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Hundreds of Dickinson residents have already signed a petition to get rid of Sean Skipworth as mayor. But has he caused his own political downfall by acting like the Dick-tator of Dickinson?
I’ve been in the journalism business since I was 19 years old. A long damn time.
And when I see a newspaper bald-face lie to its readers I’m going to call it out.
We don’t often start one of our stories with a newspaper headline, but the Galveston Daily News owes the community a public apology.
Wayne Dolcefino asked, “You think the newspaper is playing politics?”
“100% but that doesn’t surprise me. I’m kind of shocked they are still in business to be honest,” responded Bruce Henderson.
The newspaper has been helping Dickinson mayor Sean Skipworth for months, trying to portray him as a poor victim of mean politics.
Now the newspaper’s editor Michael A. Smith tells voters in Dickinson should reject the campaign to recall their buddy.
That’s totally fine. It’s an editorial, their opinion, but telling people the campaign to get rid of mayor is a nameless faceless campaign is just a bald face lie. An insult to the dozens of folks who gathered at city hall to see the recall begin.
The affidavit to start the recall wasn’t faceless at all. It was signed by five people. Three of them are former Dickinson city council members. Wally Deats served nine years on council and fought for term limits.
“What happens is when council won’t act and reign him in then it’s up to the citizens to do something about it and that’s what we’re doing,” said Wally Deats.
84-year-old Louis Decker was on city council for more than 20 years.
And then there’s former councilmember Bruce Henderson, who says it’s the mayor whose vindictive relations are divided the city.
They are all part of what is called citizens for responsible government, alleging the mayor and city manager have teamed up to ruin Dickinson.
“People in Dickinson have a lot of questions that need to be answered and they won’t answer our questions,” said Scott Schrader.
Former city councilman Scott Shrader didn’t sign the affidavit but is helping lead the fight.
“I think our only option is a recall of Skipworth at this point,” said Shrader.
We began our Dickinson investigation a year and a half ago as a nasty fight broke out over how to develop this prime stretch of the bayou next to the Gulf Freeway.
The mayor and city manager promised a massive 121-million-dollar mixed use development on Water Street, including a 4.5 million parking garage with free parking.
Local businessman Joe Wilburn and other members of the Dickinson Economic Development Corporation thought building restaurants in a small stretch of the property right along the bayou was a quicker economic fix, a boost to tourism for the bayou.
The mayor didn’t like it and filed a criminal complaint in fact, alleging secret meetings and immediately made it all public. Began a campaign to purge the political opposition from volunteer boards.
“You think he came in and chopped his leg off,” asked Dolcefino.
Wilburn replied, “Absolutely yeah.”
Multiple officials complained to us; it was the mayor who was trying to steer the taxpayer owned land to his employer, the College of the Mainland, where he is a professor and his wife, a trustee.
But here is the reality today. Three years later, do you see any restaurants? Any tourism boats?
And that water street project, the one the mayor said was the most successful project the EDC ever put together, it’s still dozens of acres of nothing.
“I’m sad for the city and I’m scared. I grew up here. I graduated from here,” said Dawn King.
The Dickinson Chamber of Commerce is now closing, and the mayor is accused of a campaign to destroy it, helping hide unexplained land deals while sales tax dollars continue to shrink.
“They’ve got nothing to show for millions and millions of city taxpayer dollars we have nothing we have less than we had when they showed up,” said King.
Surveillance video at Dickinson City Hall exposed a possible illegal meeting in the mayor’s office before another one of his political opponents was dispensed with.
And when city volunteers questioned contracts with a company called Pro Source while a councilman worked there, they were kicked out of their government positions too.
It’s a disturbing pattern, since Skipworth became mayor and Theo Melanson became city manager more than 125 employees in a town with a population of just 21,000 people have resigned or have been fired. That’s unheard of.
“They’re going to destroy you. They’re going to kick you to the curb and come stomp on you till you’re done,” said Shrader.
The mayor attacked us simply for asking for public records.
“Someone has hired an investigative reporter to dig around, put a hit piece together, and do public information requests,” said Skipworth.
How dare us ask for records that taxpayers pay for.
Mayor Skipworth claims he is transparent while he hides public records. Most recently payments to a firm called TXP.
We filed a lawsuit to gain access to public records and the mayor got the city council to hire the Rusty Hardin Law Firm at 500 dollars an hour to fight us.
They really like lawyers in Dickinson, since Skipworth was elected they have spent $645,000 in legal fees in just a couple of years.
But the mayor is unsurprisingly fighting back with a new website called unitedickinson.com.
He paid for flyers that arrived in mailboxes across town, attacking a lot of folks. Including me.
He bashes our investigation into the city’s denial of hot water to low-income residents of the Creekside Apartment complex. Forcing the eventual closing of the property, leaving some residents homeless.
“I just want answers why were we treated this way,” said Kayla Layer.
There was never any dispute that there were significant building code violations at the aging low-income apartment complex, it had been swamped by the hurricane years before. But the city ignored the fact that the Kalkan family who owned it had already spent millions of dollars trying to fix the place up.
“For them wanting to kick us out of our homes to go find someplace else. I think that is outrageous,” said Cheryl Kmiecik.
Emails the city fought to hide showed the city targeted Creekside for closure even before they inspected the place. Even preparing a press release the day before.
The mayor was accused of telling people not to pay rent, costing the Kalkan family hundreds of thousands a month.
Some members of the Building Standards Commission now believe they were misled about how bad Creekside really was. Did it need to be shut down? Low income residents forced to find another place to live in December, around Christmas.
“I believe we were probably were misled on how bad it was,” said Susan Wilcox.
Susan Wilcox signed her name to start the recall effort too. She’s not nameless.
Yet the Galveston Daily News actually called this nameless faceless campaign to recall the mayor “bullshit.” Their word. They know that’s not true.
The Creekside property right off 517 and the Gulf Freeway has been shuttered for a year. We were allowed to document that some of the complaints by a few residents were actually unfounded.
The property was once worth 30 million dollars, now worth a small fraction of that.
And this is where Sean Skipworth put the city at risk, and not just legally. The Kalkan family was willing to do a 750-million-dollar redevelopment of the 60 acres around Creekside until they saw our investigation.
It is Skipworth who may have jeopardized the chance to get a billion dollar company to help revitalize this town.
And now he calls it a slum in his new flyer fighting the recall. And me some kind of political operative. But for what politician? Whatever.
Dickinson voters should care about transparency, they should care their city manager hid alcohol purchases on the city dime. They should care a councilman works for a company that’s getting big contracts. They should care that the mayor has shut down often public debate. They should demand an accounting of why the city buys so much real estate they don’t use. Why the mayor won’t let auditors look at the records.
The Galveston Daily News wants you to believe the mayor has no responsibility beyond that of any other city councilman in a city manager form of government. They are dead wrong. And we have proved it time and time again.
These nameless faceless people who crowded city hall all say Skipworth has abused his power, like a dictator. That’s how we came up with the dick of Dickinson.
Remember when we got the mayor’s text messages? How he bragged about having another city official on a short leash.
It speaks volumes about the way Sean Skipworth conducts himself when he doesn’t think you’re watching.
“If Sean were sitting here in front of me I would look him right in his face to say there is not a single thing about this that’s person I was never your enemy. But you have made me your enemy,” expressed Bruce Henderson.Keep up with us on social media: