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Officers wrote citations to non-existent court

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J. HOSKINS
The Ellis County Press

            BARDWELL – Reserve officers who were not legally appointed have been issuing citations to citizens for a non-existent municipal court, state and local officials said last week.

            Mayor P.W. Gentry, in an April 7 council meeting, admitted to his city southwest of Ennis of not having a municipal court. Officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education have been investigating.

            With a population of less than 400, Bardwell had at one time a municipal court. Last summer, Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jackie Miller Jr. served as the city’s visiting judge, but stepped aside.

            According to the Office of Court Administration Web site, Miller is still listed as the judge for Bardwell. Records obtained from the Web site also show that Bardwell is without a court clerk, a designated official to collect fines, fees and other payments.

            Gentry admitted to The Ellis County Press in a December article that he routinely accepts fines and fees for the non-existent court.

            According to the Texas Municipal Court Association, as well as the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center, a judge for a municipality must undergo training once a year. According to Rule 5 of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Rules of Judicial Education, derived from Texas Government Code Chapter 56.006, a municipal court judge who is an attorney must undergo a 12-hour seminar each year. 

However, a judge who is not a licensed attorney must undergo a 36-hour seminar upon appointment and attend a 12-hour seminar each year thereafter, on the duties of the office. 

There is no record of Gentry attending the mandated training.

            Jacque Bailey, a resident of Bardwell who spoke during the April 7 meeting, said he received a ticket from reserve officer Ronald Aulds, one of the two illegally appointed officers currently working under Chief Michael Spurgeon.

State law, as well a letter from TCLEOSE’s director of licensing and enforcement, told Bardwell officials officers must be appointed by the city council, which was not done.

Since Bailey’s citation, he has received letters threatening the revocation of his driver’s license.

An analysis of past officer appointments show that former Chief Michael Chase Meissner, himself a target of state and local investigations, illegally appointed 17 reserve officers.

Officials from TCLEOSE have said citations issued by those officers are null and void, and that fines collected could be challenged in state court.

 


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