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San Antonio judge to lead inquiry

By CRAIG KAPITAN

Eagle Staff Writer

A San Antonio district judge has been assigned to look into allegations that three local elected officials abused their power while in office.

Conroe-based Judge Olen Underwood announced Tuesday that he had handed the task to Judge David Peeples.

Underwood was given the request for an investigation — called a court of inquiry — last week after local District Judge Rick Davis filed a motion accusing Justice of the Peace Ray Truelove and Tax Assessor-Collector Buddy Winn of illegally paying employees for time they did not work.

In the motion, Davis also pointed a finger at District Attorney Bill Turner, blaming him for not prosecuting the two officials and for allegedly dragging his feet in an investigation of money missing in the District Attorney’s Office.

However, Turner and the two others said no laws were broken. Davis’ request was all about politics and sour grapes, they have unanimously said.

Davis was publicly reprimanded by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct last year after Turner filed a complaint detailing Davis’ treatment of a female prosecutor, including calling her an Auschwitz camp guard. In subsequent writings to Turner over the ordeal, Davis accused Turner of invading his relationship with God, an intrusion he likened to “defecating on Mount Sinai.” Other writings by Davis contained veiled threats and profane comments.

After ordering the highest sanction possible, a special court that upheld the public reprimand suggested that Davis could be removed from the bench because of his refusal to acknowledge the serious ethical violations he committed. However, the judges decided not to punish Davis and instead ordered him to receive instruction on anger management, courtroom demeanor, dealing with the media and responding appropriately to criticism.

Turner has said he will be happy to share the findings of his investigations into Truelove and Winn with investigators should a court of inquiry be convened. The investigation of his own office was immediately turned over, at his request, to the Texas Rangers and Attorney General’s Office in February, he said.

Davis has declined to comment on the issue, citing the pending investigation.

Judge Peeples also declined to comment on the investigation Tuesday except to say that he needed to study court of inquiry procedures before taking any action.

Such investigations are extremely rare, occurring in Texas on average about once a year. No estimate has given for how long the procedure might take, but past courts of inquiry have lasted months.

If Peeples determines laws have been broken, he will have the power to issue arrest warrants.

Peeples, a Republican who now oversees the 224th District Court in Bexar County, received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1974.

He first became a judge in 1981 when he was elected to the 285th District Court in Bexar County. He served two terms before being elected and serving as a justice on the 4th Court of Appeals until 1994. He returned to the district court bench in 1995.

Peeples has also served on the state Judicial Ethics Commission.

Underwood — who presides over the second judicial administrative region, which includes Brazos County — said Tuesday that he refuses to talk to reporters over the phone.

He would not comment on why he chose Peeples.

• Craig Kapitan’s e-mail address is ckapitan@theeagle.com.

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