Decatur City Council’s goal: ‘Get leaner’

City Finance Director Brad Burnett set the tone Thursday night, as the ice-delayed Decatur City Council meeting opened with annual reports from four department heads.

“This year we’re going to have to get a little bit leaner on our operations,” he said. “We’re not having those substantial increases like we’ve had in the past.”

Burnett’s report gave council members an overview of 2014, showing the city’s cash balance down $385,000 from last year. The general fund was down about $57,000 due to decreases in court fines, civic center receipts, sales tax and hotel occupancy tax income.

On top of that, an expanded street project cost $220,000 more than the previous year, and the city made $174,000 in capital purchases for various departments.

The general fund’s operating deficit of $352,000 was more than covered by a transfer of $418,000 from the water fund – the final repayment on a loan made several years ago.

Before that transfer, the water fund had an operating surplus of $276,000.

Burnett’s report was followed by reports from Planning Director Dedra Ragland, interim Public Works Director Greg Hall and Fire Chief Mike Richardson.

Those four reports, which were on the agenda for a half-hour, took about an hour and 15 minutes.

By contrast, the regular council meeting took about a half-hour.

The biggest item on that agenda was the presentation of the city’s annual audit report by CPA Scott Siegmund. Although Siegmund echoed many of the themes Burnett had outlined, his report on the city’s 2014 finances was more upbeat.

“Overall, the city saw a net increase in assets of $85,000,” he said. “That’s kind of remarkable when you’re talking about a $21 million operation. It’s remarkably consistent.”

He noted the city and its water/sewer operation paid down a million dollars in debt last year. And the overall decrease in revenue of $128,000 was seen as “pretty much break-even” on total revenue of $10 million.

Siegmund did cite the same downward trend Burnett expressed concern over, noting the city’s fund balances went down $195,148 last year.

“The past four years, revenues have been flat,” he said. “Unfortunately, the city can’t have four years of flat expenses. Expenses creep up, so the deficit grows. It’s been four years since revenues in the city’s general fund have really grown.

“The numbers are very consistent, year after year, but you have increases in fuel cost, personnel, health insurance.”

The city’s general fund balance is about half what it was four years ago, he said.

Still, he said, the city’s finances are sound.

“You collected $88,895 more than budgeted, and spent only $11,493 more than budgeted,” he said. “We’re not saying everything is awesome. We’re saying we didn’t see anything that would cause us to believe the city’s internal controls are not awesome.”

City Manager Brett Shannon commended Burnett and the city staff on hitting so close to the budget.

Siegmund was also impressed.

“That’s from your original budget that you did back in August of 2013,” he said. “Some cities will go back and amend the budget several times during the year.”

ELECTION CALLED

The council also officially called the May 9 election for places 2, 4 and 6 on the city council. Early voting opens Monday, April 27, and runs through Tuesday, May 5, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day except for Tuesday, April 28, and Tuesday, May 5, when it will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

All early voting and election-day voting will be at City Hall, 201 E. Walnut.

The election will be held jointly with Decatur ISD. The school district, which has a bond proposal on the ballot, will hold two early voting sessions 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 27, and Monday, May 4, at the Decatur High School library.

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Basketball: Hix, Eagles top Alvarado

Mason Hix claimed he was nervous taking the floor for his first playoff game.

MEETING FRESH CHALLENGE – Decatur’s Mason Hix shoots over Alvarado defenders. Hix led the Eagles with 19 points. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The Decatur freshman hid any nerves well, knocking down his first seven shots and helping the Eagles out to an early lead.

Hix finished with 19 points and nine rebounds in Decatur’s 54-35 victory over Alvarado in the Class 4A Region I bi-district game at Chisholm Trail High School gym.

“I was nervous going out there,” Hix said. “But I got used to it and was comfortable at the end.”

With the victory, Decatur moves on to play old district foe Wichita Falls Hirschi in the area round at 3:30 Saturday in Bowie. The win was the Eagles’ fourth straight victory.

“This gives us some confidence going into the next game,” said Decatur junior point guard Cade Lamirand. “We’ve got some momentum going now and we’re rolling.”

Making his playoff debut, Hix got rolling in the first quarter with eight points.

“My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball,” Hix explained.

He also grabbed five boards and made one of his five steals in the frame as Decatur jumped out to the 15-2 lead.

“I expect that of him,” said Decatur coach Drew Coffman. “Even though he’s a freshman, he’s a talented freshman. That’s the difference between him and other freshmen. He stepped up and made plays. It was his night. We don’t rely on one guy. We do it as a team. It was his time to step up and he did a good job.”

Lamirand and the other Decatur guards kept penetrating and getting the ball inside to Hix. Lamirand finished with eight assists to go along with nine points and five steals.

“Whenever you’ve got a 6’6″ kid in there, you just get it to them and hope he can finish over people,” Lamirand said.

