County Attorney James Stainton filed an amended petition for removal Monday in the case against suspended Precinct 4 Commissioner Terry Ross.
The document calls for Ross to be removed from office without a jury trial.
“The game changed dramatically with the conviction,” said Stainton. “(Ross) signed a judicial confession to the things alleged in the indictment.”
The original petition for removal was filed by citizen Lane Akin in June 2012 when Ross was under indictment by a grand jury for tampering with government records and abuse of official capacity. In the months following the original petition, Ross was also indicted for theft of $500 to $1,500.
Just last month, Ross plead guilty to abuse of official capacity, and the other two charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement, which gave him $500 restitution and 180 days in jail, probated for one year.
In the petition filed Monday in the 271st District Court, Stainton says Ross’ guilty plea and misuse of government property “constitutes official misconduct,” which can result in removal from office according to Local Government Code 87.013.
The code defines “official misconduct” as “intentional unlawful behavior relating to official duties by an officer entrusted with administration of justice or execution of the law. The term includes an intentional or corrupt failure, refusal or neglect of an officer to perform a duty imposed on the officer by law.”
Stainton also says in the petition that Ross should be removed for incompetency under the same code because his “actions constitute a gross ignorance of official duties” and he exhibited “gross carelessness in discharge of those duties.”
Stainton notes that the same section of code requires a jury trial for removal involving official misconduct, but he argues in the petition that since Ross waived his right to a jury trial through his guilty plea in the criminal case, a jury trial shouldn’t be required for Ross’ removal.
Ross sent a letter last week to Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns demanding he be reinstated to his position “with all his back pay and lawyer expenses, per the Texas Local Government Code.”
Ross also demanded that his personal items be returned immediately, including a “tree house with climbing wall and ladder; fish fryer with two, 5-gallon propane tanks; office chairs; diesel pump; picnic table; Stihl leaf blower; pressure washer; etc.”
As of Saturday, Nov. 2, Ross’ back pay will total $110,753.12.
Ross’ attorney, Trent Loftin, declined to comment on the amended petition for removal, but he did confirm that Ross sent a letter to the county demanding he get his job back.
Stainton has also filed an original petition for leave to file information in quo warranto, which asks the district judge to declare the Precinct 4 commissioner post “vacant,” if the removal goes through.
Stainton says the next steps include normal pre-trial procedures.
“I’m hopeful that because we’ve done so much investigation with the criminal case that this will move along faster than a typical civil case,” he said.