Despite accusations from Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls that he was possibly being removed from office, county commissioners took no action involving his exploratory committee for a congressional run.
Commissioners met in closed session during Tuesday’s meeting to explore a legal question involving Nehls due to his forming of an exploratory committee for a possible run in the Republican primary for Congressional District 22.
Before the meeting, Nehls sent a tweet accusing the Democratic commissioners on the court and Democrat County Judge KP George of trying to remove him from his office.
“The FBC Comm Court intends to discuss removing me from office today at their 1p meeting,” Nehls wrote. “The Dem County Judge has even met with other Dems to choose who “he” would appoint to replace me. I’ve done nothing wrong. A Dem-led witch-hunt has now entered FBC. Sad!”
But George took no action on the matter after the closed-session meeting and said it was an informational item.
In a statement, George said that his office received numerous inquiries from residents about the “Resign to Run” statute. About the closed-session item, he said, “due to the Open Meetings Act, this was the appropriate platform for such discussion. This statute was designated to protect public integrity and the rule of law, and I am dedicated to upholding these values.”
Precinct 2 County Commissioner Grady Prestage, a Democrat, said at the start of the meeting Tuesday he was unware of Nehls’ tweet or any call for commissioners to fire the sheriff.
“It’s news to me,” he told a Herald reporter. “I don’t even know if we can do that.”
One Republican commissioner said that he would defend Nehls before the meeting began.
“I can’t go into detail about what was discussed in the closed session meeting of the court, but I’m able to report that I’ve upheld my earlier promise. There was no way that I was going to allow any action to take place that would have removed a Republican elected official from office,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers said in a statement.
“A ‘no action’ report is the right outcome today, and I’m very glad that this issue is now behind us.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Vincent Morales said that George received an email from a constituent asking about whether Nehls’ exploratory committee violated the Texas Constitution. Article 16, Section 65 of the constitution says that if any elected officer in a county announces a candidacy for any other state or federal office, he or she must immediately resign from his or her current office, unless there is less than 13 months remaining in the person’s current term.
After the court met privately with County Attorney Roy Cordes, there was no evidence that Nehls violated that law, Morales said.
“There was an email that said Sheriff Nehls is running for another office, but he has not (announced to run),” Morales, a Republican, said. “He has formed an exploratory committee, and from what we understand, there’s nothing against the law doing that.”
The law also states that a person can stay in its current office if he or she declares for a state or federal seat less than a year and 30 days from the end of his or her current term. That means Nehls can wait until the filing deadline on Dec. 9 to remain as sheriff while he runs for Congress because he will have only one year and 22 days remaining in office.
The Texas Democratic Party put out a statement saying Nehls’ tweet was born of “misinformation and conspiracy theories.”
“It is unclear why Sheriff Nehls is huffing and puffing, should he run for Congress, he will need to immediately vacate his office. That’s just Texas law, and surely, a sheriff knows Texas law,” TDP spokesperson Abhi Rahman said.
“Fort Bend County residents deserve a full-time Sheriff, focused on protecting the lives and the safety of their families. Right now, they have a sheriff that has one eye on running for higher office and another on dabbling in conspiracy theories and spreading misinformation for political gain. Shame on Sheriff Nehls.”