Toy boy

Tarrant County Sheriff David Williams lusts for helicopters, Chevy Tahoes, and machine guns, but in the hands of used car parts baron Ed Max, Williams is the ultimate cop toy

Although the race included some debate about law enforcement, the hot issues ended up being abortion and the hiring of homosexuals as deputies. Williams, who attended a two-day candidate school run by the Texas Christian Coalition, opposed both.

Although those views proved popular with the sizable church vote, which Williams worked heavily, some GOP stalwarts like anti-tax leader Joe Cameron complained that "all I see is a neophyte being led around" by Wilder and Max.

At campaign forums and interviews, Wilder would finish Williams' sentences or cut in on his conversation when he started wandering. At a meeting of the Star-Telegram's editorial board, one columnist asked if he were watching Wilder playing ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, with Williams sitting in as the dummy Charlie McCarthy. Incredibly, Wilder answered that question too.

Williams was the only candidate in the race who had the luxury of campaigning full time. Somehow Williams supported a home mortgage, three school-age children, and a stay-at-home wife for a full year with no paycheck. A year earlier he was working at the Haltom City Police Department for less than $30,000 and moonlighting as a guard at a Sears warehouse.

Williams has said he made ends meet with unspecified "security consulting in the oil and gas business" and inherited money. But one former deputy, Jim Minter, says Williams told him he was on Max's payroll when he was running for office.

Max denies he gave any more aid than he reported on campaign reports.
Max's used car parts outlet on the North Freeway served as both Williams' headquarters and scene of his election-night party.

After Williams' election, Minter, who was running the department in Sheriff Don Carpenter's absence, says he talked a few times with Max, who was clearly interested in running things.

"During the transition, he decided we needed to make jailers come in earlier for their shifts, and I said, 'Mr. Max, we can't do that. That's a violation of fair labor standards; they're only paid for eight-hour days.'"

Max didn't reply, but Minter guessed he left Max with the impression he wasn't a team player.

Sure enough, Max and Williams had plans for Minter.
A few minutes after midnight on January 1, 1993, when Williams was sworn in in a secret ceremony--no press, and no public invited--he fired Minter and two other chief deputies. Williams hired Minter's subordinate Pat Howell, who once sold a business to Ed Max, to head the jail. Another crony, Hank Pope, who gave Williams his job in Haltom City, also was brought in as chief deputy.

Under the threat of lawsuits, Williams later reinstated Minter and the other two men to lower ranks. Minter stayed on for eight months, quit law enforcement to go to law school, and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for sheriff in 1996.

After Williams took office, Max's involvement with the department intensified.

In a 1993 sworn affidavit, Deputy Jack Sartin, who was in the newly formed K-9 squad, recounted how he was in closer touch with Max than Williams. "On the weekends, we would sometimes be short our 40 hours for the week, so we would work patrol, primarily on Jacksboro Highway, watching for DWIs and assisting the patrol units," he wrote. "Ed Max liked this because this gave him the opportunity to ride out with myself or Deputy [Rob] Durko, which he did almost every weekend. Although Max never carried a firearm, he did possess and carry a sheriff's department ID card, identifying him as a reserve administrative deputy.

"Sheriff Williams had instructed us that Ed Max was to monitor the program and would take care of all of our needs. He also told us to go to Ed Max if there was any problem."

It was later learned that Max received a sheriff's badge, portable radio, keys, bulletproof vest, and shotgun. He gave back some of those items when questions emerged about whether someone not licensed as a peace officer should be wearing a badge and toting a gun.

Still, for much of the sheriff's tenure, Max's auto-parts shop has been a sort of unofficial substation for the sheriff--a place where he or Hank Pope, now executive chief deputy, spend a lot of time during the workweek, deputies say. Pope did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

And from the way Max's son was treated last year, the sheriff apparently feels at least a bit obligated to Max for all he's done.

Court records show that on February 5, 1997, County Court Judge Phil Sorrells sentenced Gary Eugene Max, a 44-year-old mechanic, to 100 days in jail. It was Max's second DWI in Tarrant County but not his second trip to court. In 1990, he pleaded guilty to drug possession and was given a five-year prison sentence.

County computer records show that Max was ordered to report to jail the same day he was sentenced. Recalls Sorrells, "I didn't know who this man was, but when I sentenced him he went through the door that leads to the jail to serve his sentence."

A few days later, the judge remembers, a court clerk called him to tell him that computer records reflected that Max was not in jail. The records showed he had been given "weekend status," meaning he could go home during the workweek but had to report to the jail on weekends.

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