GEORGE WEST – Tensions between the civic watchdog group the Friends of George (FOG) and the city erupted into the public arena Monday night when FOG member Robert T. Lowrie reportedly confronted GW grant writer David Flores just outside the chambers of city council meeting and is alleged to have told him his dying mother “crawled out from under a rock.”
Reached at home after the meeting, Lowrie first denied his conversation with Flores was overly confrontational, but when pressed about the tenor of the conversation, he said the aggressor was Flores, not him. Lowrie said to his mind, the incident is over and done with.
FOG organizer John Walker, who was reportedly at the meeting, did not immediately return cell phone calls for comment.
But GW city officials beg to differ. They offer the account of an aggressive confrontation — specifically witnessed and interrupted by GW police officer Jason Lee — that is expected to result in misdemeanor charges being filed against Lowrie by the city police department and possibly even a restraining order requested against Lowrie by Flores.
The confrontation initially took place during the citizens comments portion (three minutes allotted per citizen) at the beginning of Monday’s city council meeting. Flores was in the process of apologizing to the city council for his recent snafu of advising Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott of the wrong date to speak as a keynote speaker for the opening ceremony of the Vietnam Veterans Wall that is scheduled to be in George West on Sept. 18-21.
During his apology, Flores used the analogy of Forrest Gump’s “Stupid is as stupid does.” As he spoke, Lowrie is said to have loudly interrupted Flores a couple of times — and was asked to be quiet by GW Mayor Sylvia Steele.
To compensate for Lowrie’s interruption, Flores was granted an additional three minutes to speak by the council.
Flores, irritated at Lowrie’s interruptions, told the council that the FOG member’s behavior was a good life lesson for youngsters who have children or are contemplating having them.
“When you don’t raise your children right, this is what you get, a complete lack of respect for yourself and a lack of respect for others,” Flores said to the council.
After Flores finished his remarks, Lowrie asked him to “step outside for a few words.”
Flores said, “Sure,” and walked outside with him — both men closely followed (for reasons of safety) by officer Lee.
What took place next was outside the view of the camera taping Monday’s meeting, but the account Flores gave of the confrontation was confirmed by Lee.
Flores said Lowrie began to belittle and physically threaten him, including making the disparaging comment about Flores’ mother.
At this point, Lee said he stood between the two men and advised Lowrie that his conduct was out of line. The officer cautioned Lowrie that Flores could press charges against him for his disorderly, aggressive behavior.
Lowrie faces misdemeanor charges of either disorderly conduct or assault by threats for his behavior, according to GW Police Chief Rey Garcia. Flores confirmed after the meeting he will press charges and also intends to pursue a restraining order against Lowrie.
After Lee stopped the argument, Flores quietly returned to the council meeting. Lowrie returned a bit later.
“Officer Lee stayed outside with Lowrie for a while after that,” the chief said. “He will make a report on the situation and finish it as soon as he can.”
Lowrie — who has identified himself as a retired Boulder City, Nevada, police chief — is one of the FOG members who has been pursuing information about the manner in which the city is managed. One of his more recent open record requests seeks GW crime statistics for 2012 and 2013.
During the brief phone interview with Lowrie after the meeting, Lowrie appeared surprised that there was talk of filing charges against him.
“He had his say; I had mine, and as far as I am concerned, it is over,” Lowrie said. “Mr. Flores and I are done unless he wants to pursue it further. I don’t.”
Lowrie portrayed Flores as the aggressor during the conversation outside the council chambers, although officer Lee and Flores are disputing that account.
“I walked out there, and he got in my face,” Lowrie said. “If he wants to try to file charges, he can go ahead. That’s everybody’s right. If they want to do that, then that is their prerogative. But I don’t want to continue fighting with them. As far as I am concerned, it is over.”
Chief Garcia, meanwhile, told a much different story than Lowrie. He said he is “astonished” at the way Lowrie was behaving.
“I was both astonished and sick,” the chief said. “I’ve been in law enforcement over 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this — this fundamental lack of respect for public institutions and individuals.”
Tensions between Lowrie and Flores began at a public meeting earlier this year. Lowrie incorrectly quoted city statistics and declared the crime rate had gone up 300 percent in the past year.
Flores publicly called Lowrie on his misstatement at a later meeting in mid-June, as he defended the statistical record of Police Chief Garcia.
“It’s amazing what stupidity and hatred can bring out,” Flores said to the council. “What the chief has done here is good. Your children don’t have to worry about being shot at night. Your children don’t have to worry about finding drugs in every other locker.”
Lowrie was neither present at that meeting, nor was he publicly named as the source of misinformation by Flores. But at a later FOG meeting, Lowrie indicated he was angry at what Flores said and referred to him during a taped interview as a “bottom feeder.”
During the three minutes allotted to him to speak to the council Monday night, Lowrie acknowledged he had cited incorrect information about the crime statistics, but added that he believes Flores was out of line for criticizing him.
Flores’ comments came immediately after Lowrie’s, which is when Lowrie’s interruptions and the confrontation began.
Lowrie acknowledged at a recent FOG meeting that he understands he was never publicly named as the person who misquoted the chief’s statistics — either by Flores or in the newspaper.
“I asked the city council to please not discipline Mr. Flores for what he said about me,” he said Monday. “I asked them not to do that.”
When informed after the meeting that police and witness reports indicated he was wildly confrontational with Flores, Lowrie responded, “What about him? He maligned me in a public forum.”
In a related, but separate, development stemming from Monday’s meeting, FOG posted a statement on their Facebook page that was highly critical of the council’s decision to appoint Sandra Amoles to the council seat recently vacated by Louis Salinas.
“In a stunning ploy, while Councilman Chuck Pawelek failed to show up at the council meeting, Mayor Sylvia Steele and her right-hand man, Councilman Ralph Lopez, voted in Sandra Amoles as the new councilman,” the statement read. “Lopez’s reason: ‘she is a woman and Hispanic.’ Amoles, who is tight with the current administration, is trying to start a local chapter of LULAC in GW. Amoles is quoted on Facebook as saying, ‘We don’t need an accountant’ and ‘the city manager deserves a car’ and accusing Friends of George of being racists for publicizing city expenditures.”
Amoles was conservative in her Facebook response.
She said she “will continue to pray for all the haters.”