Shenanigans in Marfa mayoral race
April 20th, 2017 under Top Stories
By JOHN DANIEL GARCIA
MARFA – Recent actions by the Marfa Meds pharmacy technician has led to a clarification advertisement from the Big Bend Regional Hospital District, the taxing entity that provides the Marfa Meds program, stating that the district doesn’t endorse political candidates.
The matter came to light after Jerry Johnson of Marfa Meds stapled campaign cards for Marfa mayoral candidate Genevieve Bassham to packages of prescription medications.
Bassham’s mayoral opponent Ann Marie Nafziger was alerted to the issue after a friend of hers, who is a Marfa Meds customer, picked up a prescription medication with a Bassham for mayor card stapled to it.
“They made it sound like Marfa Meds was endorsing Genevieve. I called [BBRHD executive director Quinton Sledge] to ask him about it, since Marfa Meds is funded by the hospital district, which is a taxing entity,” Nafziger said. “Quinton said he wasn’t aware of it and he gave Mr. Johnson a call and ensured he would put a stop to it.”
The campaign cards, Sledge said, had been distributed for “a few days” without knowledge or permission from the hospital district.
The district, he added, has begun to send letters to customers who received the cards clarifying the board’s non-political stance.
“Mr. Johnson is compiling a list for us right now so we can personally contact each customer to let them know that we do not endorse any specific candidate and what had happened was not an endorsement,” he said.
According to Nafziger, she was told by Johnson – a former Alpine mayor – that Bassham had approached him to distribute the cards.
When contacted, Johnson declined to make a comment.
“When I asked [Johnson] about how it came about, he said she (Bassham) asked him to do it. He said they’ve been friends for 30 years and didn’t know it was not allowed,” Nafziger claimed, adding that Johnson said he didn’t know how many cards were distributed.
Bassham, however, claimed she had no knowledge of the way the cards were distributed, though she did acknowledge that she had supplied the cards to Johnson.
“He asked me for some cards, so I gave him some,” she told the Big Bend Sentinel. “I have known Jerry for a long time. I know his wife and we have served on boards together.”
When asked if she knew Johnson would distribute the cards in the manner that he did, she simply said, “no.”
“This is beyond me. I’m interested to know what’s going to happen,” said Lineaus Hooper Lorette, who is also running for mayor. “If it’s funded by tax revenue, you can’t campaign for people. Common sense tells you that you shouldn’t do those things. Common sense tells you that you can’t take sides.”
The distribution of the political campaign cards in such a manner may be a violation of Texas Ethics Commission statutes, though an investigation following a complaint is needed to decide, according to commission media relations spokesperson Ian Steusloff.
Other violations, Steusloff said, could have occurred under the district’s own bylaws regarding campaigning. Such bylaws, Sledge acknowledged are on the district’s books.
The ethics commission, Steusloff added, enforce the statutes “through a complaint process,” which can result in civil penalties with a fine up to $5,000 or a Class A misdemeanor criminal charge. The charge would be up to local prosecutors, such as the district attorney or the county attorney, he said.
The issue, Sledge said, is expected to be discussed during the next Big Bend Regional Hospital District board meeting, scheduled for yesterday, Wednesday evening in Presidio, after press time for this newspaper issue.
For Nafziger, she hopes the situation will be cleared up soon.
“Quinton said the district would send out letters and place ads, which I hope clears everything up,” she said, that the hospital district doesn’t endorse political candidates.