Decatur went up 16, 24-8, with 3:05 left in the first half as Hix banked in a shot from 15 feet out.

The Eagles led 30-17 at halftime.

After Hix and fellow starting forward Parker Hicks picked up their fourth fouls in the third, the Eagles struggled to score. Decatur managed just six points in the frame but led 36-25 going to the fourth.

Alvarado pulled within six, 36-30, early in the fourth behind Tim Chatham. A pair of Holt Garner 3-pointers ended Alvarado’s push and gave the Eagles some breathing room at 45-31. Decatur ended the game with a 18-5 run.

“It got tight there and we got in foul trouble,” Coffman said. “Some guys stepped up. Holt hit a couple big shots. Dane Fitzgerald and Jake Warren came in and gave us a lift in the fourth quarter. Jake did a really good job against their number 24 (Chatham), battling him.

“It was an overall team effort. It wasn’t our prettiest performance but this time of year you just win and advance.”

DECATUR 54, ALVARADO 35

Decatur … 15 … 15 … 6 … 18 … – … 54
Alvarado … 2 … 15 … 8 … 10 … – … 35

Decatur (24-10) – Holt Garner 6, Parker Hicks 6, Cade Lamirand 9, Aaron Shetter 8, Bryce Elder 4, Mason Hix 19.

Alvarado (13-18) – Bradley Boulton 2, Trey Nixon 12, Joey Gibson 7, AJ Bates 1, Tim Chatham 13.

Rebounding: Decatur 27 (Hix 9); Alvarado 20 (Chatham 7). 3-pointers: Decatur 2-8 (Garner 2); Alvarado 2-14 (Nixon 2).

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Young referee set the tone for Little Dribblers

My daughter was a Little Dribbler this year – pre-k to kindergarten age range – in a display I like to call “gaggle ball.” She had a great time, and I had fun watching her play, not just because she is my kid and I think she is awesome, but because of the great team and we had incredible referee.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I was trying to cheer for one of the kids on her team when I realized I didn’t know what his name was. It wasn’t until the ref said his name and applauded his efforts did I commit it to memory.

I started watching the young officiant and realized he knew all the kids. He called them by name, laughed at their silliness, coached them when they were confused and didn’t break at their subversiveness.

As the “season” went on, I would talk to him to learn a little more. He is a senior at Decatur High, plays basketball, gets good grades and wants to be a doctor. He also showed a genuine concern for how much fun the kids were having that were playing.

He said the little kids get to just have a good time and learn, but as they age, it gets very competitive and serious. He said he felt compelled to ensure a love of game for the incoming goobers (my term, not his).

I don’t know if my daughter and the other players will remember him. I don’t know if they even realize that he set the tone and ensured that the game was full of learning, laughter and opportunities to screw up a little – but I know I will.

In a world full of careless morons, I was lucky enough to witness selflessness, caring and infectious fun in the form of a young man named Holt Garner. I am ever grateful for the unconscious influence he had on my daughter and all of those young kids. I wish there were more people like him.

Rachael Vance
Decatur

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Bond proposal a ‘win’ for kids, community

Let’s talk about the Decatur ISD bond for just a moment. In May, citizens living in the Decatur school district will be asked to vote for or against a bond package to improve the district’s infrastructure (buses, buildings, security, technology, athletic facilities).

It’s presented to us in two packages. The first should be a no-brainer. It makes DISD a better place for literally every student in the district. Its price tag is approximately $9.9 million.

The second package will raise money for an indoor multipurpose (sports) center at the cost of about $3.5 million. This one has some people grumbling, and I’d like to address that proposal. Let’s explore this and take the grumbling crowd’s arguments one-by-one.

Argument No. 1: Why should we spend a bucket-load of money on a facility that just benefits the football team?

Answer: It’s not just for the football team. Talk to your friends as close as Springtown or as far away as Brownfield. Their indoor facilities are used by almost everybody in the district and community – soccer, track and field, cross country, golf, tennis, marching band, cheerleading, drill/dance team, kids’ pee-wee sports and local citizens who want to walk/run on lousy weather days.

The only people who won’t be able to use this facility will be our swim and rodeo teams (although electric bucking stock might be approved). You’d be really hard-pressed to rationally blame this facility on our football program.

Argument No. 2: These sports play outdoors in the elements. They should practice in the elements as well.

Answer: Practice bleeding is all well and good, but working on fundamentals in driving rain or snow seems a bit impractical for any of the myriad of sports named above. Plus, repetitive drills on soggy, wet fields are apt to destroy the natural grass, costing us a lot more money in labor and materials in the long run.

Argument No. 3: Have you been to the public library after school? Dozens of kids in there need legitimate after-school programs. Why should Decatur’s citizens vote money out of their pockets for this facility when we could spend money for all our kids?

