Grayson County District Attorney's resignation causing controversy

Published: Feb. 20, 2018 at 6:24 PM CST
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Grayson County commissioners took an unexpected path to replace District Attorney Joe Brown after accepting his resignation Tuesday following the announcement that he'll be a United States attorney for the Eastern District.

Many people expected his top assistant to take over until the election. But commissioners said they're taking applications to appoint the interim district attorney.

"Grayson County is unique in that we're the only county in Texas where commissioners decide the district attorney. It's normally gubernatorial, but in our case, it's the county," said county judge Bill Magers. "All we're doing is asking for applications for a week."

That request caused uproar from several people during public comment.

"They had said all along they didn't want to get into the politics of this," said first assistant district attorney Kerye Ashmore, "and appoint someone and give the appearance of preference."

This allows any attorney to apply for the DA position and carry out the job until the election. Ashmore said that could jeopardize the current prosecutions they're working like the 13 murder cases they have pending.

"I wish it was somebody from this office," said district attorney Joe Brown. "We have great prosecutors who know the courthouse, and judges and policies."

Sheriff Tom Watt and others even said it could stir up the election as well.

"Very few things decimate an organization more than instability," Watt said.

Commissioners can appoint anyone. That could include announced candidates for the position.

"If they do that, they're appearing to give preference to someone, which I wouldn't encourage them to do," Ashmore said.

"This is unchartered territory," Magers said. "There really is no protocol. The commissioners wanted to accept applications so they did."

"My anticipation was Kerye Ashmore would serve during transition time period and keep some consistency until the parties had been able to choose a nominee," Brown said.

Brown's position was just approved by the senate last week, and he's waiting on President Trump to sign off. He expects his last day will be March 2.

Commissioners will take applications for the next week. After that they'll appoint someone, and after the precinct chairs are elected for both the Republican and Democratic parties next month, they'll pick the nominees for the November ballot.