TYLER, TX (KLTV) - There are two options as for the future for Joel Baker in his position as Smith County Judge, the county's top elected position.
Baker has refused calls for his resignation in two commissioners court meetings after a KLTV report revealed he is alleged of sending more than a thousand sexually explicit messages to a woman, while on state and county trips.
The first option, Baker can remain in office.
The second option, requires a rarely used section of Texas state law that specifies how an elected county official can be removed from office.
Unlike in the office of mayor, where a recall election can be held, in Texas, a county elected official must be removed by a legal petition filed in a district court.
The 1987 law applies to the offices of district attorney, county attorney, county judge, county commissioner, county clerk, district clerk, county treasurer, sheriff, county surveyor, county tax assessor-collector, constable, justice of the peace or a board of trustees member of an independent school district.
The petition must be filed in a district court where the elected official is based and must show proof of one of the following grounds for removal: incompetency, official misconduct or intoxication on or off duty. The petition, if accepted, could lead to the elected official being subjected to a trial by a jury. The petition must be filed by a person who has been a citizen of the county for six months and is not under indictment.
Once the petition is filed with a district judge, the petitioner can ask the judge to issue a citation to be served on the elected official in question, telling them to appear in court on a certain date.
Law provides the judge to suspend the elected official and appoint another person to perform the duties pending the trial. If the trial ends in the elected official's favor, they will be repaid lost wages from the county's funds.
The jury, which in essence would be the elected official's own constituents, would decide whether the issues raised in the trial meet either incompetence, official misconduct and/or intoxication on or off duty.
Either side can appeal the final judgment of the trial to a higher court.