HENRIETTA, Texas — A suspension hearing for embattled Clay County Sheriff Jeffrey Lyde was delayed Tuesday by his defense attorney’s last-minute motion to have the judge removed.
Randall D. Moore filed the motion at approximately 12:05 p.m. ahead of the hearing scheduled 1:30 p.m. to determine if Lyde would be suspended from his official duties. Court proceedings didn’t begin until about 2:09 p.m. because of another event.
The motion to recuse appears to question 97th District Judge Jack McGaughey’s impartiality regarding the petition to remove Lyde from elected office.
Moore contends the judge has personal knowledge related to the case, is a key witness for it and was a legal advisor to the sheriff.
With this motion filed, McGaughey can either voluntarily recuse himself or allow the region’s administrative judge to rule on the issue. Judge David Evans presides over the Eighth Administrative Judicial Region.
Once the motion is settled, a new hearing date will be set for a judge to consider suspending Lyde, appointing a new sheriff and turning a temporary restraining order into an injunction until the civil case is settled.
At the heart of the Moore’s push for a new judge is the role McGaughey might have played when Lyde sought information about whether a Clay County Memorial Hospital Board meeting called by another member for Sept. 13 violated open meetings laws.
Then president of the CCMH Board, Lyde emailed board members Sept. 13, warning of criminal enforcement if they attended. No quorum formed, and the meeting didn’t take place. The petition alleges Lyde’s email amounts to official oppression and is among reasons he should be ousted from elected office.
According to Moore’s motion to remove the judge, McGaughey discussed the meeting at issue with the sheriff on the phone and on Aug. 5, 2022, in person at the judge’s office.
McGaughey told the sheriff the meeting was unduly called and “clearly a violation” of the law, according to the defense motion.
The sheriff wrote the email warning off members from attending after consulting with McGaughey and Clay County Attorney Seth Slagle, according to the motion for recusal.
The sheriff and Slagle also exchanged text messages about the meeting, according to court documents provided by the defense.
In one message, Lyde says he spoke with “Jack” — the judge — who thinks the meeting would be a violation and “would sign the warrants,” according to court documents provided by the defense.
Check back with www.timesrecordnews.com for more on this developing story.
In October, Lyde resigned from being president of the CCMH Board, cutting short a hearing on a petition to remove him from that position.
During the proceedings for the petition cut short Tuesday, McGaughey said he was extending the restraining order against Lyde through Jan. 31.
The restraining order bars the sheriff from firing, demoting, changing staff members’ pay, doing anything to affect their law-enforcement credentials or retaliating against them, court records show.
Outside of court, Moore said he came into possession of information Monday night that resulted in his filing the motion for recusal Tuesday.
The 97th District Courtroom was packed ahead of the hearing Tuesday afternoon. It was standing room only until members of a new grand jury panel were sworn in, briefed on their duties and dismissed by the judge. Both events were inadvertently scheduled at the same time.
A petition to remove Lyde from office as sheriff was submitted Jan. 3 in civil court by local attorney and former district judge Frank Douthitt, as well as 97th District Attorney Casey Hall and Slagle.
They allege the sheriff is incompetent and has committed official misconduct and official oppression.
Lyde’s attorney contends Slagle and Hall are disqualified from being part of the petition to dislodge the sheriff from office. Slagle advised the sheriff, and Hall testified before a recent grand jury about the latest allegations against the sheriff.
This second petition for Lyde’s removal from elected office as sheriff is one of several legal entanglements he faces in civil and criminal court.
Lyde was indicted on three charges of official oppression connected to sexual harassment and one charge of official oppression connected to assault for allegedly slapping a female staff member’s buttocks, according to allegations in the indictments filed Dec. 29.
Official oppression is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Lyde turned himself in for arrest Jan. 2 at the Sheriff’s Office and bailed out the same day on $15,000 in bonds, according to court documents and online jail records.
In response to an open records request, a Sheriff’s Department official informed the Times Record News there is no mugshot of Lyde from his recent arrest.
Allegations against Lyde include two other charges of official oppression in connection with accusations that he intentionally held a man and a woman in jail in July 2021 without obtaining a finding of probable cause from a magistrate.
His attorney has said the latest charges are politically motivated. Lyde has maintained his innocence of the 2021 charges.
Trish Choate, enterprise watchdog reporter for the Times Record News, covers education, courts, breaking news and more. Contact her with news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Twitter handle is @Trishapedia.
This article originally appeared on Wichita Falls Times Record News: Lyde’s suspension hearing delayed as defense requests new judge