Page 24


ANGELA HARDIN J.C. Hanna the whole thing is just a part of the vendetta, has appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. “It was a very unusual contract,” said Diane Van Helden, the attorney for Granite Shoals. “I dare say there is not any 10-year contract, much less any kind of employment contract, in any city in Texas with its chief of police. It’s an office which is subject to the policy direction of the council and so it has always traditionally been one of the offices ‘at will,’ at the pleasure of. And that’s what it has always been and that’s what the Third Court of Appeals said.” At a gathering of William’s supporters, the debate about contract law was moot. To them, Herman Williams was the best police chief they had ever known and they were bitter that he was ousted because of political factionalism. Everyone had a story about Herman. One woman, who had just recovered from a bout with shingles, told how Herman had mowed the lawn of one elderly couple for three years because they were unable to do it themselves. Another told how the police chief would go to her house when he was off duty to guard against a belligerent sonin-law. So, while they drank hot tea and coffee mid-afternoon, with Lake LBJ lapping below the back window of a restaurant, they all seethed about the current state of affairs in Granite Shoals. A week earlier, at a gathering of Williams’ opponents, the anecdotes and opinions were different. To these people, Herman Williams was the David Koresh of Granite Shoals, an evil, intimidating man who sweet-talked his way to the top while his supporters blindly followed. Williams opponents alleged that there had been threats and acts of intimidation. More than one of them said the city wouldn’t be safe to live in if Herman Williams ever became police chief again. If the firing of Herman Williams were all that was wrong in Granite Shoals, then once the jury and appeals court had their say, the fires, it seemed, would smoulder and eventually burn out. Residents of Granite Shoals know better, and in fact, most will tell you firing of Herman Williams was more like fanning the flames. Six months after the council voted to terminate him, another round of hostilities began and, not surprisingly, controversy revolved around Herman Williams. On November 2, 1992, Williams ran as a write-in candidate for constable and lost to Donald Turner by a vote of 1,368 to 621. But like much of what happens in Granite Shoals, that’s only part of the the story. The conflict between Williams and Turner began long before the electionback when Turner was a police officer and Williams was police chief. For more than a year, Williams had collected incriminating evidence against Turner and when the evidence was turned over to the City Councilthe same council that had given Williams a 10-year contractTurner was dismissed for misconduct. The bad blood between Wiliams and Turner raised the temperature of the 1992 municipal election campaign, during which Williams claims he was libeled and slandered in a political ad published in the Highlander, a newspaper published in Marble Falls. He filed a lawsuit against six individuals, including Turner, who were involved in publishing the ad, which ran several days before the election. “The only thing they got correct in the newspaper article was that I was 50 years old,” Williams said. “That’s the total absolute….I believe they did get my name right. Everything that they did tended to make the public think that I was trying to cover up something or hide something, which was not true.” The ad begins by stating that Williams has been married three times since 1987, with one marriage lasting only two weeks. Pointing towards his wife, Anne, who owns and runs a local beauty shop, he said, “there’s my wife there. ‘Ask her how many times I’ve been married.” Anne laughed. His opponents, however, say they have the marriage records to prove it and when questioned later, Williams said he has been married two times since 1987, once with a woman whom, as it turned out, he says, didn’t want to be married. The ad goes on to say, “Since being fired from the city, Mr. Williams has served the community by suing the city and also by threatening to sue citizens: Maxine Thurman, James Ballard, Leonard Hobbs [all council members], Ron Erkfitz and Frank Thurman….” While Williams contends that everything in the ad is false, it would be hard to argue that the statement was not, indeed, based in truth, although interpretations of the statement’s intent may vary. The lawsuit, filed in November 1992, has not yet made it to court. J.C. Hanna, an 80year-old defendant who has given up fishing and now keeps a briefcase full of political and legal documentation handy, said the suit is being used to intimidate people. Before the lawsuit was filed, Hanna said, he had been informed by mail that he could pay Williams $2,500 and the lawsuit would not be pursued. Each of the other five individuals named in the suit received the same letter; when asked, Williams said that the de THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5