Thursday, February 1, 2007

     

 

 

Caney City police chief resigns
Community bows before bad publicity
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

CANEY CITY–The Caney City Council unanimously accepted the resignation of police chief Michael Meissner, following a televised investigative report by Byron Harris of WFAA-TV in Dallas Jan. 18 and reports in the Athens Daily Review that followed.
“There’s no need to go into executive session,” Caney City Mayor Joe Barron said during a special council meeting Tuesday.
“We all know what this is about,” Barron said.
“I’ve talked to Michael Meissner extensively with all the things going on,” Barron added. “I’m asking the council to accept his resignation, effective Jan. 31.”
The only other business at the meeting was to approve an unspecified leave of absence for Caney City Fire Chief Perry Coder, so he can obtain some needed medical treatment and rest. Coder has served as fire chief for 15 years.
Council members declined to make any comment about Meissner’s service to the 200-person community since he was hired in May, 2005.
The television news report was based on unsubstantiated allegations made by an unidentified, disgruntled former employee, The Monitor learned Jan. 22.
The report said its source saw Meissner “destroy files and evidence.” The source then gave his opinion about how “bad cops preserve their power by keeping their record clean.”
Harris’ report cited obtained documents, but not how or from whom those documents were obtained, nor the nature of the documents.
Those documents supposedly showed Meissner had been arrested twice in 2005, but records of those arrests had disappeared, Harris reported.
Meissner told The Monitor he turned himself in to Smith County authorities after learning he was named on arrest warrants from Dallas County.
Those warrants were for operating a security company without a license, tampering with a witness and impersonating a police officer.
Two weeks later, these charges were dropped and the records ordered expunged, which means to obliterate or destroy.
Meissner explained the charges initially were generated because he was making a large sum of money coordinating off-duty assignments for police officers.
Records cannot be expunged unless “the elements of the crime fail to meet the criteria of the offense,” Meissner explained. “I never once put foot into any courtroom.”
Texas law prohibits even talking about records that have been expunged, Meissner pointed out.
The tone of the television report suggests Meissner must have destroyed such records, as the report stated “that’s how bad cops keep their power.”
Harris’ report noted a “phony college degree in criminal justice management,” which Meissner had entered on a job application with Dallas County.
Meissner told The Monitor his parents paid good money to a Christian university – LaSalle University of Mandeville, La. – only to find out later the university was not accredited.
Meissner said he wasn’t the only one studying criminal justice management there.
An agent from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) recently told Meissner there are 100 police officers from San Antonio and Houston with the same degree from LaSalle University.
“We were all duped,” Meissner said. He obtained his degree in 1996 or ’97, but didn’t learn the university wasn’t accredited until his master peace officer certificate was revoked in 2003.
From 2003 until 2005, Meissner included the university on job applications with the notation that it was unaccredited. A bill signed into law Sept. 1, 2005, prohibits the listing of degrees from non-accredited institutions.
The Monitor tried to speak to someone at the university, but discovered it is no longer in Mandeville and no other university of that name exists in the U.S., except for one in Pennsylvania. A spokesman at that university stated it was unrelated to the former Louisiana school.
A call to TCLEOSE confirmed Meissner was an officer in good standing, with certifications through the advanced level, which he achieved after 1998. Advanced level certification qualifies him to serve as a police chief. His degree from LaSalle also would have certified him at the master’s level.
Later, The Monitor learned TCLEOSE representatives came to Caney City to inspect the police department records.
“They didn’t find anything missing or out of order,” Meissner said. The representatives left a few handouts on new administrative practices, guidelines and forms, he added.
“To my knowledge, TCLEOSE hasn’t initiated any criminal investigation on me,” Meissner said in response to an Athens Daily Review report.
So, who fed information to the WFAA news reporter?
The Monitor hopes to have a follow-up report on this unidentified news source, whose allegations have resulted in the loss of police services in Caney City.
“I only made $1,200 a month there,” Meissner revealed.
“It’s not easy to get someone to take care of a small city like Caney,” Barron said.
TCLEOSE director of enforcement and licensing James Herironimus, who also attended the meeting, said, “It is very important to the agency that small towns are protected by quality officers.”
Was he a bad cop to the people in Caney City?
“Mayor Barron told me this situation had nothing to do with my past job performance, that all the business people liked the job I was doing, that he got no complaints of police harassment or ill treatment,” Meissner said. “But, with the bad publicity, he doubted I could be effective anymore.”

Men caught with stolen ATM machine and vehicles
By Donna Limberger
Monitor Staff Writer

MARTINS MILL–The Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office arrested two men last Friday in connection with an ATM theft at the General Store in Martins Mill.
Michael James Wood and Bobby Joe Penny, both of Eustace, are being held in the Van Zandt County Jail without bond for burglary of a building.
Van Zandt County Sheriff R.P. “Pat” Burnett said that additional charges are pending.
According to a press release issued by the Van Zandt Sheriff’s Office, a concerned citizen called the office at approximately 5:12 a.m. and said a vehicle had run through the Martins Mill General Store.
The citizen reports seeing a red truck take off down Farm-to-Market 1861.
Deputies confirmed structural damage to the building, tire marks and what appeared to be drag marks across the parking lot.
Shortly after deputies arrived, the businessowners arrived and took inventory.
The owners reported the ATM machine was missing.
Surveillance video showed two males wearing ski masks and dark clothing taking the ATM machine.
The suspects could be seen backing a stolen blue flatbed pickup to the store window and rapidly proceeding down FM 1861.
Deputies located the vehicle abandoned on Van Zandt County Road 4304.
Deputies were then dispatched to FM 2339, near FM 773, in reference to a citizen calling about two vehicles being stuck on their property and two men standing there, one with a gun.
Upon arrival, deputies found one suspect armed with a shotgun.
The ATM was found in one of the vehicles that the suspects were driving. Both vehicles were traced and found to have been stolen prior to the store burglary.
“Again, citizen involvement is the key to solving this crime,” Burnett said. “I believe the word is getting out that if you do something in Van Zandt County, the citizens are strong and will get involved, and law enforcement will take it from there.
“Together, we are making Van Zandt County a hard target for criminals,” Burnett added. “I am not only proud of the citizens in this incident, but of all the officers involved as well.”
Assisting the sheriff’s offices in the investigation were constables from precincts 2 and 4, the Department of Public Safety, Smith County Crime Scene Specialists and the Texas Rangers.
   
Penny (left) and Wood (right)

Flying high above the crowd

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
“Mavs Man,” the Dallas Mavericks mascot, flies high above Kemp High School senior Stingerette member Leslie Blansett to slam home a dunk during an exhibition at a pep rally at the KHS gym Friday. The pep rally boosted school spirit prior to the Kemp-Mabank boys and girls basketball games (see Sports, page 1B).