Answer: Yes, our community may need to offer more after-school programs, but that’s a Decatur City Council thing. Bonds bring money in for infrastructure – buildings, wires, fiber-optic cable, buses, plumbing, roofs, etc. More after-school programs require personnel. That is a recurring cost bonds don’t (and shouldn’t) address.

If our trustees were foolish enough to attempt to raise money for such programs and infrastructure outside of a bond, they would have to do it by raising the tax rate. If they did that, of the extra revenue we received, almost half (44 percent) would go back to the great state of Texas, and we’d see none of it.

With a bond, we keep all of the money – 100 percent of it benefits our district. (On a side note, in 20 years I can’t remember an instance where our board of trustees has raised our tax rate. I really don’t want them to begin now.)

Argument Four: An indoor facility with artificial turf is a luxury we just don’t need here in Decatur.

Answer: If we want to keep Decatur financially secure and thereby attractive to families looking to move to a nice, wholesome, rural community, it’s a “luxury” we’d be hard pressed to do without. There are two reasons for this.

First, a substantial part of our maintenance budget goes to taking care of our grounds. That includes maintaining the grass on all of our practice and competition fields. When the weather is wet and/or we have overlapping sports (soccer/football) we abuse our fields, and it takes more of our maintenance personnel and their time to keep it functional.

Lately, wet is not the problem – drought is. The amount of water the district uses (and pays for) is phenomenal. An indoor practice facility with artificial turf saves money (our money) in labor and resources.

Secondly, keeping our grounds attractive and having first-rate facilities (that ALL of us can take advantage of) show that we take pride in our community and school district. Ask any Realtor what prospective homebuyers new to our area look at and ask questions about first. The answer is the school system.

If our facilities, grounds and infrastructure look inviting, you can bet the families will want to take a second look at our community. And if they do that, they’ll move here.

There are the answers to four of the “against” arguments I’ve heard. I feel the entire bond package – both propositions – is a win for our kids and our community.

Rex Keese
Decatur

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Kayla Layne Perry and Ralph Zachary Park

Kayla Layne Perry of Bridgeport, daughter of Mark and Sheila Perry of Alba, will marry Ralph Zachary Park of Bridgeport, son of David and Michelle Park of Decatur, on March 15, 2015, at Hollow Hills Farm in Weatherford.

Perry Park

Kayla Layne Perry and Ralph Zachary Park

Justin Thompson will officiate.

The bride-elect is a 2011 Saginaw High School graduate and is attending Weatherford College Wise County. She is a bookkeeper at Community Bank in Bridgeport.

The prospective groom is a 2010 Decatur High School graduate, and he is employed by National Roper Supply in Decatur.

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David Paul Turvaville

Sasha and Jacob Turvaville of Decatur announce the birth of a son, David Paul Turvaville, Feb. 21, 2015, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

He weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces and was 21 inches long.

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Isaac Luna

Nalley Arevalo and Carlos Luna of Decatur announce the birth of a son, Isaac Luna, Feb. 20, 2015, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

He weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces and was 18 inches long.

Grandparents are Maria Arevalo, Jose Arevalo and Jose Luiz Luna.

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Wreck leads to gas leak and evacuation

Wreck leads to gas leak and evacuation

A Decatur neighborhood was evacuated briefly Monday afternoon after a single-vehicle accident caused a gas leak.

Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said a city of Decatur truck helping sand the icy roads lost control and slid into a home, hitting a gas meter. The accident occurred about 3:15 p.m. at the corner of Hale and Trenchard streets.

Slick Roads

SLICK ROADS – A city of Decatur truck sanding the streets Monday lost control and slid into a house, hitting a gas meter. The wreck caused a brief evacuation of the area due to a gas leak. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The Decatur Fire Department arrived to find gas spewing and quickly evacuated the block around the home. With temperatures in the 20s, residents were taken to a hotel across the street where they were able to stay in the lobby while they waited for the gas company to arrive and shut off the gas.

Streets in the area were also shut down until the threat had passed.

Around 4:10 p.m., the gas company shut off the gas. By 4:30, the fire department had secured the house, and the vehicle had been removed from the scene.

Because the home did not have gas service, the family – which includes two adults and three kids – were provided temporary lodging for the night, Hoskins said.

Other local residents were able to return to their homes.

The police chief said no one was injured, including the driver of the truck.

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Softball: Lady Eagles go 3-3

The Decatur Lady Eagles finished fourth in the Argyle tournament over the weekend going 3-3.

The Lady Eagles started things off with an 11-6 win over Argyle, but later fell to the Northwest JV 7-4.

They returned Friday to win both of their games, beating Calisburg 5-2 before a comeback 6-5 victory over Denton.

Saturday, Decatur fell 12-1 to Sanger.

