13 Undercover

Kemah officials react to 13 Undercover investigation

Friday, February 18, 2011

There are calls for a federal investigation into possible civil rights violations of Hurricane Ike victims in Kemah. This comes as some members of the Kemah City Council reacted to 13 Undercover's investigation and made calls for an independent investigation.

Amidst complaints to the FBI and calls for an investigation, some members of Kemah City Council on Thursday night were also trying to reassure the millions of people who come to Houston's playground that it's safe.

When Maria Lara cried on Channel 13 last week, one of our viewers was the chief of staff of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mary Ramos.

"I feel it's the moral obligation of the city to make sure that they take care of their residents during a disaster or after a disaster, and I don't think that was followed by the city of Kemah," Ramos said.

Now, LULAC has asked the federal government to investigate possible civil rights violations in Kemah.

"I have contacted the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice is putting all the evidence together, and we are taking it to HUD; and then once we take it to HUD, we're also taking it to the U.S. attorney general," Ramos said.

The Laras are among those hurricane victims who complained the city did not do enough to help them after the storm, and they claim the mayor, Matt Wiggins, took advantage of them because he wanted to buy their property. The mayor denies that, saying he gave the Laras a fair swap for their property.

"With as millions of visitors a year, our town requires only a whisper of bad dealers or negative press to present very real and potentially lasting problems," Kemah City Councilman Wayne Rast said.

But at a packed City Council meeting, a council member called on the mayor to suspend buying anymore property in Kemah.

"If the mayor decides he cannot agree to suspend acquisitions within the city during his term of office, or comes to believe his leadership has been too compromised, I ask that he thoughtfully consider not running for re-election in May," Rast said.

"I found the news reported this past week on Channel 13 to be extremely concerning and heartbreaking," Kemah City Councilwoman Kelly Williams said.

Williams asked for an independent investigation.

"It is very important to me -- I'm sorry -- as a council member and as a citizen to get every problem fixed as quickly as possible and to restore the trust in our city and elected officials," she said.

"We're a small town and we probably don't do the paperwork like we should," Wiggins said. "I've made no changes in that department, and I've never discussed anybody's situation with Jack (Fryday)."

There have been allegations of selective enforcement of safety codes in the city. One place we found operating without a certificate of occupancy was the Swamp Shack. It got its permit this Tuesday.

But there are calls now for a full accounting of who has permits and who doesn't.

"When Kemah receives a black eye like this, all Kemah's elected officials are affected and suffer guilt by association," Rast said.

You can see all of 13 Undercover's investigations on Kemah below:

Controversial real estate deals in Kemah

Tales of desperation from Kemah

Look who got a sweet deal in Kemah

A question of safety in Kemah

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kemah, 13 undercover, wayne dolcefino
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