Castle Hills councilman accused of pressuring staff to move his street near top of repair list

City's street, drainage committee disbanded after comments from councilman

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter

CASTLE HILLS, Texas - Castle Hills police records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders confirm that a city councilman was investigated for allegations of abuse of power late last year after multiple city employees said he pressured them to move the street he lives on to near the top of the city's street repair list.

Councilman Douglas Gregory, who also served as chairman of the Castle Hills Street and Drainage Committee, denied instructing staff to lower his street's Overall Condition Index, or OCI.

But multiple city employees, including Castle Hills' public works director, told an investigator Gregory "demanded his street be put in to be repaired."

A fellow council member gave a signed statement to police in which she said Gregory "instructed the city to change the number of Briarcliff."

The statement said that, after Gregory denied having the number changed, Castle Hills' now-former City Manager Curt Van De Walle called him a "liar and a cad."

"Everything I have to say is in that report," Van De Walle told The Defenders earlier this month via telephone.

He left the city at the end of 2017 for unrelated reasons.

Castle Hills Mayor Tim Howell disbanded the Street and Drainage Committee in November after being briefed on the results of an administrative inquiry into Gregory's comments.

City staff members since 2014 have used a Cartegraph program to determine the OCI of Castle Hills' streets.

The lower the OCI, the worse condition a street is in and the sooner it will typically come up for repairs.

City records show the street Gregory lives on, Briarcliff Drive, was originally given an OCI in the mid-40s.

"I just find it amazing, my street, which I defy anybody to say that it's an average street, that it is better off. It is so wretched, people won't walk on it anymore," Gregory said during a January 2017 committee meeting.

"All I know is I've got just about everybody on my street ready to shoot me and the rest of the committee if they do not seriously consider Briarcliff," Gregory said during a committee meeting in May 2017.

A city staff member responded that he found the comment offensive.

WATCH: Part 1 and Part 2 of KSAT's interview with Councilman Douglas Gregory 

Gregory's comments were included in a group of audio files from meetings that were recorded throughout 2017 and released to The Defenders following an open records request.

The audio records confirm that Gregory mentioned his own street at least 10 times during committee meetings last year.

City staff told an investigator that, after Gregory's repeated comments about Briarcliff Drive, the section of the street in front of Gregory's home was reinspected and its OCI was lowered to 28.

A score of 28 moved this section of Briarcliff Drive ahead of nearly 50 other streets, according to city records.

The section of Briarcliff Drive in front of Gregory's home, between Lockhill Selma Road and Banyan Drive, was later added to a Major Works Projects Plan, which called for it to receive $450,000 in repairs, city records show.

The plan never made it to the City Council for a vote, after another councilman noticed Briarcliff Drive and several other Castle Hills streets had altered OCI scores.

Briarcliff's Drive's OCI was later changed back to the mid-40s, according to city records.

An investigation by the Castle Hills Police Department cleared Gregory of criminal wrongdoing but concluded that he was "strongly suggestive (at a minimum) to have staff reduce his street's OCI."

"I think what I would have done in this particular case, if my street would have been on that, is probably recuse myself," said Howell.

"I think he should definitely take a strong look at what his intentions are and explain himself."

After Gregory did not respond to repeated emails about the administrative inquiry, The Defenders tracked him down before a City Council meeting earlier this month.

"You have a fiduciary responsibility to everybody in the city to bring something forward. Now, you recuse yourself when you have a vote. No vote was ever taken; it was never brought up," said Gregory.

He then repeatedly told a KSAT 12 photographer that he did not "want this on tape."

After the photographer continued recording, Gregory provided a nearly 20-minute, at times tense, explanation for his comments.

"I think it's appropriate that you vet everything hard. I absolutely wanted to have that street vetted, and because it was vetted, it was found lacking," said Gregory.

Gregory said that he repeatedly mentioned Briarcliff Drive because the committee's previous chairman brought it up as a candidate for possible repairs this year.

He also said he used Briarcliff Drive as an example of how the city's Cartegraph program is not being implemented properly.

He stood by comments he made on tape that Briarcliff Drive was in such poor condition that people no longer walk on it, even after The Defenders informed him that KSAT recorded video of multiple people exercising on the street.

Copyright 2018 by KSAT - All rights reserved.