My opinion. As you read this, keep in mind that Andrew Lucas aka Andy Lucas is the elected Somervell County Attorney who took on a case as a representative of the State of Texas. No one ran against him last time, so that maybe there might have been a choice about who to have doing hot checks, CPS, and representing the county.
The petition that Darrell Best lodged against Paul Harper was nonsense. It included two charges, one, that Harper had made a motion at a Somervell County Hospital District meeting, and second, that he had written a post on my blog, Somervell County Salon, under MY screen name. (not only baloney but insulting to me as a sentient, thinking female; I WROTE THAT POST) Did Lucas try to determine if these facts were even 1? Nope. He could have, but he didn't. Instead, it appears to me he primarily relied on information from Darrell Best, and Ray Reynolds, who is CEO of Glen Rose Medical Center, for his information, as well as his impressions of a few board meetings he intended. Well, I also attended a couple of board meetings, as well as closely watched video of the meetings, and I had a different impression. Should an attorney's *impresssions* sans evidence be given more weight than anyone else? If you watch the videos from Darrell Best that I have posted, you'll see that Best indicates that he's the one that gave all the points he wanted Lucas to bring up in the first removal hearing against Harper. Where is the work that Lucas put in? When Lucas was told to bring records to a deposition, he apparently didn't have any, while Best did. Really? Seems to me that an attorney that has power over your life in the form of possible fines, imprisonment, probation or, in this case, removal from office, ought to have good records and notes He didn't even bother to look for a transcript of the meeting in which Harper allegedly made a motion for zero tax. Guess what, there was VIDEO of this, and when I pointed this out to Brent Addleman of the Glen Rose Reporter, he ran a correction in the newspaper. But what, Lucas, didn't bother to try to find out if the allegation was 1? I feel like I can't really trust such a one to do a good job prosecuting others if he not only doesn't keep the records in his file but then can't seem to remember what the hell he even did.
Lucas could have completely ignored Darrell Best's petition. Anyone has the right to petition government but that doesn't require the government to act on the petition. Lucas said in a deposition that he thought he had no discretion to turn down the case. Ron Hankins, former county attorney, said, uh, nope, County Attorneys have prosecutorial discretion. So why didn't Lucas know that? He apparently relied on what he could figure out for himself as a "best guess" instead of, say, calling the, er, STATE OF TEXAS in Austin, Attorney General's office, and asking or asking the Attorney association he belongs to to weigh in. In other words, he relied on what the heck occurred to him and it was NOT the right answer. He could have said, "Suppose I lodge this case and I lose, who pays?" and made sure that Somervell County taxpayers were not going to be on the hook for his rush to judgment. Beyond that, now he says he thought he had to do it, but what he hasn't told anyone apparently, is what he told the justices in the 10th court of appeals, who called him up to ask him questions. One asked him if he had had to take on the case and he admitted that he didn't have to. (I was there listening to him). So why did he decide to change his story to others AFTER that? I assume he just doesn't want to be responsible for his actions which, again, he admitted to the 10th court of appeals.
But let's say he truly didn't know. The problem with that is, ignorance of the law is no excuse. And, frankly, I don't know about you, but I expect a higher standard from someone with the power and authority of a county attorney to do due dilligence to make sure of the facts. When Harper's attorney went recently to the Texas Attorney General's office to find out if the State of Texas Comptroller's office was responsible for Harper's judgment or if it was at the local State of Texas Andy Lucas level, it took only about a week to get the answer back that, in fact, the county, ie Somervell County, is liable for the judgment. Why didn't Lucas know that ? He said his attorney (yes, he had to hire an attorney to represent him, at our expense), checked into it, but said he never got back an answer. Really??????? And yet, again, Harper's attorney was able to find out this information within about a week.
Andy Lucas, as the State of Texas, adopted for all purposes BOTH a charge he added of Harper violating TOMA as well as Best's frivolous charges. Now, here's what's bizarre about that. If Lucas truly believed that the Texas Open Meetings Act was being violated by a quorum of hospital districted elected members, he could have gone after ALL the people doing it, not even as part of this removal lawsuit, but as part of his role as county attorney, ie, as a separate action. (This despite the fact that he has apparently NEVER gone against anyone for violating TOMA, even though there are lots of instances. Heck, he even admitted he told the hospital attorney to simply counsel the board members). Violating TOMA is a criminal misdemeanor offiense, but Lucas not only didn't charge the others he alleged were involved, but he also didn't charge Harper with it. So he just sort of stuck a TOMA complaint onto the removal action as a "civil" action and said he didn't want to arrest anyone as the excuse. Did he actually investigate BEFORE he went to the first removal hearing about whether this was actually 1? Apparently not. He also said that he thought a TOMA complaint would have to be investigated by the sheriff's department, but he didn't send it to them to check. My biggest question, however, is, why didn't he charge everybody, and under the REAL TOMA violation law? He said that it was because there was a case against Paul. Oh... okay. That really makes it appear he didn't really care about a TOMA violation but his apparent vendetta against Harper. Incidentally, he was asked at the 10th court of appeals why he did this and he said "I was afraid Harper would harm the district". Well, that's sure different than, I thought Harper violated TOMA or made a motion or wrote a blog post.
Lucas, as the State of Texas, kept losing at every step. Harper had the right to DEFEND himself against what appeared to be a rogue county attorney who was fighting him on the basis of Harper's freedom of speech and freedom of petition, which are US constitutional rights as well as under the Texas constitution. Again, Harper did NOT BRING THIS LAWSUIT, the State of Texas did; Darrell Best could not bring a removal action against Harper without the State of Texas taking it over because citizens can't just up and remove elected officials.
The original District Court ruled against him keeping Harper off the board on Jan 8 2015. Even then, Lucas, along with Ron Hankins, attempted to do a Temporary Restraining Order to keep Harper from attending meetings after that, which the judge threw out. Doesn't that sound like the REAL goal of Lucas was not to correct for a TOMA violation but to keep an elected official off the board?
The 10th Court of Appeals ruled against The State of Texas on April 21, 2016.. He tried to get the case reheard on 5/4/2016 and the 10th court of appeals ruled against the State of TExas again on July 13, 2016.
He appealed to the Texas Supreme Court on 9/27/2016 , which ruled on 6/29/1028 against the State of Texas. He then tried to get it reheard by the TSC by refiling a motion on 7/10/2018. The Texas Supreme Court denied his motion on 12/21/2018.
At this point, the action changed from the superior courts to the district court again, not to retry the case in any fashion, THAT WAS DECIDED, but since the State of Texas had been ruled against, to determine the amounts owed of attorney fees, court costs and sanctions. The District court AGAIN ruled against the State of Texas on August 23, 2019.
Lucas decided NOT to appeal. Therefore, if there's something he dang well doesn't like, it's just too bad, eh? The case is over except for Somervell County paying the State of Texas judgment. Lucas spent over 5 years and racked up, on Harper's side a bunch of attorney fees, etc, simply because, at least to me, he couldn't swallow his pride and stop. It reminded me of the policeman in Les Miserables who irrationally hunts down Valjean for years. Could Lucas have settled at some point in the past before the costs got so large? Sure. But he didn't. Maybe that's sheer arrogance, I don't know. I do know that if the idea of a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is lodging a frivolous suit against someone, not because you believe you're in the right and you will win, but to cause trouble to the defendant and cost them money to fight it. then Lucas was in the thick of it.
Harper is entitled to the judgement that the judge after FIVE YEARS awarded to him.