The Lady Eagles faced Northwest JV a second time, falling 7-5 in eight innings.

Decatur sisters Brittany and Kelsie Roberts were named to the All-Tournament team.

Brittany went 10 for 17 at the plate and had only one error at shortstop in 27 attempts.

Kelsie pitched 19 and 1/3 innings for Decatur, allowing only 12 earned runs while striking out 14 batters.

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Swimming: Rowden finishes off career at state meet

Decatur senior Katey Rowden wrapped up her career in the pool Saturday with a fifth-place finish in the consolation finals of the 100 butterfly at the University Interscholastic League championships.

Rowden finished in 59.62 seconds at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center.

“I swam my absolute best,” Rowden said. “I laid it all out.”

Rebecca Brandt took the gold medal in 56.13.

Rowden turned in a 59.56 in prelims. The top eight times advancing to the finals in the event were under 59 seconds.

It was Rowden’s fourth time at the state meet.

“That was all God. I wouldn’t have the confidence to compete without him,” Rowden said.

“I also had awesome coaches who supported and helped me, a family that believed in me and teammates that also supported me.”

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Soccer: Eagles even record

The Decatur Eagles took down Wichita Falls Hirschi 3-2 Friday to even their record in 3-4A to 2-2.

The Eagles are in third place in the league behind Wichita Falls Hirschi and Springtown.

FOSSIL RIDGE 3, NORTHWEST 0

The Northwest Texans were blanked by Fossil Ridge 3-0 Friday.

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Mary Beth Brown

Mary Beth Brown

Mary Beth Brown, 85, of Decatur died Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, at home.

Graveside service is 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, at Oaklawn Cemetery in Decatur. Visitation is 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Jones Family Funeral Home.

Mary Beth was born July 10, 1929, in Decatur to Albert and Zella Pauline (Lawson) Rhine. She was a graduate of Decatur High School. On April 20, 1946, she and Alf Brown married in Denton.

For 20 years, she was a clerk for Olney Savings in Decatur. She was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Decatur and affiliated with the Lost Battalion Association.

Mary Beth was preceded in death by her parents and husband.

She is survived by sons Richard Brown, Robert Brown and Jimmy Brown; grandchildren Bratton Ray Williams and Amanda Kai Lasater and husband, Chase; and great-grandchildren Dalton Gentry Lasater and Cash Lasater.

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Guns stolen from Decatur home

Several firearms were stolen from a Decatur home last weekend.

The burglary took place in the 400 block of North Cates Street, possibly between the hours of 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday while the home’s residents were away from the house. Items taken included three rifles, including an assault rifle, two handguns, and Xbox and PS3 gaming systems.

Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said the home’s residents found the front door had been forced open. The home was not ransacked, indicating the burglar possibly knew where the stolen items were located.

Anyone with information should call the Decatur Police Department at 940-393-0300.

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, February 21, 2015

DECATUR CITY COUNCIL – The council will gather at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23, for annual reports from the finance, planning, public works and fire departments prior to its 6 p.m. meeting. On that agenda is presentation of an “initial period study” for Project Sidekick, under development by the Decatur Economic Development Corp., with a request for possible action to continue moving the project along. There will also be a resolution calling for the May 9 election to be held jointly with Decatur ISD, a request for street closings for Cruise Nights on the Courthouse Square May 2, June 6, Sept. 5 and Oct. 3, and the presentation of the city’s annual audit report by accountant Scott Siegmund. The meeting is held at City Hall, 201 E. Walnut, and is open to the public.

DECATUR HOSPITAL AUTHORITY – The board that governs Wise Regional Health System will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23, at the hospital’s board room. After administrative and financial reports and an update from the Foundation, the board will review, consider and take action on floor plans for the fitness/sports medicine/physical therapy complex. They will also elect a new vice-president, consider authorizing CEO Steve Summers, CFO Todd Scroggins and Director of Accounting Kala Walsh to sign on a security procedure agreement with Wells Fargo Bank. Purchase of an imaging processor for $89,850 is also on the agenda prior to a closed session. When they come out, they will consider a slate of new medical staff appointments as well as biannual and first-year reviews.

ALVORD SCHOOL BOARD – Alvord school trustees will call a May 9 election for two places on the board when they meet Monday, Feb. 23 at 5 p.m. at 100 Mosley Lane. The only other agenda items are holding the election jointly with the City of Alvord, publishing a notice of the election and possible executive session. The meeting is open to the public.

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Sales tax drop hits city, Decatur EDC

Decatur City Manager Brett Shannon shared sad sales tax news at Thursday’s meeting of the Decatur Economic Development Corp.

The total sales tax allocation to the city for the month of December 2014, which was reported in February, was $377,412, an almost $70,000 decrease from the same month the previous year.

