LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The KCBD Investigates team is continuing to look at how local government bodies follow their own rules.
This week’s focus is on the town of Slaton, which has a population of a little more than 6,000 people, and is a home-rule city; meaning, it gets to write its own rules, within the limitations set by Texas state law.
The Investigates team is focusing on just how closely city leaders are following those rules when it comes to the benefit of their own personal business.
RELATED: Virtual City Council Meeting for the City of Slaton, Feb. 8, 2021, below:
“Kind of an overview of the whole government, it needs to turn around soon,” those words were uttered by the City of Slaton’s external auditor, from the Lubbock accounting firm of Bolinger, Segars, Gilbert and Moss, just a year ago - words that imply a city in decline.
Over the years, Slaton’s Standard & Poor rating, the credit score for a city, went from an A, to an A-, to a BBB.
“At this point, it’s been going the same direction for a few years. I’ve notified you every year of how the overall government looks. The records look good, but the financial position is not so healthy,” the auditor said during a City Council meeting.
And, while you might think a city in such a state would be very careful about how it spends its money, in Slaton, Texas, everything is blue skies and sunshine at Smokin Chief Firearms, owned and operated by City of Slaton Administrator, Mike Lamberson.
Smokin Chief Firearms client list includes one very important customer, and that is the City of Slaton.
Acting on a tip, our Investigates team requested invoices between the City of Slaton and Smokin Chief Firearms. We discovered memos and invoices detailing the business between the two. Business, our sources say, was done at a healthy profit.
However, that revelation comes as quite a surprise since the business relationship may violate the city’s charter, which states, “Nor shall any member of said commission, appointive officer or employee of the city be pecuniarily interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract to which the city is a party.”
A directive not followed in Slaton in this particular instance, prompting our team to ask the men and women in charge ‘What is going on’?
So, our team called the City Administrator, the Police Chief, the Mayor, and all the council members.
But, the only response our team received was a statement from City Administrator Mike Lamberson, after he refused an interview, and told me on the phone, in the presence of both the police chief and the mayor, that “You don’t understand how things are done in Slaton, Texas.”
The statement from Lamberson said in part, “The City of Slaton, Texas is a home-rule municipality that respects and values the public’s right and ability to access government information pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act.”
However, the response did not address its gun deals with City Administrator Lamberson.
In our team’s previous story about possible violations of city charters, we spoke to Lubbock Attorney Michael Uryasz, who told us, “The federal government has their constitution and your state has their constitution. The city charter is more or less the same way. It establishes the foundation for the city to govern.”
KCBD started trying to interview the Mayor of Slaton about the statements by the City Auditor a year ago. After making her aware of these most recent allegations, she still has been unable to schedule a time to speak with the Investigates team.