Blanco chief retires amid KXAN investigation into pipeline security guards

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BLANCO, Texas (KXAN) — In two weeks from Wednesday, Blanco Police Chief Mike Ritchey will no longer lead the city’s police force. Ritchey told the city he was retiring and would stay on two weeks until the city could hire a new chief.

The chief’s retirement came the same day a KXAN investigation highlighted the chief’s off-duty employment with the private security firm protecting Kinder Morgan’s newest natural gas pipeline. City Secretary Laurie Cassidy confirmed the retirement announcement in a phone call Thursday.

Blanco Police Chief Michael Ritchey uses his cell phone to photograph a KXAN crew at the Kinder Morgan pipe storage yard on March 5, 2020. (KXAN Photo/Ben Friberg)

The pipeline, known as the Permian Highway Pipeline, will carry natural gas from a station near the Texas/New Mexico border to Houston. The pipeline will run through Blanco County and the Hill Country.

We found multiple Texas peace officers standing guard along the pipeline route in Kimble, Gillespie and Blanco Counties during our months-long investigation into Kinder Morgan’s pipe segment storage yards in Junction and Blanco. Those officers are working off-duty for a private security firm located near Dallas.

We first saw Ritchey at the Blanco pipe yard in March. Ritchey drove up to a locked gate on Kinder Morgan’s property and unlocked the gate. Ritchey said he was working security for the pipeline, but would not tell KXAN who he was working for or with whom he signed the employment contract.

Ritchey was wearing his Blanco Police Department-issued uniform, handcuffs and gun at the time.

Ritchey took several photographs of our vehicles and KXAN’s crew at the scene. We filed an open records request for Ritchey’s cell phone records and copies of the photographs, but the city denied the request, claiming since Ritchey was not working for the city at the time, the photographs and his cell phone records were not public record.

In a March response to a KXAN public information request, the city said it did not have an employment agreement with the chief, despite him being listed as the city’s chief of police.

The city secretary told KXAN the chief told the city he’d taken a new job in San Antonio when he turned his retirement notice in on April 29. The city didn’t know the name of the chief’s new employer.

A message left at the police department seeking comment from Ritchey had not been returned as of this report.

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