Goodrich mayor removed from office

LIVINGSTON -- In a 411th District Court ruling, visiting Judge David Wilson removed Goodrich Mayor Jeremy Harper office on Monday.

The case was filed by Earlene Williamson of Goodrich and stems from the 2016 city election.

“I think that the people of Goodrich deserve to have honest leadership,” Williamson said. “Maybe now they can have that. I don’t feel like our leaders should be able to break the law. It is a matter of doing the right thing for the citizens of Goodrich.

I hope that the city council will do what’s right and straighten out the problems that they have helped to create. The citizens deserve decent, law-abiding leadership.”

Harper, who had around six weeks remaining on his second term, will have his seat claimed by Kelly Nelson, the city’s mayor pro-tem.

Under Texas law, candidates cannot seek elected office if they have been convicted of a felony offense.

“The contested election issue that Ms. Williamson was suing on is pretty much done,” the ousted mayor said of the charges against the council. “There was no findings to remove the candidates and they will continue to hold office as they are.

“The felony that I had on my record caused the judge to remove me, because the state says you cannot have a felony on your record and hold office,” Harper said. “We could have put in an order of stay for a higher court and most likely won. What happened to me — if it would have happened in the state of Texas — would not constitute a felony. That was the argument that our attorneys were making. I was only going to be in office another six weeks and I didn’t want to spend the city’s money to take it to an appellate court. That didn’t make sense to me.”

Harper said the charges were from the state of Louisiana in the late 1990s. The charges in question included theft greater than $500 in Natchitoches Parish in June of 1999 and issuing a worthless check in Rapides Parish in December of 1994.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he continued. “I want to let people know that it just been an honor for me to serve the citizens of Goodrich as there only mayor for the past 14 years. Before four years ago, there wasn’t anyone serving as mayor for a while. I do plan on filing an expungement on my record. If I was aware it was on my record, I would have filed years ago.”

Defendants in the case included Harper and aldermen Billy Sikes, Bobby Wright, Nelson, Louis Hill and Mary Orozco.

Charges against the aldermen were all “dismissed because the claims upon which the proceedings in the nature of quo warranto do not challenge the qualifications of them to serve as aldermen for the City of Goodrich,” according to court documents acquired by the Enterprise.

In the 2016 election, the race for Goodrich City Council Position 5 saw Mary Orozco defeat Robert Earl Williamson, brother of Earlene Williamson, by a vote margin of 26 to 18. Incumbents Nelson and Wright, as well as newcomer Hill, ran unchallenged.

Earlene Williamson, who is also a former Goodrich City Council member, filed a suit contesting the city of Goodrich election, originally listing five complaints for her protests.

The complaints included a sitting city council member serving as an election official, only one election officer present for the City of Goodrich, a ballot box turned over on a table, one position on the ballot while other terms had ended, and Orozco announcing on victory on her Facebook page before the vote was canvassed.