(Editor’s Note: Rick Culleton, the CEO of the popular local electronics store, Discount Electronics, sent out the following missive yesterday by email.)
Today the city threatened to have me arrested.
If you haven’t seen the news, the City of Cedar Park has been viciously attacking Discount Electronics over a sign that was built 25 years ago. The sign, that was there when we bought the building, has been the center of an expensive and resource consuming lawsuit brought on by the City of Cedar Park.
Discount Electronics had agreed to tear down the sign and had obtained a permit for a smaller sign. But while we were preparing to replace the old sign with the new one (permit in hand) the City of Cedar Park began sending citation after citation. 17 in all.
So we went to court…..
Late last year we got (what we thought would be) our day in court. When we arrived JP LeCompte, the prosecutor and the Associate Judge, Daniel Gonzales, had a surprise in store for us. They had a ‘pre-trial motion’ that prevented us from telling the jury anything that mattered about our case.
According to the motion we were not allowed to tell the jury that we had a permit for a new sign when we were sued by the City. [The city later claimed they issued that permit in error.] We were not allowed to tell the jury that the sign had been there when we bought the building, that the previous owners were never harassed, that we obtained a certificate of occupancy for the building while the sign was there or anything else that could explain our position.
This motion included 7 points that tied our hands behind our backs. Normally (in a real courtroom) the judge would listen to both sides and come to a compromise that allowed for a fair trial. But Associate Judge Daniel Gonzalez had another plan. He agreed in favor with the prosecution on all 7 points effectively deciding the trial in his chamber without the jury.
Cedar Park Corruption
We knew once Judge Gonzales had made this ruling that the trial was a complete farce. The jurors were to have all the relevant facts withheld from them and would then be asked to make a decision on a case they never got to hear.
Judge Gonzales’s court is not a court of record and I knew it would be hard to prove any of this ever happened. It was hard to believe it happened even when you sat through the thing in real life. But it did. And I suspect things like this happen in that court room frequently.
So we filed the appeal bond and were happy to be headed to a real court. But that was not what the City of Cedar Park wanted. The last thing they would want is this case heard in a public court of record. So the attack began again. Forget about the fact that we are going to have this case heard in County Court. The City of Cedar Park began its on-slot of citations all over again. We answered every single one of them, spending thousands more in legal fees.
Then today, John Fojtik of Cedar Park threatened to have me arrested. My first fear was that I would have to stand before Judge Daniel Gonzales in that corrupt corner of the world, Cedar Park JP Court. I could only imagine that failing to remove a sign carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in that courtroom. So I have decided to close the Cedar Park Store immediately. We are cutting down the sign, firing everyone and locking the doors.
I’ve lived here since 1984. My wife grew up on East Rivera in Cedar Park. I spent a lot of time in this town as a kid. Yes, I had heard the stories of corruption dating back a century. But I had no idea just how blatantly corrupt a court system could be.
I am not looking for sympathy. Business has it’s risks. I invested $600,000 in the City of Cedar Park. It was a bad investment, granted. But this company and I will learn from that mistake and move on. I am sending this so you understand we didn’t give up on the people of Cedar Park. We fought hard to keep that store there. We were outgunned.
I hope all of our Cedar Park customers will make the trip to either our Anderson Lane store or Round Rock. We truly appreciate your business. And I hope you will say ‘No to Corruption’ in Cedar Park on election day. You can count on me to remind you when the time comes.