“There was $35,747.56 of audit collections that were taken out for some reason,” Shannon said. “I don’t know what it was. Obviously, somebody got a rebate. That’s a pretty big hit.”

Mayor Martin Woodruff said the audit collections are not uncommon, but usually it’s $1,000 to $2,000.

“I don’t know if it’s due to the price of energy going down or not quite as much Christmas shopping done as in previous years … whether it’s more online sales than in-store sales. I don’t know,” Shannon said. “The bottom line is it’s down.

“Historically, this allocation is the largest check of the year due to the Christmas season and annual filers,” he said. “Hopefully we won’t get hit by any more audit adjustments of that magnitude.”

Director’s report

Executive Director Mary Poch said despite a valiant effort, it was not going to be possible to get a natural gas line to Imperial Fabrication on U.S. 380 east of Decatur.

The company needed the line to run a large powder-coating machine.

“It was going to cost half a million to $850,000 to build a gas line, and even then it was still questionable if it would be enough for them,” she said.

Jay Davidson said even with the abundance of natural gas in the county, “we learned how restrained we are to provide gas …”

Poch also reported that the business appreciation dinner will change to a bi-annual event as part of a business expansion and retention program.

She said Ida Mae Burnett has moved up into a business retention and expansion role in addition to her duties as an administrative assistant for the EDC. As part of the program, Poch said quarterly meetings would be held with upper management retail, professional and industrial sectors.

“It will have a three-part focus – retail, professional and industrial,” she said. “You kind of have to walk through it and tweak it as we go, but the overriding concern [of the program] is to support the businesses that are already here.

“What I’ve found in getting that group together is it’s an opportunity to network and share,” she said. “We’ll start those and then next year do the big dinner.”

She also noted that she received 10 inquiries in January, but since most of them required large buildings, of which there are none available in Decatur, she was unable to respond.

She also said H2X president Michael Clark, who’s in Colorado, sent a letter in late November requesting additional financial assistance because rent at their local facility is higher than anticipated. Poch told him the EDC was not allowed to give a company money for rent, but they might be able to assist the business as it expands.

Poch also told the board that she plans to have a new aerial map made.

“The last large aerial map was in 2010, and I like to redo that every five years,” she said. “We’re using the company that we used before. I want to focus more on the airport area and on specifically three to five different sites where we can zero in on where we want some development to happen.”

In other business, the board approved updating the EDC bylaws and creating a code of ethics.

At the end of the meeting, they spent an hour in executive session discussing Project Splash, Project Blue Sky, Project Landslide and Project Sidekick, but took no action on any of those items.

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Curtain call: Local law firm wins judgment for Austin theater producer

Ginger Rogers.
Betty Grable.
Ethel Merman.
Julie Harris.
Lynn Redgrave.
Imogene Coca.
Sid Caesar.
Derrick Boyd.
Kristy Campbell.
Allen Williamson.

If those last three names seem out of place, it’s because Boyd, Campbell and Williamson are lawyers in Wise County, not legendary Broadway actors.

They do, however, fit perfectly on the list of people who have worked with Austin theater producer Charles Duggan.

LEGENDARY PRODUCER – Austin theater producer Charles Duggan was an interesting client for a team of Wise County lawyers. Photo Courtesy the Austin American-Statesman

Duggan, who has brought the “Greater Tuna” plays as well as numerous others to the stage during a long and successful career, hired the local law firm of Simpson Boyd Powers and Williamson to represent him in a complex lawsuit after he lost nearly $2 million in a real estate Ponzi scheme in 2008.

The scheme’s mastermind, Robert Langguth, is serving a four-year sentence in federal prison for defrauding investors of between $16 and $20 million through a series of real estate deals.

The lawsuit targeted Langguth, but it also took aim at Gracy Title Co., a venerable Central Texas firm in existence since 1873. The suit alleged that the title company participated in the scheme by allowing Langguth “to use an escrow account held at Gracy Title as his personal bank account.”

On Feb. 5, a jury in Travis County unanimously agreed, saying the Gracy Title office Langguth was working with committed “fraud and misapplication of fiduciary property” with Duggan’s investments.

The nine-man, three-woman jury awarded Duggan actual damages of $3,345,927 along with punitive damages of $3 million from Gracy Title and $5 million from Langguth – a total award of $11,345,927.

Boyd, who served as the lead attorney on the case, said he expects the verdict to be appealed once the judge has issued his final ruling March 4.

“There’ll be some disagreement about what the numbers are, whether there’s evidence to support them,” he said. “The fact that we got a unanimous finding on all counts makes us feel pretty confident that we’ll get a judgment on something.”

Fast and loose with the funds

According to the lawsuit petition, in September 2008 Duggan wired $1,980,000 into an escrow account at Gracy Title to be part of a real estate investment group put together by Langguth.

