Bad blood between Grey Forest mayor, police administration preceded department’s implosion

Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies assumed patrol duties in Oct., amid GFPD turnover

GREY FOREST, Texas – Following the resignation of all four full-time officers with the Grey Forest Police Department, Mayor Mandie Waldrop this fall had no choice but to request the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office take over all patrol duties within the small city, located northwest of San Antonio.

The temporary loss of what some residents call the city’s “24/7 police coverage” has pitted neighbor against neighbor, with one faction blaming Waldrop and the other blaming a law enforcement agency that detractors say lacked initiative and clear operating standards.

The dust-up has been a major topic of conversation in the quiet town that spans less than one square mile and is home to roughly 500 residents.

A Bexar County Sheriff's deputy patrols the city of Grey Forest. (KSAT)

Waldrop, according to internal records obtained by KSAT Investigates, repeatedly clashed with Grey Forest PD leadership in the months after she won the mayoral election in May.

Also at issue was a May 2021 traffic stop of Waldrop by GFPD that police leadership claimed she repeatedly mischaracterized.

‘Rene’s little police force is going to be in trouble’

Waldrop was pulled over along Scenic Loop Rd., one of the town’s main roads, in late May 2021 for having an expired registration sticker, GFPD records show.

Officer Charles Marcus, according to an incident report, wrote that Waldrop told him, “Rene’s little police force is going to be in trouble,” and that “she refused to give me her TDL (Texas Driver’s License) until exiting the veh. (vehicle).”

“Rene” was an apparent reference to then-Grey Forest Police Department Chief Rene Rodriguez.

While the stop resulted in only a warning being issued to Waldrop, the incident was stirred up in February after GFPD administration learned that she had entered the race for mayor.

In late February, Rodriguez sent a letter to then-Mayor Mitch Thornton describing “lingering concerns” about Waldrop and the 2021 traffic stop.

Rodriguez wrote that weeks after the stop, Waldrop had falsely claimed to a GFPD sergeant that Officer Marcus had “yanked” her out of her vehicle and placed her “eagle spread” across its hood.

Waldrop, according to the letter, referred to the department as “Rene’s Gestapo Police,” a pejorative reference to the secret police of Nazi Germany.

The sergeant, Scott Ristow, in his own February letter to Chief Rodriguez, said Waldrop also referred to the department’s reserve officers as “rent a cops.”

In May, after Waldrop defeated Susan Darst to become Grey Forest mayor, police administration documented several other instances in which they accused Waldrop of describing the traffic stop as a use of force incident, recanting it only to then revert back to claiming force was used against her.

“It should be noted that this would now be the fourth version of the incident that she has now voiced,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter sent to the city attorney and mayor pro tem.

Rodriguez concluded the letter by stating that he wanted to continue doing his job without fear of retaliation.

Ristow, in separate letters sent to Rodriguez and then the mayor pro tem, stated that he too feared retaliation.

“At this time, I am worried that Mayor Waldrop could retaliate against me and will make my job as a supervisor extremely more difficult on a day-to-day basis,” wrote Ristow in his May 24 letter to Rodriguez.

Waldrop, who said she had been advised by the city attorney not to take part in a sit-down interview for this story, told KSAT via telephone late last month that she never characterized the traffic stop as a use of force incident.

She acknowledged refusing to hand over her driver’s license to Marcus at first, but said she got out of her vehicle when instructed to and was cooperative at the scene.

Waldrop reiterated statements she made to Rodriguez in a July email in which she described the “continual attacks” by Rodriguez and his officers.

“They are baseless and reflect poorly on the department,” wrote Waldrop.

Waldrop told KSAT she and Marcus have moved past the incident and have a “good relationship.”

Mayor Waldrop’s list of police expectations

GFPD, until this fall, consisted of a police chief, deputy chief, two sergeants, and a large pool of unpaid reserve officers.

After taking office, Waldrop put together separate lists of expectations for all city employees and members of the Grey Forest Police Department.

Waldrop’s list of expectations for officers included a directive on how to stagger patrols of the city as well as the statement that the speed limit on Scenic Loop Road “MUST be aggressively enforced.”

Mayor Waldrop's list of police expectations drew the ire of the city's law enforcement officers. (KSAT)

GFPD administration took issue with the list, according to records, describing it as an apparent attempt by her to create a quota system.

Quotas, in which officers are told to issue a predetermined number of traffic citations, are illegal under the Texas Transportation Code.

A GFPD sergeant told a city councilmember via letter July 11 that he could not sign the document because Waldrop was dictating policy.

The sergeant, like Rodriguez and Ristow, listed concerns about Waldrop retaliating against him at work, writing that he was “one hundred percent confident that she bears a grudge against me and harbors negativity toward the police department and its supervisors.”

