Friday, December 04, 2020

Fired Fort Worth aviation director out of jail on $10,000 bond, court records show

William Welstead
 

Fort Worth’s former aviation director, who was fired in September before an investigation revealed he allegedly used a city credit card to pay for repairs to a city-owned vehicle damaged in a hit-and-run, was arrested this week, court records show.

William Wilstead, 42, is accused of misappropriating a total of $43,000 in taxpayer funds, according to Fort Worth officials. The city hasn’t specified, however, what the funds were used for.

A bond of $10,000 was set for Welstead, who is charged with abuse of public office, according to a summary of his case on the Tarrant County District Clerk website. The court records show he was booked into jail Wednesday morning and released on bond about 10 hours later.

A spokesperson for the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Welstead’s defense attorney, Jeff Hampton, also didn’t respond to a message by deadline.

The City of Fort Worth showed it’s moving forward this week, naming interim director Roger Venables the new permanent director, as Welstead’s case continues in court.

City Manager David Cooke and Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa determined in September Welstead had hit another car with a city-owned vehicle on June 25th and fled the scene, according to a termination letter obtained by the Star-Telegram. He then directed staff to use a city-issued credit card to pay for the damages, they wrote. Welstead was fired September 9th, and about two weeks later Cooke publicly called for police to investigate.

Welstead was involved in multiple incidents with city vehicles that resulted in damage, Cooke and Costa said in the letter. Each time, they said, he took the vehicle to an unauthorized body shop instead of the city maintenance department as required.

Welstead also used airport land for hunting and operated a private aerospace company he didn’t disclose, according to the letter.

In 2017, the letter states, he was the subject of a human resources investigation that found he had retaliated against an employee following a complaint. He was given a two-week unpaid suspension at the time.

Cooke and Costa, in the letter, concluded, “We no longer have confidence that you can be a trusted member of the City’s Management team and model the ethical and respectful behavior that we expect of our City leaders.”

Welstead, who made about $150,000 a year as aviation director, was charged with abuse of official capacity, the court docket shows. The charge refers to public officials who misuse public property for personal gain, and the amount of money involved makes it rise to a third-degree felony. He could face two to 10 years in prison.

An arrest warrant was filed November 18th, the court docket shows.

Venables will be paid $179,025 as director.

The Fort Worth aviation department oversees Alliance, Spinks and Meacham International airports.

3 comments:

  1. Another government employee at it again. How many government employees, on all levels are pulling things daily, in which they DON'T get caught? Anyone who thinks more government is the answer to anything needs to reread this story.

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  2. Replacing a sociopathic individual with a sociopathic private company won't solve this problem. FBOs that are city owned generally gave more courteous (and volunteer) staff, cheaper fuel prices and very little expenses. Of course one rotten apple will always make everyone look bad.
    The problem is no structure... corporate, club or government is immune to sociopathic types bend on selfishness and greed. We just need to prescreen people the right way and use better techniques to filter out the rotten apples in all facets of life.

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  3. The city of Fort Worth has an unfortunate history of employing relatively high level aviation staff who have "issues" and are subsequently caught with their hand in the till. I'm glad to see that Wilstead is facing prosecution, but my personal bet is that he will not do any jail time, will not pay full restitution, and will end up working for another city's aviation authority (or maybe the FAA) as soon as the dust settles from his current foray into the legal system.

    What concerns me is NOT the fact that Bill had a propensity to wreck city vehicles, flee the scene (drunk???), and get them fixed by El Chapo's Paint and Body. What DOES concern me is the lack of transparency in the city of Fort Worth Aviation Department and in their ongoing habit of employing petty thieves. Wilstead could not have engaged in this behavior (assuming he's guilty) for this long without having other city aviation staff willing to look the other way and perhaps cover for him. Have they been terminated? Have they been investigated? Did they accept money or other favors from Wilstead in exchange for looking the other way and does this potential behavior constitute criminality or an ethics breach? What is being done to investigate this potential? Will the existence of and results of any such investigation ever be publicly disclosed? After all, this IS taxpayer money that paid for the car repairs and the little Moose Lodge or petting zoo and all the other white collar criminality. I get that they threw the book at Bill, but he hardly strikes me as talented enough to have done all this in relatively / temporary anonymity without accomplices.

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