Defeated Pct. 4 Constable fights another battle

SPLENDORA – Former Pct. 4 Constable Travis Bishop, who lost that post to now Constable Rowdy Hayden in the 2008 Republican Primary, is again hoping to win the confidence of East Montgomery County residents. But standing on his reputation in the community and pointing to his past as a public official may instead dredge up some issues Bishop would be better off avoiding.

He is attempting to push through an application for a permit allowing him to deposit wastewater in an abandoned injection well that is drawing opposition from the surrounding community.

Bishop addressed the Splendora City Council last week regarding the well, which is off of Hayden Road and he scoffed at the contention by some council members that a number of area residents had already expressed their concerns not only regarding possible sound and traffic pollution, but possible contamination because of the well’s proximity to the City of Splendora’s water supply.

Perhaps, Bishop was unaware that a simultaneous meeting was occurring a few miles away regarding the same issue. The Concerned Citizens of Montgomery County were in discussions with Pct. 4 Commissioner Ed Rinehart, who has offered to provide a bus for area residents to travel to Austin on Thursday to express their opposition to Bishop’s plan to the Railroad Commission.

Splendora City Council was trying to decide whether they should send a letter to the commission regarding their concerns. But a clerical oversight prevented them from legally going into closed session to discuss the matter with the city attorney. After much discussion and debate they voted to table the matter and schedule a special meeting tonight at 6:30, when they will have the option of going into closed session.
Mayor Dorothy Welch was visibly frustrated with the council’s inaction. She personally asked Bishop a barrage of questions, some of which he could not, or did not answer.

The long time politician repeatedly tried to shift the council’s focus away from the potential water contamination and noise pollution issues, first suggesting that they consider the tax benefits the city would reap.

“What we propose to do for the community here is just bring in a little revenue,” he said.

Then a citizen pointed out that the well is not Splendora City limits, but is of legal concern to the city and its residents only because of the danger it poses to the water supply.

As questions regarding specific details of use of the injection well persisted, Bishop persisted in telling council why he should be trusted.

According to Bishop, he helped build the city of Splendora and kept it going.

The City Council should be most concerned that the well has “professional people looking after it, and responsible ownership,” he said.

But that raises another big question- trust.

DO residents trust Travis Bishop? CAN residents trust Travis Bishop?

Bishop says ‘yes.’ He told council he did not want to see liability in any direction.

“If there was a risk here, I assure you, I would not be looking into this,” Bishop said.

Unfortunately for Bishop, some feel his credibility regarding taking risks has been damaged more than once by information that surfaced unexpectedly, and the most recent episode was less than a year ago and involved hazardous materials.

When Pct. 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden took the reins in January, he and his men found an unexpected danger in the evidence room used by Bishop’s administration for the previous 20 years.

A hazmat team comprised of members of the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit removed dangerous chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine, some with labels indicating they were confiscated in the year 2000.

MCSO Lt. Philip Cash, who heads up the SIU, said both bases and acids were found in a safe inside the property room, and had been there so long that some of the materials had eaten through paper and cardboard and begun to rust the inside of the safe.

If mixed, the two would have a “very violent” reaction, Cash said.

The chemicals were stored in a room adjacent to the office that until recently was occupied by Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts, and in the same building as the Pct. 4 courtroom and offices, as well as satellite offices for the MCSO and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“If there was a risk here, I assure you, I would not be looking into this,” Bishop said.

Of course, the meaning of “risk” is relative, and some believe there is videotaped proof that Bishop risked the health of his own relatives to make a buck after a diesel spill on US 59 in 2007.

Houston television station KHOU, Channel 11, aired footage of a hazmat cleanup on US 59 that was allegedly contracted by then Constable Travis Bishop, while on duty. But the more disturbing issue for most was that firefighters wore protective gear while trying to contain the spill, but Bishop’s crew, which included his own children, wore casual street clothes. A couple of them wore hard hats, but one wore a cowboy hat. No breathing apparatuses or gloves were seen in the video and at one point, a young female appears to be shaking off some of the liquid after pushing an absorbent pad too far down into it the spill with her bare hand.

The 2007 clip shown by Channel 11 was only part of the footage captured, which can be seen by clicking the arrow below. (Flash Player required)

Another “explosive” situation occurred in 2000, when Bishop was accused of assaulting a young man after a confrontation over how he was driving through Bishop’s “Wild Country Trailer Park.” A grand jury was already hearing that case when it was dropped.

Those who have lived in EMC for over ten years probably recall an incident halfway through Bishop’s tenure as Constable that was in direct contrast to the volatile chemicals that should have been removed years earlier.

In 1998, an Associated Press article about Bishop appeared in newspapers far beyond Montgomery County after over $1 million in cocaine disappeared from his evidence room. The article said a grand jury “issued a scathing report” regarding then Constable Travis Bishop, saying that while there was insufficient evidence to support an indictment, Bishop was guilty of “at best sloppy or inept administration.” The drugs never reappeared and in at least one article, Bishop said he assumed someone “picked the lock.”

“If there was a risk here, I assure you, I would not be looking into this,” Bishop said.

According to the 1998 AP article, “The grand jury said it was shocked at the lack of procedures controls, safeguards and precautions in place.”

In today’s Commissioners Court, Rinehart will discuss Bishop’s intentions with other commissioners. No action can be taken today; however, Rinehart said he believed it was important that everyone be apprised of the situation.

The commissioner previously said he was concerned with how little notice companies are required to give area residents prior to securing a permit such as this. He has vowed to do whatever he can to support his constituents in addressing the injection well issue.

“Not everybody you like to see with a pistol,” Bishop said in the recent Splendora City Council Meeting.

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