By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
TEMPLE – Republican candidates Martha Tyroch and Ralph Sheffield continued to fire shots at one another Wednesday with less than a week to go before the April 8 runoff election in the District 55 race for state representative.
On Wednesday, Michael Sullivan, CEO of pro-Sheffield Empower Texans, held a press conference at the candidate's Temple-based headquarters, and provided a packet of documents several inches thick that detailed Tyroch's expense record in the past several years of her time on the Temple City Council.
Sullivan and Sheffield said the documents show a pattern of reckless use of tax dollars in funding her dinner and travel expenses.
Among the many examples provided was a comparison of Tyroch's expenses for food during the past four years on the council, when she sought reimbursement from the city of more than $9,000 for food and drink expenses. During the same time period, that figure was seven times the amount of the other four members of the City Council combined. The next highest amount claimed by a council member was less than $900.
Sheffield spoke only a moment at the press conference, introducing Sullivan, while taking a quick shot at Tyroch's tax record.
"He (Sullivan) is here to address you folks on some things he has discovered in our campaign about one of the great tax raisers here in Bell County," Sheffield said, referring to Tyroch.
Sullivan outlined his findings.
"She socked the taxpayers with $9,267.40," Sullivan said. "Let's look from the standpoint of the other members of the City Council and what they were doing during the same time period. You had Russell Schneider, one of the members of the council, who asked the taxpayers to reimburse him $40. You had Tony Jetter, who asked taxpayers to reimburse him $879.73. ? Then your mayor, Bill Jones, who only asked for $217.89. Those members of the council had a total spending of $1,137.82.
"Martha Tyroch, alone, was over seven times as expensive for the taxpayers."
Sullivan said the food and drink bills were just the beginning.
"It's not just the number – the number is egregious – then you start digging down into the itemization," Sullivan said. "She asked the taxpayers to reimburse her for $600 in booze, at a minimum ? Not a single other member of the City Council asked for reimbursement for spending on booze.
"It goes to a real problem that the taxpayers are being asked to pick up the tab for Martha Tyroch's happy hours."
The documents came to light 11 days after several documents on Sheffield's tax and legal history were brought to light by one of Tyroch's supporters. Those contained several hundred pages on the legal history of Ralph Sheffield's business, Las Casas, which Sheffield said he reorganized 25 years ago involving bankruptcy court.
The documents also showed numerous lawsuits filed by or against Sheffield or his business 17 times since the early 1980s.
The documents provided Wednesday by Sullivan also addressed Tyroch's travel expenses, as she upgraded her hotel package to stay at The Mayflower while on a weeklong city-sponsored visit to Washington, D.C.
In a statement released Wednesday night from the Tyroch campaign, the former Temple councilwoman said the Sheffield presentation was "misleading people about my legitimate expense reports while conducting city business."
"I was a very active council member who spent a great deal of time and energy working on behalf of the city, and I have results to show for it."
Tyroch also called Sheffield's latest campaign tactic hypocritical.
"It is ironic that a man who was sued three times for not paying taxes for over 16 years by the Bell County Appraisal District is now anointing himself as the taxpayer watchdog."
Tyroch's campaign also began airing a television ad Wednesday night questioning Sheffield's business practices, including charges that he employed illegal workers, according to Tyroch campaign manager Steven Schar.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568