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Update: Civil Case to Remove Judge Joel P. Baker

On Thursday, June 9, 2016, we received from our attorneys a forwarded e-mail from Judge David Peeples. Judge Peeples noticed attorneys on both sides of the Fleming et al v. Joel Baker case that he has granted Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham’s request for recusal from joining this case. A formal order will be issued next week. To read District Attorney Bingham’s letter, click here and scroll down the page.

In a statement released to local media, Plaintiffs’ spokesman JoAnn Fleming said,

“We are pleased with Judge Peeples’ decision to grant Mr. Bingham’s request for recusal. We believed from the beginning that District Attorney Matt Bingham was disqualified from joining our case due to his prior explicit plea for recusal on one of the causes (the ten-year ATS traffic camera contract) cited in our civil case. Since his office is responsible for hiring the commissioners court’s in-house legal counsel (the Civil Assistant DA), Mr. Bingham has taken the correct position to avoid an inherent conflict of interest.

Our desire is for a chance to assemble the facts and evidence, followed by a fair and impartial review of that evidence in a court of law.
While we understand a civil case to remove an elected official from office is rare – in large part due to the financial burden of hiring legal counsel – this remains the only means by which citizens have the ability to remove an elected county official without waiting for the next ballot box opportunity. [Note: Joel Baker was first elected County Judge in November 2006 and began his first four-year term of office January 1, 2007. He was re-elected in 2010 with no opposition. Challenged in the GOP primary by John Furlow, Baker was re-elected in 2014 to a term that ends December 31, 2018.]

A community is known for what it tolerates. We don’t want Smith County known as a place where elitist elected officials run roughshod over the people, acting as if the rule of law and commonly accepted rules of behavior don’t apply to the elected class. This civil case for removal is simply the right thing to do.”

We thank those who have contributed to the legal fund and respectfully ask for our community’s support as we move forward with this case.”

From the “You Can’t Possibly Make this Stuff Up” section of this week’s edition of clumsy, ham-handed, goofy bureaucratic government mumbo-jumbo, we got the following excerpt from the Smith County Commissioners Court, courtesy of Faith Harper at the Tyler Morning Telegraph.

Ms. Harper was reporting on the Smith County Commissioners Court rules of decorum workshop held this past Tuesday evening (the following is an excerpt):

Warr said he was in favor of having a way for people to continue their allowed three minutes of comment.

‘“Is that what we are trying to do is give people an open mic night?”’ Baker said. ‘“That is not the purpose of this court.”’

Baker also suggested having speakers sign an oath that all their comments are true and correct as a way to limit speakers who present incorrect information as fact. [Editor’s note:  You must be kidding, Joel Baker! You think it is the citizens of Smith County who need to sign a Truth Affidavit before addressing you? Wow. Just wow.]

Other court members, including Warr and Cary Nix, disagreed.

‘“I don’t want to restrict people’s speech,”’ Warr said. ‘“I want to have a dialogue with citizens, but it needs to be respectful.”’

Commissioner Terry Phillips said the new rules are too complicated.

‘“We look like we turned this into some kind of monster,”’ he said. ‘“It needs to be simpler than this – people just want to be heard.”’

Indeed, Commissioner, we think you’ve got this one figured out.

To read all of Faith Harper’s report, as posted in the Tyler Morning Telegraph, click here.

Hat tip to KLTV for this report and a very interesting video clip. Click here.

Care about how Judge Baker and the Commissioners
plan to spend your money in the 2017 county budget?
You may watch the sausage being made (or not) in person…

The Smith County Commissioners Court will hold a 9 AM Budget Workshop on Monday, June 13 in the Smith County Commissioners’ Courtroom, first floor of the Annex Building, 200 East Ferguson Street, Tyler.

The regular meeting of the Smith County Commissioners Court will be held on Tuesday, June 14 at 9:30 AM in the same location.

If you work during the day, get too frustrated watching all this in person, or tend to be a rather expressive spectator, you may view the meeting archives of the Smith County Commissioners Court meetings online here. Details on how to download the videos are there, along with a listing of agendas and minutes of past meetings.