When he pled guilty to federal criminal charges in November 2012, Langguth admitted that from November 2005 to December 2009, he devised a scheme to obtain money from investors under false pretenses.

Langguth told investors they were buying a participation in a real estate “bridge” loan – evidenced by a note and secured, in most cases, by a first lien on real property. In return, he promised investors he would pass through their share of the monthly interest payments made by borrowers.

He also promised that when the borrower paid off the loan, the capital would be returned to the investor.

In reality, he pocketed between $16 and $20 million from 250 victims who invested in his company.

What made it a Ponzi scheme was that he was paying off earlier investors with money from newer ones. It fell apart when he was no longer able to attract new investors.

Langguth filed for bankruptcy in March 2010.

Boyd said they had a strong case that the title company failed to meet its fiduciary responsibilities. In fact, after his expert witness testified, the other side opted not to put their expert on the stand.

“It’s kind of like, you hire somebody to paint your house, and they let their buddy in the back door to steal your TV,” Boyd said. “Just because they didn’t steal your TV, that doesn’t make them not responsible. You can’t assist somebody.

“There’s no way Langguth could have gotten the money out of that title company. He had to have help getting it out.”

The most damning piece of evidence came from the title company itself. On Sept. 12, 2008, Duggan got a letter from Gracy Title stating, in part, that “as of today, $800,000 has been placed and is secured by liens. The balance of $1,180,000 is being held.”

Evidence at trial showed this was simply not true. To the contrary, the funds were released to Langguth by Gracy Title’s escrow officer, without any security.

Boyd’s team even produced evidence showing the escrow officer had received payments from Langguth out of accounts she was handling, including $5,500 from the escrow account into which Duggan wired funds.

According to Boyd, the letter looked bad enough – but when you consider that the person who wrote it was receiving money from Langguth under the table, it looked particularly bad.

“I think the jury got the picture of what was going on,” he said.

The branch manager, who was not criminally prosecuted, doesn’t work for Gracy Title anymore. She was the first witness Boyd called during the trial.

The jury specifically found that Gracy Title failed to comply with its fiduciary duty, committed fraud, knowingly participated in Langguth’s breach of fiduciary duty, committed a misapplication of fiduciary funds and conspired with Langguth.

Gracy Title CEO David Tandy told the Austin American-Statesman his company did not agree with the outcome of the case.

“There are many issues that need to be worked out on appeal,” he said.

Boyd said the appeal process could take two years or more.

FIRM GETS ONE OF ITS MOST INTERESTING CLIENTS

Defending the rights of a legendary theater producer was a step outside the box for the Wise County law firm of Simpson, Boyd, Powers and Williamson.

Courtroom Drama

COURTROOM DRAMA – Wise County lawyers Allen Williamson, Derrick Boyd and Kristy Campbell of Simpson, Boyd, Powers and Williamson represented “Greater Tuna” producer Charles Duggan in a lawsuit that ended earlier this month in Austin. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

Charles Duggan is, by any measure, “a character,” according to lead attorney Derrick Boyd.

“The godmother of his two boys is Joan Collins, who he had produced a play for, and worked with,” Boyd said. “He’s just had an interesting career as a producer. He runs in circles a lot of us don’t run in.”

That made it a challenge to find 12 regular folks who might be sympathetic.

“It was unique because you’re not going to find a jury full of people who have lived his life,” he said. “You’ve got to relate to a jury. But they exonerated him all the way across the board.”

The jury found Duggan’s honesty refreshing, he said.

“He basically got up there and admitted things he had to admit,” Boyd said. “It was a good case, and we represented a good guy.”

Duggan produced “Greater Tuna” and other plays throughout the U.S. – and used his influence, connections and resources to help numerous artistic causes in the Austin area.

“He’s a great guy,” said Williamson, who assisted at trial. “It was an honor to represent him.”

According to a 2009 story in The Austin Chronicle, Duggan, 61, is an “old-school” producer who grew up with a passion for the stage. He earned a degree from Stanford University, then toured for two years in stage productions with the likes of Rogers, Grable and Merman before attending law school at Georgetown University.

He went into corporate, real estate and entertainment law in San Francisco, but eventually agreed to co-produce a short-lived, but Tony-award-winning mountain-climbing drama, “K-2,” on Broadway.

Returning to the theater – this time behind the scenes – he found his true calling.

He bought the Marines’ Memorial Theatre in San Francisco in July 1982, and staged a series of hits there. He worked on stages there, on Broadway and in London before moving to Austin in 1992.

He’s best known as the producer of “Greater Tuna,” “A Tuna Christmas,” and “Red, White and Tuna” – working with the original creative team of Joe Sears and Jaston Williams for a quarter of a century.

He has a reputation as a fearless, creative force with unerring instincts for what works in a theater.

His fortunes took a nosedive, however, when he got involved with a real estate huckster who portrayed an experienced professional in a real-life drama.

