A judge’s ruling recently prevented ousted Precinct 5 Constable Kenneth Jannereth from drawing a county retirement check for the rest of his life.
Taxpayers may already have paid too much, however. An investigation by the Denton Record-Chronicle suggests that, at least in the latter years of his two terms as constable, Jannereth may have done little to earn the $71,716 annual salary he did receive in his seven-and-a-half years in office.
The investigation showed that Jannereth, 71, did not move his office to the new Steven Copeland Government Center in Cross Roads when it was finished four years ago. His deputies and office staff moved there along with the justice of the peace and other county offices in January 2008.
The investigation showed that never once in his last 12 months in office did he use his county e-mail account for anything other than passing along jokes and cartoons and signing off on his time card; and that he actually held another job the whole time.
And while deputy constables served hundreds of warrants — one of the main jobs of a constable — Jannereth served half a dozen.
Jannereth did not respond to a telephone message asking for comment and in fact has not responded to requests for comment by the newspaper since admitting in a telephone interview in October 2008 that he tore down a barricade erected by members of the homeowners’ association in his neighborhood near Bolivar. He also said in that interview that he would tear it down again if it went back up.
He twice destroyed the barricade that association members unanimously voted to place across a trail that led to a lake on the property. The barricade was meant to prevent unauthorized people from driving down to the lake, but homeowners could access the lock with a key. Jannereth was convicted of criminal mischief in February 2010 and received a probated sentence.
He ignored the request of county Republican Party officials who asked that he vacate the post because a conviction should have invalidated his peace officer’s license. But the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education waited on the outcome of his appeal to pull the license, and he still did not resign after the 2nd Court of Appeals denied his appeal earlier this year.
In April, Judge Richard Podgorski ordered Jannereth to hand over his peace officer’s license as a part of his probation in the criminal mischief case. Immediately after that, the district attorney filed a request in district court for Jannereth’s removal from office, and he finally resigned May 14, which made the request moot.
If he had been allowed to stay in office until his term officially ended Dec. 31, Jannereth would have been fully vested in the retirement program. County human resources director Amy Phillips said that because he did not serve the full eight years, he would not draw the monthly stipend.
“You have to work eight full years before becoming eligible,” she said. “Mr. Jannereth does not qualify.”
Southwest Airlines Co. records verify that Jannereth became an employee there Oct. 1, 2001, as a part-time flight crew-training instructor. The number of hours he worked there while employed by the county could not be determined.
Jannereth is a retired airline pilot. He ran as a Republican and was elected constable in 2004, replacing longtime Constable Mike Ballard. Ballard was the final Democrat holding a county office. At that time, the justice of the peace and constable offices were in Sanger.
The offices moved in January 2008 to the new government center in Cross Roads. But Jannereth did not move, officials said. He retained an office in the old government building in Sanger. The only telephone number associated with his office, however, rings at the Cross Roads building where his office staff and the deputy constables work.
The Record-Chronicle investigation showed that the Sanger building is locked, with a sign on the door advising people who want to purchase license plates or stickers that Justice of the Peace Mike Bateman’s staff would be available there two days a month for that purpose.
Bateman said he sends a staff member to the building so that Sanger residents don’t have to drive to Cross Roads to buy tags.
When he was contacted, Bateman said he rarely, if ever, saw Jannereth in the new building. Chief Deputy Ron Vander Roest acts as the bailiff in the JP court and handles the other business, as the justice of the peace needs him, Bateman said.
“Vander Roest serves as my bailiff. I deal with him,” the justice of the peace said. “I don’t deal with Jannereth.”
Former Deputy Constable Dean Gill said Jannereth never came to the Cross Roads office. Gill was not sure what Jannereth did at the defunct Sanger office, he said.
“A constable should at least work in the same place as his deputies, but he didn’t. I never even set eyes on him the last four months I worked there,” he said.
He said Jannereth called him to the Sanger office and fired him a couple of months ago.
Jannereth requested of county commissioners that he be able to hire Barry Minoff, who was running for constable of Precinct 3 at the time, into Gill’s vacant position. But County Judge Mary Horn pulled the request after receiving Jannereth’s resignation letter. Minoff also lost the election.
Two Republican candidates, law enforcement officers Doug Boydston and Dale Chegwidden, face a runoff election for the Precinct 5 elected office. No Democrat is running.
A Record-Chronicle open records request for county-owned cellphone bills and e-mail messages to and from Jannereth’s county e-mail address for the past 12 months turned up dubious evidence of work in progress.
Cellphone bills showed that the majority of incoming calls to his county phone were for one or two minutes, suggesting they went unanswered and callers left messages. Few outgoing calls were made to numbers associated with the cellphones of his deputies.
Jannereth’s e-mail messages for the last 12 months consisted of numerous political jokes and patriotic messages passed to and from friends and relatives through the county account. He received general county messages from other department heads. He received one message from a constituent thanking him because his deputies evicted some renters. He occasionally was copied on material his chief deputy sent to the other deputies.
In May 2011 he communicated with a loan company about the possibility of refinancing his home loan.
In December 2011 he responded favorably to a request from a county employee from another department for four free “buddy passes” to Colorado on Southwest Airlines. Southwest records show that Jannereth has been continuously a part-time employee since 2001.
On April 24, he forwarded numerous messages from his county e-mail address to his personal e-mail address.
In the 12 months of the investigation, Jannereth never originated a single e-mail message that dealt with county business, the investigation shows.
An open records request for the number of warrants and civil documents served by the Precinct 5 constable and his deputies showed a great variation in the amount of work performed. In the last 12 months of Jannereth’s public office, he was assigned eight documents to serve. He served seven of them and made five other attempts.
Chief Deputy Constable Ron Vander Roest was assigned 11 court documents to serve. He served 18 documents and made 10 attempts.
Deputy James Conley was assigned 556 court documents. He served 472 of them and made 1,110 unsuccessful attempts.
Deputy Dean Gill was assigned 732 court documents to serve. He served 558 and made 1,309 attempts.
Deputy George Rojas was assigned 1,083 court documents. He served 876 and made 2,107 attempts.
County officials seemed reluctant to discuss Jannereth. Dianne Edmondson, chairwoman of the county Republican Party, did not return messages asking for comment. And Horn said that if Jannereth was not working, she was not aware of it.
“I’ve seen him driving around in his county car,” she said.
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.