Neil is passionate about issues involving the City of Denton and its citizens. These issues include:
- Land and Property Deals
- Roads and Bridges
- Cultural District
The current Denton City Council, under Mayor Chris Watts, delayed an Ethics Ordinance for 4 years. It took a vote, a referendum, from the citizens of Denton to get any movement from the City Council towards serious action. Prior to the referendum, Mayor Watts stated that all we needed was to follow the state statute on Ethics. In 2016, he appointed a committee to address the city ethics issues. The committee only came up with 4 general recommendations (that were not enacted), and they served out their term. Two of the committee members had a conflict of interest, and should not have been appointed to the committee in the first place.
Since the referendum by Denton citizens, the City Council has finally met to map out an Ethics Ordinance. The present proposed ordinance, however, has loopholes. According to the proposed ordinance, the City Council polices themselves. None of the proposed ordinances would have stopped the scandals that have already happened under Mayor Watts, outlined below. Neil Durrance wants to enforce strict ethics rules to stop the corruption and back-room deals that have plagued the City of Denton.
Public officials are held accountable by the public they serve, unless the public has no access to the vital information needed to police them. The Denton City Council, under the leadership of Mayor Chris Watts, has had increasingly frequent closed-door meetings. They have either denied public information requests or have redacted critical financial information from records, denying citizens the ability to question major contracts that affect the city budget. They have done this while falsely claiming protection under Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) that do not accurately protect financial or contractual data from being disclosed.
"Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."
— Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice
The City does not normally pay severance packages to City employees. So why did the city council approved severance of $90,000 for an at-will employee Aimee Bisset in 2016? YOUR TAX DOLLARS PAID Bissett the severance when she left employment as Director of Development Services with the City of Denton. According to a Denton Record Chronicle article from August 2016, Bissett led negotiations for economic incentives for the Buc-ee’s travel plaza, the Railyard co-working and office development, and the WinCo Foods warehouse. Due to the fact that the City Council voted to give the City Manager authority to spend up to $200K without Council approval, the City Council never reviewed the separation agreement with Bissett. Mayor Chris Watts was quoted as saying, “We are prohibited by the city charter from getting involved in personnel matters.”
The City Council, under the leadership of Mayor Chris Watts, is sanctioning the waste of taxpayer money by simply not getting involved and turning a blind-eye. They have granted the City Manager, and un-elected official, the power to make individual monetary decisions up to $200K without their review. Neil Durrance wants to put a stop to this practice, and return decisions of how to spend taxpayer money back to city officials who have been elected by Denton Citizens.
The full cost is still unknown for the Denton Municipal Electric Gas Plant. Denton Mayor Chris Watts refused to allow the Citizens of Denton to vote on the proposed $265 million contract, even though it involves the City of Denton's largest capital purchase. He also refuses to make the contracts public. The project is surrounded by controversy, including the Director of DME and 2 employees being fired or resigning, and since filing whistleblower lawsuits against the City. The City Manager hired outside counsel to investigate, but the report was never released. Mayor Chris Watts had three, 2-3 hour closed door meetings with the City Council which included bond attorneys, but he has violated the Open Meetings Act by not releasing to the public what was said.
Not only is the project itself surrounded in controversy, there are serious questions about the price the DME paid for the land that houses the new power plant. According the the Denton Record Chronicle, the DME bought hundreds more acres of land than it needed to complete the project. Although the land was appraised for $6.8 million, YOUR TAX DOLLARS PAID $12 MILLION, spending about 50 percent higher per acre than more than a dozen buyers who bought similar land in the same area between 2013 and 2016. Please click here for other other questionable DME land deals approved by the City Council.