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Volleyball: Ringing in new with old – Lady Eagles receive second championship rings

Volleyball: Ringing in new with old – Lady Eagles receive second championship rings

Staring at the new ring on her finger, Stormi Leonard expressed one disappointment.

“I didn’t paint my nails this time,” said the Decatur senior setter. “I didn’t have time.

“The new rings are awesome. We’re even more excited to get the new ones.”

Adding to Collection

ADDING TO COLLECTION – The Decatur Lady Eagles volleyball team received their state championship rings Wednesday. For many of the players, it was the second straight year for them to receive a title ring. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Leonard and the Decatur Lady Eagles received their 2014 volleyball state championship rings during a luncheon ceremony Wednesday at Decatur High School.

It was the second straight year for many of the Lady Eagles to receive rings after the program repeated as state champions in November. For the girls getting a second ring, the excitement was the same as the previous year.

“It’s awesome. It’s still unbelievable,” said Decatur senior outside hitter Makayla Mayfield.

The rings have a blue stone with “Back to Back Champions” on the top. On the inside, the team’s motto “Bringing the Heat” is engraved.

“The seniors got to come together and pick it out,” Leonard explained. “Our last rings did not have much blue, and we wanted blue to stand out more. We also had the black around the top because we won both of our state championships in our black uniforms.”

Decatur coach Claire Gay passed out the rings to her team.

“We’re still on cloud nine,” the coach said. “Getting the rings back-to-back is pretty cool.”

Beautiful Site

BEAUTIFUL SIGHT – Decatur players open the boxes with their state championship rings during a ceremony Wednesday at Decatur High School. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Decatur ISD Superintendent Rod Townsend addressed the team.

“I waited 32 years to get a state ring, and it was one of the highlights of my career,” Townsend said. “I wondered how do you top that? They found a way.

“Back-to-back titles are extremely rare,” he said. “You did amazing things not only on the court but with the example you set for young people and the way you represented this community.”

Decatur High School Principal Jeff Russell added: “I picked a great year to join Decatur High School.

“This speaks volumes to your character and dedication.”

Several Lady Eagles received their first ring.

“It’s amazing. It’s a crazy feeling being a state champion for the first time,” said Presley Gibson. “There was a lot of pressure, coming onto a team that won state.

“There will definitely be a lot of pressure next year. It’ll be our goal to work super hard to get there.”

One ring will make the trip halfway across the world to Italy with foreign exchange student and Lady Eagle Marta Bottani.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “It’s one thing I’ll bring home that I’m so proud of. I can’t wait to show everyone that I won state.

“I’ll remember this forever and stay in touch with the girls. It’ll be an awesome memory for the rest of my life.”

Mayfield and Leonard said they plan to wear both rings. Mayfield added she got the new ring sized to a different finger.

“Some [girls] didn’t think about that,” Mayfield said.

Leonard is wearing her new ring on her ring finger.

“I’ve always said I’m married to the game,” she said.

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Basketball: Bees hold off Lady Eagles – Stephenville wins on boards, game

Despite their size advantage inside, the Decatur Lady Eagles couldn’t keep the smaller and quicker Stephenville Honeybees off the offensive glass.

END OF THE LINE – Decatur senior Macen Stripling leaves the floor after the Lady Eagles’ loss to Stephenville Thursday. The Lady Eagles’ season ended at 22-7. Messenger Photo by Mack Thweatt

Stephenville pulled down 15 offensive boards for 14 second-chance points Thursday night, winning 47-44 over Decatur in the 4A Region I area tilt at Brock High School gym.

“They beat us on the boards,” said Decatur coach Billy Garner. “I said the entire game we had to do a better job of rebounding. We did, late, but the damage was already done.

“The effort was great. We just didn’t execute on the boards. They got more chances than we did.”

The loss ends the Lady Eagles’ season at 22-7. Decatur won a district title for a second straight season.

“After losing four seniors, you never know what’s going to happen. Our seniors this year stepped up big,” Garner said. “Jasmyne [Tate] coming back after two [knee] surgeries helped. She had a great year.

“I’m proud of this team. No one expected us to do this much.”

It was the final game for Tate and fellow seniors – Makayla Mayfield, Shelby Drews and Macen Stripling.

TRYING TO MAKE A COMEBACK – Decatur’s Hannah Dunning attempts a shot over Stephenville defender. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“I’m proud of our team,” Mayfield said. “We had a big slump before district and did a lot better in district. We just couldn’t pull this one out.”

Mayfield pulled up for a game-tying 3-point try in the final seconds, but unlike last year in the area round, her shot could not find the mark this time.

“For a second, I thought it was on line,” said Mayfield, who finished with five points.

