Whine capital of Texas

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Brekken, who is still quick to praise McCallum for his accomplishments, says the increasing tension between McCallum and Emrich was plain to see.

"When [Emrich] came back, eventually it got to the point where they weren't meeting and speaking. P.W. didn't tell Ron anything, and Ron was pretty stiff-necked, too, so he wouldn't go begging for information," Brekken says. "It was a very uncomfortable situation."

Those tensions peaked during the May 12 meeting when Maness, who had come to the table with his resignation letter in hand, asked McCallum directly if he had fixed the People's Choice.

After McCallum admitted he had changed the vote, Maness submitted his resignation. A short while later, board member Marian Carpentier, a certified public accountant by training, said she was uncomfortable with the foundation's accounting practices and informed the board that she would not seek reappointment in May.

By the time the public learned that McCallum had rigged the People's Choice wine-tasting contest, Mayor Tate and Roger Nelson had already begun to circle the wagons around McCallum and draw targets around the members of the Heritage Foundation board and its executive director, Ron Emrich.

On May 20, a week after the foundation board's meeting, the Grapevine City Council voted to remove McCallum as the foundation's CEO, make him a voting member of the board, and make Nelson CEO. Tate and Nelson told reporters that the decision was a "structural" change in the foundation's operations that was designed to give the council a "more direct line of supervision" over Emrich.

Neither Tate nor Nelson said Emrich had done anything wrong, but their comments left the impression that there was some problem with Emrich's management style and the way in which the foundation was conducting its business. In fact, both men stressed that McCallum had done nothing wrong, even though they were aware that he had rigged the contest.

Instead of disciplining McCallum, Tate chose to alter the balance of power on the foundation board in an obvious effort to silence McCallum's critics. As part of the move, Tate also replaced councilwoman Sharon Tate as the liaison to the foundation with Clydene Johnson, a local real estate agent.

"A great deal of what was done was to undermine Ron and make him look bad. I voted with my resignation," Maness says. "Nothing was wrong with our board for six years. When we began to ask questions, all of a sudden we had to be restructured. What changed? All that changed was, we asked questions."

Much to the disappointment of his friends, Maness later left the Dirty Dozen and asked the board to return the $4,000 contribution he made to help restore the crumbling Palace Theater, which is home to the Grapevine Opry.

"We were very valuable for six or eight years. Now we got the mall. Now we got the train. I kind of feel like the wife that helped her husband go through medical school," Maness says. "Now that he's got his M.D., it's time to shuck the old wife and get a new one."

When it became clear that Tate, through Nelson, would control the foundation and manage it as though it were a city department, Emrich resigned.

Weeks later, when the city council considered the usually routine reappointment of the foundation board members, Johnson, the new council liaison, did not recommend People's Choice whistle-blower Bryan Klein for reappointment, and the city council followed her suggestion.

"I feel like I was the messenger that got shot, and that's not a good feeling," Klein later said during a public hearing. "I don't think that I did anything wrong."

The hide of a black bear lies spread-eagle on the wall of Mayor William D. Tate's law office on Main Street. The office, which is filled with mounted deer heads, stuffed fowl, and framed arrowheads, is a reminder of Tate's past, when he owned thousands of acres of land along the Mexican border and took clients on guided hunts throughout the 1980s.

Back then, Tate was known to be a wealthy man.
In addition to running his law practice, Tate served as a director of the First National Bank of Grapevine, the city's first bank, founded in 1919.

As the bank's director and the second Tate elected mayor, Tate enjoyed the trust and respect of his peers--especially those at the bank, where Tate borrowed more than a million dollars to expand his ranching operation and invest in a new Grapevine subdivision called "Crystal Butte."

Tate's businesses appeared to do well until the late 1980s, when the real estate boom burst. Tate's own financial fall was not graceful, according to court records filed by Joe Box, the late chairman of the board of the First National Bank of Grapevine, who forced Tate into bankruptcy in 1992.

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Rose Farley
Contact: Rose Farley