimenez could get maximum 20 years for ‘selling votes’

A story I wrote about two Willacy County commissioners appearing before a federal judge appears in this week’s Raymondville Chronicle and Willacy County News.

Willacy County commissioners face charges
Two county commissioners plead guilty to federal charges of accepting bribes from companies who wanted to secure contracts with the county.

Here is the first three paragraphs of the story.

Visibly shaken, 58-year-old Israel Tamez and 67-year-old Jose “Isac” Jimenez stood before Judge Andrew Hanen’s federal courtroom Tuesday afternoon. The tension could be heard in their voices when they answered Judge Hanen’s probing string of questions to ascertain they know their rights and responsibilities before the Court.

Hanen asked each felony defendant, “Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?” Tamez and Jimenez both replied, “yes” to accepting more than $10,000 in bribes each from companies wanting to secure contracts with the County.

The two former Willacy County Commissioners had voluntarily reported to the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Brownsville to plead guilty to felony charges of accepting bribes for votes in favor of a contract between the county and businesses behind the new Willacy County Adult Correction Center.

Download a PDF of the story.

Columnist silenced after protesting

Today, live on the radio for KPFT News, broadcast on 90.1 FM in Houston, I interviewed Brent Flynn, a 31-year-old Texas journalist who was told he could no longer write a column after executives at his newspaper chain discovered he had attended a political rally.

Brent Flynn interview
This is a transcript of the interview.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Moeller: Why do you believe your editor didn’t fire you?

Flynn: “Well, I’d like to believe that it’s because I’m a darn fine reporter. But it could have also been other considerations; you know, being short-staffed, controversies that could be caused, I don’t know.”

Moeller: You have a Web site at www.brentflynn.com, which you have maintained for the past three years, three times as long as you’ve been reporting for the Lewisville Leader. On the Web site, you have been posting new columns which I assume would have been printed in the Lewisville Leader. In the age of the Internet when any person can become the media, do you think it’s possible for you to reach as broad of an audience online instead of in print?

Flynn: “Oh definitely. I’m reaching a much wider audience now. I’ve got an e-mail list set up, and I’m reaching people on various Web sites, international and national. So, it really has been really good for my career and getting my message out.”

Read the story on the old KPFT News website that I created and maintained.

Program helps young fathers play an active role

A story I wrote about a new trial program that provides resources and training to young fathers was broadcast on KPFT News today.

Texas Fragile Families Initiative
This story was broadcast on KPFT News 90.1 FM in Houston.

Here are the first five paragraphs of the story:

LEAD-IN BY HOST: In Houston, at least one in five children under the age of 17 are poor. In Texas, about 17 percent of the population are living in poverty as categorized by the federal government. Brandon Moeller looks at one Texas program that is trying to improve the quality of life for children by encouraging fathers to play an active role.

STORY: A three-year test project called Texas Fragile Families Initiative helps never-married fathers and their families. The program does this by providing the new and often young fathers with job skills and information about their rights and responsibilities to their children. The project focuses on fathers in an attempt to ensure that they are more involved with their children.

“I think it is a no-brainer to say that children need their fathers as much as they do their mothers. So fathers are there to be connected. Children need to know that their fathers love them as much as their mothers love them, that their fathers care. One of the things that a case manager told me once in dealing with these young teen boy fathers, is that he has never yet interviewed a father that doesn’t want to be connected to his kids. … And the kids need that connection.”

Director of Advocacy at Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Barbara Lashley, facilitates a network of other faith-based organizations in the greater Houston area.

The network is called Making Welfare Work and its purpose is to provide information and services to lower-income residents.

Read the rest of the story on the archived KPFT News website which I designed and maintained.

KPFT News website launches

Nine years ago, I started a website for KPFT News, a local news program that KPFT 90.1 FM was starting, after a long absence of not having local news on the plucky listener-sponsored radio station.

I maintained the website for a year on a strictly volunteer-only basis, providing a place for fellow participants to help me archive the stories we reported.

KFT News show 1
The July 11, 2002 show archive page.

At first, it was a basic HTML page with links to full articles.

KPFT News show 77
The July 2, 2003 show archive page.

Later, I gave it more of a newspaper design, with color. And a new logo. The design was made possible with tables. (Shudder).

It was 2003. And I had just recently graduated from UH with a journalism degree.

The website is still archived on KPFT’s web server, which I think is a very nice gesture to the amount of work we contributed to make it possible. I still believe the stories we told on that program — which continues to this day — tells the stories of Houston that aren’t told elsewhere.