Precinct 4 Commissioner Terry Ross, who has been suspended for more than a year, filed Tuesday for re-election.
He’ll be seeking a fourth term in the March Republican primary.
Despite pleading guilty Sept. 23 to abuse of official capacity and previously facing felony charges, Ross claims he still has a base of support.
But when asked why voters should re-elect him, he hesitated.
“Well, let’s not get into that …” he said.
Ross was suspended in August 2012, two months after former Texas Ranger Lane Akin, acting as a citizen, filed a petition for his removal citing incompetency and official misconduct. The petition came on the heels of indictments for abuse of official capacity greater than $20 and less than $500, a Class B misdemeanor, and tampering with governmental records, all of which was tied to the construction of a playhouse in the Precinct 4 barn. It was a gift for his grandchildren.
Tampering with governmental records, and a second felony – theft of $500 to $1,500 by a public servant – on which he was indicted in October 2012, were dismissed as part of the Sept. 23 plea agreement. His punishment for the misdemeanor was $500 restitution and 180 days in jail, probated for one year.
If Ross had been convicted by a jury of either felony, he would have been automatically removed from office and prohibited from running again.
When asked what he might say to voters who feel betrayed by him, he paused again before simply responding, “Good question …”
“I just stand for what I believe in, and I don’t believe I really did anything that constituted all of this,” he said. “And the whole story’s not out there.”
Ross, who was represented in the criminal case by Jerry Loftin of Fort Worth, said pleading guilty “was his attorney’s deal.”
“I don’t know why [I pleaded guilty],” he said. “I couldn’t even go and sit and talk to my lawyer [the day of the trial]. We’d asked for a place to go meet, but they had jurors stuck in every room.”
Ross said Loftin’s main concern was to get the felonies “out of the way.” He said Prosecutor Robert Gill, a Tarrant County district attorney, said there wasn’t enough evidence to make the felonies stick.
“That was my big question. How’d I get charged with them?” said Ross. “How did our crew get it through the grand jury then? I know how they did it, but I’m not going to say right now.”
Ross finally admitted that he had likely lost some voters but said it was folks that have only heard one side of the story.
“I’ve done what voters have asked me to do. I got their roads paved and lowered their taxes,” he said. “We even got the other commissioners picking up their feet and paving roads.
“I’ll keep serving voters like I always have,” he said.
Ross’ suspension will remain in place until the civil suit regarding his removal from office is resolved. The commissioner is seeking a jury trial, but County Attorney James Stainton wants District Judge Roger Towery to issue a summary judgment in the case and remove Ross from office.
Stainton filed a motion for summary judgment in the 271st District Court Nov. 21, and Towery will issue a ruling within 21 days.
Even if Ross is removed from office, he is still eligible to run for another term.