Along with letting Stephenville get second-chance points, Decatur hurt itself with turnovers and missed free throws. They turned the ball over 22 times and finished 6-for-14 from the free-throw line – including going 2-for-8 in the final frame.

The Lady Eagles twice missed game-tying free throws in the final 30 seconds.

“We missed some crucial free throws,” Garner said. “People always remember the ones at the end, but the ones in the beginning are just as important.”

Decatur also battled foul trouble with Tate, Stripling and Drews sitting for large stretches. Stripling hit her first five shots and scored 10 points around the foul issues.

Hitting three 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the second quarter, Stephenville took a 20-13 lead. Stephenville finished 5-for-14 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Decatur scored the final six points of the half, including Raena Slate’s leaner just before the buzzer, to cut the deficit to two, 24-22.

The Lady Eagles went ahead in the third, but Stephenville hit two more threes as part of a 10-2 run to take a 34-30 lead into the final frame.

Stephenville was up seven, 39-32, with 6:06 left. Two second-chance baskets from Hannah Dunning and another from Tate pulled Decatur within two.

Decatur stayed close the rest of the way but couldn’t get the game tied.

Dunning, who will be Decatur’s lone returning starter, finished with a game-high 15 points and eight rebounds.

“I’m proud of everyone. I’m blessed that I got a play with these girls,” Dunning said. “I’m definitely looking forward to next year and working hard to get better.”

STEPHENVILLE 47, DECATUR 44

Stephenville … 11 … 13 … 10 … 13 … – … 47
Decatur … 9 … 13 … 8 … 14 … – … 44

Stephenville (22-10) – Cassidy Cline 5, Mikayla Hobbs 5, Breanna Wooley 13, Ali Thorpe 5, Bayleigh Chaviers 9, Lyndi Graham 5, Skylar Chipman 1, Kali Smith 1, Bethanie Bouchey 3.

Decatur (22-7) – Makayla Mayfield 5, Raena Slate 2, Shelby Drews 4, Hannah Dunning 15, Savannah Thompson 1, Macen Stripling 10, Jasmyne Tate 7.

3-pointers: Stephenville 5-14 (Wooley 3, Thorpe, Cline); Decatur 0-3. Turnovers: Stephenville 14; Decatur 22.

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Basketball: Hicks, Eagles torch Stephenville

Heading into the postseason, Parker Hicks admitted to putting in some extra work on post moves. He put those moves on display Thursday night.

LEADING THE WAY – Decatur’s Parker Hicks rises for two points during the Eagles’ win over Stephenville Thursday. Hicks poured in 35 points in the 60-47 win. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Hicks stayed active around the basket, torching Stephenville for a career-high 35 points, leading Decatur to a 60-47 victory in a warm-up game at Brock High School gym.

“I’ve been really pushing myself with the post work recently. It’s my first time playing post,” Hicks said. Hicks also pulled down double-digit rebounds for the Eagles.

Decatur coach Drew Coffman said the young forward’s explosion was not a surprise.

“He’s capable of doing that. He worked hard in the offseason and every day,” Coffman said.

“He made a couple good drives. We also made a couple of good entry passes to him.”

The victory gives the Eagles a three-game winning streak heading into Monday’s 4A Region I bi-district game against Alvarado. They will play at Chisholm Trail High School at 7:30 p.m.

“I was proud of the overall effort. It was a good game for us,” Coffman said. “We were happy we got a win but also we realize there’s a lot we need to go back and work on.

“We struggled in stretches and played well in stretches. The playing well outnumbered the poor stretches. We got a lift from some guys. Dane Fitzgerald came in when we had some foul trouble in the fourth quarter and played great.”

It was Fitzgerald’s 3-pointer with 6:22 left that stretched Decatur’s lead to 10, 51-41.

Hicks kept the Eagles up by double-digits down the stretch, adding his final six points.

With the Eagles down a starter – Holt Garner – Hicks got his team off a strong start with 11 first-quarter points. Hicks drained a pair of 3-pointers in the opening frame.

“With Holt being out, I took it as my responsibility to step up,” Hicks said.

He added another eight in the second to keep Decatur up 30-26.

With an 11-4 run in the middle of the third, Stephenville took its only lead on Zoe Kendall’s layup in transition.

Hicks immediately put Decatur back up with a pair of free throws on the other end. Hicks finished off an 8-2 spurt that gave the Eagles a 44-39 lead going to the fourth quarter with a hook shot.

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Soccer: Springtown edges Decatur

The Decatur Lady Eagles fell 2-1 to Springtown Tuesday.

Reagan Johnson netted the Lady Eagles’ goal.

Decatur fell to 0-3 in District 3-4A.

Decatur looked to picked up its first league win against Wichita Falls Hirschi Tuesday.

NORTHWEST 1, KELLER 1

The Northwest Texans fought to a draw at 1-1 against Keller Tuesday.

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