In a July 12 letter sent by Rodriguez to Waldrop, he stated he will not “order, urge or encourage” his administration or their subordinates to sign the document.

Rodriguez reiterated his claims of a hostile work environment and informed Waldrop that he would “burn off accumulated time” before resigning from the department.

Reached by phone this month, Rodriguez confirmed he formally separated from the city Oct. 1.

“I am not going to work for somebody I believe is dishonest,” said Rodriguez.

He said it is important to point out that Waldrop created these expectations despite having no police management experience.

Waldrop informed the city’s residents Oct. 11 that Rodriguez, his deputy chief and both sergeants had all resigned.

Due to a lack of chain of command within GFPD, Waldrop said she had halted GFPD’s reserves from patrolling the city.

BCSO deputies instead have patrolled city streets since early October.

A community divided

This fall, a group of Grey Forest residents detailed a list of complaints they have with Waldrop.

“When I see public servants meticulously documenting their conversations with their supervisors, I understand what that means. They’re trying to protect themselves,” said Grey Forest resident Michael Phillips. “This is why I got involved. I cannot have an elected official impugning the character of the police force in this way.”

Resident Paul Garro, who said he supported Waldrop’s campaign, now believes she was too heavy-handed with the city’s “model police force.”

“The divisiveness in the city amongst neighbor to neighbor, I’ve never seen before in 20 years,” said Garro.

Multiple Grey Forest residents said Mayor Mandie Waldrop took a too heavy handed approach with the city's police force. (KSAT)

Waldrop’s supporters, nearly 20 of whom gathered at the city’s clubhouse to speak with KSAT last month, agree that the community is divided.

They said suspending police operations in order to fix the department trumps temporarily losing the 24/7 coverage officers previously provided.

“Overall, the police force that we had, if it was model, they weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing anyways,” said resident Shawn Main. “I would say that the police force realized they were losing ground from a prior party and that made them very upset.”

Supporters of Mayor Mandie Waldrop gather at the city's clubhouse last month. (KSAT)

Supporters of Waldrop said the department failed to properly vet many of its reserve officers, even though these officers made up a vast majority of the department.

Pressed about Waldrop’s list of police expectations and whether they promoted a traffic quota, her supporters said it was her way of conveying to police that they needed to work more efficiently.

“I can see how that might be a valid perception,” said resident Andy Jackson. “You could translate that from Mandie-ese to: ‘I want you to patrol at all.’”

Rodriguez pushed back on that claim this month, claiming traffic enforcement statistics for GFPD improved year after year while he led the agency.

Turnover continues amid proposals to replace force

Turnover within GFPD has continued even after the resignation of Rodriguez and the three other administrators.

David Bejar had the title of interim police administrator as of Oct. 4, according to a letter sent by Waldrop.

Kirk Boatright was then appointed to the position of interim public safety administrator in late October, city council records show.

Early last month Boatright provided the mayor and council an update on the status of the department, revealing that GFPD was down to one operational patrol vehicle.

Boatright also put forth several proposals for how to staff the department moving forward.

  • One proposal would call for a chief, and one sergeant supplemented by 10 to 15 reserve officers. This proposal would only provide 16 hours of patrol coverage a day, however.
  • A second proposal floated by Boatright suggests a setup of a chief and two full-time officers supplemented by 8 to 10 reserves, which would also only provide 16 hours of patrol coverage each day.
  • A third proposal, which would bring back 24/7 police coverage to Grey Forest, calls for a chief and three full-time officers and 8 to 10 reserves.
  • Boatright’s fourth proposal entails having a chief and a small group of reserves, but would require BCSO deputies to continue patrolling the city when GFPD is not on duty.

Boatright also requested “discussion and authorization” to honorably separate around 20 of GFPD’s reserves beginning January 1.

Boatright informed Waldrop and council on Nov. 17 that he could no longer provide administrative public safety services to the city, writing in an email “that acts and directives by City Administration in regards to Police Department operations are unethical and the polar opposite of established best practice procedures,” records obtained by KSAT Investigates show.

Waldrop confirmed via telephone Nov. 23 that Boatright had given way to Officer Charles Marcus, who had been appointed interim police chief.

Marcus is the same officer who pulled over Waldrop in May 2021.

Waldrop said even though BCSO patrols will continue for now, GFPD will resume patrolling the city one to two shifts per day.

Waldrop’s supporters also pushed back on complaints from detractors who have taken issue with the mayor serving as both a trustee for Grey Forest Utilities (GFU) while providing work for GFU as a contract employee.

The mayor of Grey Forest traditionally serves on GFU’s board.

Waldrop has been paid as much as $9,365 a month to provide geographic information system (GIS) management and maintenance for the utility company, paycheck records obtained by KSAT Investigates show.

Supporters of Waldrop have said both local and state officials have cleared Waldrop to serve in both capacities.

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About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.

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