Accusations of nepotism in Slaton as city administrator prepares to retire

Updated: Feb. 18, 2021 at 6:12 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Last week, we told you about some apparent violations of the Slaton City Charter, as the city spent thousands of taxpayer dollars at a firearms store owned by City Administrator Mike Lamberson.

PDF: Invoices from Smokin Chief Firearms to City of Slaton

The charter says no city employee may be “pecuniarily interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract to which the city is a party.”

But Lamberson is the owner of Smokin Chief Firearms, where the city spent over $10,000 last year, including $1,500 each for four AR-15 rifles back in September 2020, along with 400 rounds of ammunition at $1.50 a round.

The charter also prohibits nepotism, city employees giving jobs to their own family members. It says, “No person related within the second degree by affinity, or within the third degree by consanguinity, to the mayor, to either of the commissioners or the city manager, shall be appointed to any office, position, clerkship or service of the city.”

That seems pretty clear, but that didn’t stop the city of Slaton from hiring Lamberson’s daughter, or his teenage granddaughter.

Lamberson announced his retirement in the wake of our story last week, saying he intends to step down in late April, ahead of the May election.

This was originally just an election for two council positions, but a special election has been called to replace positions held by city commissioners Charlie Haynes. Jr., and Weldon ‘Squeaky’ Self.

Slaton Mayor Lynn Nowlin responded to some of our concerns at last week’s council meeting, saying “We approve all bids and the awarding of such, while we also promote doing business locally, first, if at all possible.”

But we received no documentation from the city that would indicate a bid process for the purchases from Smokin Chief Firearms.

Nowlin also responded to the apparent nepotism, saying “At the city, we have several employees that are related. Just like at other businesses in Slaton, including the largest employer, Slaton ISD. We always strive to follow carefully and to the letter of the law how these employees work, are hired, and supervised.”

But again, when we requested the job posting for each job for which Landa Lamberson was paid in 2019 and 2020, we received no evidence that her job was ever posted at all, as required by the city’s policies and procedures.

Landa Lamberson made more than $45,000 each of the last two years, working as an administrative assistant for the Slaton Police Department, more than the starting salary for Slaton police officers, which is $35,000.

As we were researching our initial story, Mike Lamberson told us, “You don’t understand how things are done in Slaton, Texas.”

So we decided to ask some Slaton citizens if they approve of the way the city is currently doing business. We received multiple responses, all of which said it’s important for city officials to follow the rules.

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