David Fielding, attorney for former Precinct 4 County Commissioner Terry Ross, filed a brief July 14 in a continued effort to appeal his removal from office.
The appellant brief, filed in the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, summarizes Ross’ version of the facts and contends the summary judgment in his removal case was unwarranted.
District Judge Roger Towery issued the judgment, removing Ross from office March 19 to settle a civil suit filed by retired Texas Ranger Lane Akin of Decatur in June of 2012.
That suit was filed in the midst of an investigation that Ross had built a playhouse for his grandchildren in the county barn, using county money and employees on county time.
Ross was eventually charged with tampering with governmental records, theft of $500 to $1,500 by a public servant, and abuse of official capacity greater than $20 and less than $500. After multiple delays, he was scheduled Sept. 23, 2013, to go before a judge and jury, but instead accepted a plea deal.
Ross pled guilty to abuse of official capacity, a misdemeanor, and got $500 restitution and 180 days in jail, probated for one year. As part of the agreement, the two felony charges were dismissed.
Ross claims in the appellant brief that “at the time of the plea, (he) understood that he could be reinstated to his position with the county with full back pay.”
Fielding outlines in the brief that Ross’ removal should be reversed based on the following three arguments:
- Ross’ conviction of a Class B misdemeanor does not permit his removal from office under the “immediate removal” statute.
- The misdemeanor conviction did not involve official misconduct, and therefore Ross’ case was not subject to a summary judgment and removal.
- Ross did not waive his right to a jury trial in the removal case just because he waived his right to a jury trial by pleading guilty to the criminal charge.
County Attorney James Stainton must file a response by Wednesday, Aug. 13. A three-judge panel will eventually rule on the appeal.