Former Jefferson County voter registration supervisor worked for embattled oil spill contractor

Posted on: September 8th, 2010 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

One of the primary company officials for embattled Texas subcontractor Hallmark Industries — under fire for reportedly employing undocumented workers in hazardous conditions at a Michigan oil spill cleanup — appears to have been a former longtime Jefferson County Voter Registration Supervisor and two-time County Clerk candidate.

Tommy Gard, of Nederland, supervised the county’s voter registration department from 1989 to 2005, when he was fired for allegedly falsifying his timesheet, according to the Beaumont Enterprise. He ran unsuccessfully for Jefferson County Clerk in 2004 (drawing the Enterprise’s endorsement) and again in 2006, as a Democrat.

A reporter from our sister publication The Michigan Messenger met and spoke to a Hallmark company official — who identified himself as Tommy Gard — in Battle Creek, Mich., Saturday, Aug. 28, in a Target store parking lot where Hallmark workers were dropped off after being bused up from Texas. Gard collected worker sign-in sheets, which their pay was based upon, and was in charge of hotel lodging for workers.

Gard put the Messenger reporter in contact with company owner Phillip Hallmark, whose voicemail message directs people interested in jobs in Michigan to call “Tommy” at a phone number that is listed elsewhere for Gard.

Efforts to contact Gard by telephone and email have been unsuccessful.

The workers were expected to work 12 to 14 hour shifts, seven days a week, in exchange for $800 per week in cash, plus a hotel room and food while on the job site, cleaning oil from islands and shorelines along the Kalamazoo river, according to the Messenger.

A day after Garner Environmental (a contractor on the oil spill cleanup under Enbridge Energy) severed its contract with Hallmark, Chambers County deputies detained 59 men reportedly hired by Hallmark aboard a bus in Winnie that came from Battle Creek, Mich., waiting to meet Hallmark for payment. Hallmark was not there to meet the returning workers.

Hallmark — the son of former Jefferson County Commissioner Waymon Hallmark — is already under indictment for a previous, unrelated charge involving insurance fraud and theft. He’s set to appear in court Oct. 1.

In 2004, Hallmark was fined $1,000 after pleading no contest to election code violations involving campaigns for Port of Port Arthur commissioner. Hallmark was charged with failing to report newspaper advertisements that he paid for to the candidates he supported or to authorities.

(Photo: Todd Heywood)

Tags: , , , , , ,