Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Lawsuit and a Candidacy for County Commission

A young man with a trailer full of hay rams his truck into a metal barrier protecting the gas pumps at a Las Cruces Pic Quik. Doing very little damage.

Pic Quik reports the incident to the police. The young man sues Pic Quik for $10,000, claiming that the manager ran out, tried to batter him, and chased him off the property. He also sues for defamation, saying Pic Quik lied in telling police he left without providing contact information. 

Unfortunately for the young man, Pic Quik's four video cameras tell another story. Video shows that after strikng the metal bar, he gets out to look at the damage, then gets back into the truck. An employee approaches and stands near the truck's passenger-side window for about four seconds before the young man drives away. No one chases him around or tries to batter him. The video doesn't show any exchange of information.

Why should this crazy tale make an ocotillo seed's worth of difference? Maybe because the young man and plaintiff recently won the Republican primary for Doña Ana County Commissioner (District 4). His name is William Jarod Webb.

Not surprisingly, Pic Quik moved to toss the case out on summary judgment. (Meaning there ain't enough to the case to justify wasting public resources on a trial.) Webb reiterated that he'd given his contact information, but also argued that he'd been in a hurry. Judge Rossner held a hearing in which Pic Quik was ably represented by Raul Carrillo. Mr. Webb didn't show up. He lost. Later he indicated an intention to seek reconsideration, but he never filed any motion.

Based on the Pic Quik incident in January, and the resulting lawsuit, you might worry that maybe this guy shouldn't be out on the street by himself – let alone help run the county you live in.

But Webb's an interesting guy. He speaks several foreign languages and has a bachelor's degree from Baylor. He appears to have gotten an M.A. in business administration from the (in)famous University of Phoenix, attended Capital Law School for a semester, then started a masters of divinity at Liberty Theological Seminary, a Jerry Falwell creation that other chaplain schools tend to disparage.

You'd guess maybe Webb hasn't figured out what he wants to do. But he told the Sun-News, “I've been planning to enter politics since I was 16, when I started writing presidents and world leaders.” He also told the Sun-News he had no idea who the county manager was.

When I spoke with Mr. Webb this week, he didn't want to talk much about the Pic Quik case. He did say that he hadn't done enough damage to anything to worry about and didn't know “why they're making such a big deal out of this.” It's true, he did little damage to the barrier; but his bogus lawsuit cost Pic Quik whatever the Carillo Law Firm charges per hour. (Webb also didn't want to talk much about Donald Trump, beyond saying he supported the party's candidate.)

He's working hard on an economic development plan he'll share with us when it's finished, and said jobs are the key issue here. He particularly wants to streamline permit and rezoning processes because “county red tape” doesn't help draw businesses that could create jobs. 

He also said that building so many new residences without jobs for residents would lead to a housing glut. Another important issue, to a member of a farming family, is improving irrigation canals, either with a pipeline or by covering them to limit evaporation.

I'll be interested to see how Webb's campaign progresses.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, June 26th, and will appear presently on the newspaper's website and on KRWG-TV's website.   I welcome question question and criticisms here or there.]
[I initially drafted this based on the documents in  the court file, plus the video.  I didn't print it during the primary, figuring that Mr. Webb might not prevail in that, and this material isn't of public interest if it concerns a private citizen, not a candidate.  After Mr. Webb finally called me back, I softened the resulting column, because he seems a nice kid, despite this lawsuit; but the lawsuit wasn't something from long ago, in that the accident was in January 2016 and I think he filed the lawsuit in February; nor is it harmless: he may or may not have done more damage to the protective bar than I realized, but he surely damaged Pic Quik by forcing it to pay lawyers to defend a frivolous lawsuit, and they're after him now to recover those damages.]
[I didn't mention in the column that on February 12th Mr. Webb swore before a notary that he was a pauper, and should not have to pay for filing and serving his lawsuit.  Some might find that document as telling as the bogus lawsuit.  Not because poor people shouldn't run for the county commission; obviously I don't feel that way; but a man running on a conservative "fiscal responsibility" platform ought to be asked about the fact that his business failed six months ago (nine or ten months, now) and he's unemployed (though he may have a job now) and receives food stamps and medicaid.  None of that disqualifies him from holding office; but none of it really shouts "fiscal responsibility" at me, either.]
[Too, just a few months after that Affidavit he funded his primary campaign all by himself.   Maybe he had a good few months.  Not that he's spending Trumpish money, but according to official filings he donated $1500 to his campaign, recorded no other contributions during the primary, and spent $1200.  He donated the $1500 on May 10.
[How seriously to take all this is up to each voter.  Mr. Webb thinks it's private and shouldn't matter to his candidacy, and also says he's going to turn the Pic Quik case around and repair whatever damage it has done to his reputation.  He says the dismissal of his claim on summary judgment was unfair, and Friday he sent me a copy of a motion for reconsideration.  (I promised that if he successfully changes the result I'll try to give that equal play with this column.  I do not know whether or not he's filed the motion.)  I think that all of the foregoing is quite relevant to his campaign; but it might be fair to regard all this as raising questions, not providing answers.  Maybe he will create such an imaginative program or display other personal qualities that outweigh what I consider a real problem.]