Thursday, February 2, 2012

Homebuilder suing ex-Texas Ranger over contract is on Randy Plemons's Sheriff's election committee

The Marvin Steakley family huddles at the flagpole outside district court during a break in the breach of contract suit their family business has brought against one of Parnell McNamara's most ardent supporters, ex-Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon

Waco - Marvin Steakley of Brazos Star Homebuilders acknowledged he is a member of the Committee to Elect Randy Plemons Sheriff of McLennan County.

After giving the statement, he declined further comment in an exclusive interview outside the 74th District Court where he and his son Andrew are suing retired Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon, a chief supporter of Parnell McNamara, who is opposing Chief Deputy Plemons for the Republican nomination.

The breach of contract suit stems from a claim against the Cawthons over a cost plus contract to build a $320,000 home in a Waco subdivision, then experienced cost overruns of what the father-son team claims is a $9,250 shortfall under the terms of the contract.

The Cawthons have filed a counterclaim in the civil action, claiming they are owed nearly $10,000 in credit for items they either did not receive or did not, in fact, order.

Shelly Horn Cawthon told an 11-woman, 1-man jury panel of finding bills for tools and equipment that numbered in the thousands of dollars – items which were not included in the contract, which specified a $320,000 building fee and a $25,000 builder's fee, all cost overruns to be added to the total at closing.

She recounted from the witness stand as the opposing counsel, Stephen R. Fontaine, examined her about the nightmare of trying to move into a house she claims was fraudulently given a certificate of occupation by the local city building authorities, only to be told by an electrical inspector that her living in the house was an illegal act.

It was her testimony that she had been told by the builder to go ahead and move in. The house was ready for occupation, in his opinion.

In testimony before the court on Tuesday, Mr. Steakley admitted that he took discovery material obtained in the process of the lawsuit and gave it to Chief Deputy Randy Plemons and retiring incumbent Sheriff Larry Lynch.

The information reportedly included the Cawthons' banking records, cancelled checks, credit card slips, personal cell phone numbers, social security numbers and checking account numbers.

In testimony, Ranger Cawthon, who now works as a special agent for the U.S Marshals Service and an investigator for the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told jurors in response to his attorney's questions that cost overruns included in the Steakley's accounting and draw requests include using unwanted materials such as slate to pave the front and back porches, an non-operational bathtub in which the hot tub nozzles do not work, the loss of an attractive tree cut down by mistake by fence installers, and a much bigger bill for building the 5,000-square foot home's garage on a severe slope at a level 36 inches below the threshold of the main part of the home.

Mr. Cawthon alleged that builder Andrew Steakley did not shoot the grade to discover what was needed in the original design.

Under cross examination, Mr. Fontaine asked Mr. Cawthon, “Isn't it a fact that whether it (her answers) accurately reflects what she said, it doesn't have anything to do with what she meant?”

The Ranger appeared to be non-plussed by the question while the ladies on the jury grinned and mugged at one another.

The attorney followed up with a question regarding Mr. Steakley's intentions in supplying unwanted items in the home, “Do you really believe that Andrew Steakley is going to pick out items against your wife's wishes?”

Mr. Cawthon, stone-faced, replied, “I do, yes...This is a custom house. What my wife wants means more than what Andrew Steakley wants...What he said up here on this witness stand was a lie.”

In concluding testimony, the Cawthons' lead attorney, Henry Wright, told the jurors that so far his law office has amassed a billing of $28,111 in attorney hours at $165 per hour – most of it in collecting, collating and interpreting “thousands upon thousands of pages” of documents concerning the homebuilding job, the contract, and related jobs where the builders allegedly used materials purchased to use on the Cawthons' home on other projects they were building for other customers.

Ten percent of that figure, the attorney said, has been racked up preparing the defense of the defamation claim filed by Mr. Steakley, about $7,000 processing various liens filed against the property, and $3,000 if the case must be argued before the Supreme Court.

Judge Gary Coley dismissed jurors at 4:15 p.m. so attorneys could prepare a jury charge. Closing arguments in the case will begin at 9 a.m.


  1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Lynch and Plemons deny having received the discovery information that Mr. Steakley admitted to have given them in his testimony? Another lie coming for Lynch and Plemons. I'm beginning to have more trust in Buddy Skeen then Lynch and Plemons.

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