MANSFIELD — Before closing his law practice two years ago, Fort Worth attorney Bill Lane was a 30-year fixture at the Tarrant County Courthouse and in the public eye.
Today, Lane may be less visible, but he is even more active in retirement.
For starters, Bill Lane is the Public Safety Director for the City of Mansfield, the man in charge of the police department, fire department, jail operations and municipal court.
He was hired by Mansfield's city manager in December, 2007. Lane's annual salary is $155,000. But — according to former Mayor Barton Scott — the hiring of Lane was done without City Council notification or approval. While that is perfectly legal, Scott still feels it was a mistake.
"In my perception, he was very unqualified for the position," Scott said. "He'd never been on the police force; he had no experience running a jail."
Bill Lane not only oversees the city's jail; he oversees jail contracts, including one with Crown Correctional, a company that provides phone service to the Mansfield Jail. Revenue from that arrangement is split with the city.
According to the contract, the company is owned by William R. Bartula. News 8 has learned that Bartula is Bill Lane's brother-in-law, which raises questions of a potential conflict of interest.
Bartula's company has never filed a required conflict of interest questionnaire with the city, as more than 200 other vendors have done.
While Lane declined to speak on-camera, he told News 8 by e-mail, "I have no affiliation with Crown Correctional Telephone, nor do I receive any money or benefit from that business."
Lane says when his brother-in-law wanted to do business with Mansfield, "I made it perfectly clear that I could have nothing to do with inmate phones in Mansfield," and that "he needed to form a separate company."
Bartula then formed Crown Correctional Telephone and contracted with the city on May 18, 2007.
The company operated by Lane's brother-in-law was not legally registered to do business in Texas until July 25 — two months after signing his contract with Mansfield.
Former Mayor Scott said this is one phone contract with a bad connection. "I don't even remember seeing this contract, and certainly if it was brought before us, no one ever told us or told me there was a brother-in-law connection," he said.
Mansfield City Attorney Allen Taylor says state law didn't require a competitive bid for the phone contract.
But Scott still believes all of Lane's city connections should be scrutinized.
Lane also serves as the Mansfield's senior staff attorney and refers to himself an assistant city manager.
Bill Lane also serves as Municipal Judge for five area cities: Everman, Hudson Oaks, Kennedale, Lake Worth and Pantego.
Attorney Todd Hutton is representing plaintiffs who are suing Mansfield, accusing the city of conducting shady transactions and back-room deals. The city has denied the allegations.
Hutton said that while Lane is not being sued, his presence is playing a confusing role in the legal proceedings in his case.
"You don't really know what the guy is doing," Hutton said. "Is he the police chief? Is he the Director of Public Safety? Is he in-house counsel? Is he the municipal judge? One never really knows."
David Cook, Mansfield's current mayor, has declined to talk with News 8 about Bill Lane. City Council members and City Manager Clayton Chandler also have no comment, saying they don't discuss personnel issues.