By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–With the closing of the election filing period for the March 1, 2016 Party Primary, a few key races have taken shape in Henderson County. The most prominent is that Republican Lance Gooden of Terrell is challenging incumbent Dr. Stuart Spitzer of Kaufman in a bid to regain a seat in the Legislature as Representative of District 4.
Judge Carter Tarrance announced in September he was not seeking reelection to the bench of the 392nd District Court. Two have filed for the seat: longtime family law practitioner Marianne Warren of Athens with 23 years experience and two-term D.A. Scott McKee are both seeking the Republican nomination. No Democrats have filed for the office. Mark Hall is the sole candidate for District Attorney.
In addition, County Attorney Clint Davis faces a challenger in the Primary from former officeholder James H. Owen.
Both County Commissioners have said they will not seek re-election. Keith Pryor and Ken Hayes have filed for Precinct 1, now held by Scotty Thomas, who has held the office for one term.
Commissioner Ronny Lawrence is stepping down after four terms in office. Four contenders have filed to take his place. They are Mark Tillison, Sammy Scott and Kevin Head of Murchison and Charles “Chuck” McHam of Chandler.The winner will face Democrat challenger Aleciah Joyce Sims in the fall.
All five constable offices are on the ballot. In Precinct 1 Kay Langford, an Investigator with the Sheriff’s office, is unopposed in the Republican Primary but will challenge incumbent Daryl Graham in November 2016.
In Precinct 2, Interim officeholder Mitch Baker, with his office in Seven Points, will face Danny Howard.
Precinct 3 incumbent David Grubbs of Brownsboro is unopposed.
Precinct 4 incumbent Rick Stewart is not seeking re-election. Former Constable John Floyd has filed along with Wilford “Wick” Gabbard for the Republican ballot.
Precinct 5 Constable Brad Miers is challenged by Eric Adair.
Tax Assessor Collector Peggy Goodall is running for her first full term in office after filling an unexpired term of Milburn Chaney in January. She is unopposed.
Statewide offices appearing on the ballot include eight Republican contenders and three Democrats for their party nomination for Railroad Commissioner. Places 3, 5 and 9 have drawn two challengers each for the Supreme Court on the Republican ballot. The winner will each face a Democrat opponent in November. Republicans are also competing for places 2, 5 and 6 on the Court of Criminal Appeals. Each winner will then face a Democrat candidate in the fall
Voters in Henderson and Van Zandt counties will see two filers for the 12th Court of Appeal, both unopposed for Place 2 and 3, on the Republican ballot.
Locally, District 9 of the State Board of Education has put up four Republican contenders, the winner of which faces a Democrat in the fall.
Posted by : December 23, 2015| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Posted by : December 9, 2015| On :
Rules for use of medicinal marijuana, body cameras, Internet publishing reviewed
By Russell Slaton
The News Correspondent
ATHENS–Henderson County Bar Association members were briefed about federal and state law changes at Athens Country Club Dec. 4. Some changes are already in effect, with others, soon to follow.
The legislative and legal overview was presented by Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee along with Assistant District Attorney and felony prosecutor Justin Weiner.
The DA and his assistant also brought Henderson County peace officers up-to-date during a four-hour seminar late last summer at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens.
McKee said concealed carry permits for handguns automatically convert to allow open carry Jan. 1, 2016. The majority of American states already allow open carry, Weiner said.
But along with the law are rules that need to be followed: besides a permit, the handgun must be carried in a belt or shoulder holster in plain view. Openly carrying handguns will be allowed in all places where concealed carry is currently condoned. A handgun can be exposed in a vehicle as long as it’s holstered, Weiner added.
“It will be interesting to see how this all (open carry) fleshes out,” Weiner said.
Carrying weapons at dormitories, classrooms and campus buildings at public colleges is allowed by the State of Texas as of Sept. 1, 2016, Weiner said.
Colleges are in the process of establishing rules about where exactly open carry is allowed, as well as where guns can be stored. “A lot of universities are scrambling to see what they can do,” Weiner said.
Another legal issue is synthetic marijuana. The prohibition is now based on specific chemicals instead of the previous legal standard of proving “mimics the pharmacological effect of real marijuana.” Vaping now has the same rules as cigarette sales which includes banning e-cigarette use in public places.
Legally prescribed medicinal marijuana is now legal in Texas for the first time, Weiner said, and has been since June 1. It’s available only for epilepsy patients, he said, and the prescription must come from two licensed doctors and be filled at a state-approved pharmacy.
The medicinal marijuana derivative must contain low amounts of THC, which is the psychoactive element of marijuana.
Another issue addressed by state legislators is body cameras for police officers. A Senate bill provides law enforcement $10 million in grant money to obtain the equipment, with each law-enforcement agency matching 25 percent of the grant. The provision kicks in Jan. 1.
McKee said Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt has already applied for grant money from the governor’s office. District Attorney McKee advised law enforcement to adopt body camera policies before allowing use.
So-called “revenge porn” became a criminal offense and can include civil penalties as of Sept. 1 of this year. The offense deals with using explicit images or videos online without consent. That is now a Class A misdemeanor, one step below a felony.
“Doxing,” or the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information gleaned from private (as opposed to public) records without consent, also is a state no-no, as of Sept. 1.
McKee and Weiner also discussed a United States Supreme Court decision. Riley v. California, decided in summer 2014, ruled that cellphone searches were just as invasive as home searches and should be held to similar legal standards. Consent to search along with exigent circumstances, along with felony warrants, are exceptions to the rule. “Get a cellphone, get a warrant,” McKee said.
Posted by : February 8, 2013| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
County inmates will soon be serving the public by clearing fence rows at the Malakoff Historical Society and Museum.
Malakoff Historical Society Director Pat Issacson, is thrilled about getting the assistance.
“This is going to be so much help,” she said. “I am very excited.”
Issacson discussed the idea with The News just a few weeks ago while waiting for a “Friends of Malakoff” meeting at the Flag House to begin. Since then, Issacson made the calls and arrangements and put things into motion. Of course none of it would be possible without the help of county inmates and the approval of County Commissioners.
Issacson said no date has been assigned yet, and the workload is rather heavy, so it most likely will be taking several days to complete.
“There are a lot of fence rows to move,” she said “It’s hard to tell when it was last cleaned out. It’s been years. They are going to help move some big things in the house then do the work outside.”
The city of Malakoff also said it will assist in the effort.
“The city said if we get the fencing close to the road, they will haul it off for us,” Issacson said
After a day’s work is done, Issacson said there would be more opportunities to continue the clean up.
“If there is more that needs done (after the day is over), all I need to do is call them up and they will come out again,” she said.
Issacson expects it will take two or three days to complete all of the work.
Posted by : January 17, 2013| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office will soon have quick access to its own armored vehicle.
Tuesday, County Commissioners approved the purchase of a BearCat, the same kind of vehicle borrowed from the Tyler Police Department in 2010.
The BearCat served Athens well when it was used to confront survivalist Howard Todd Granger in a four-hour police standoff, in October, 2010.
Granger fired about 100 rounds from an AK-47 at the armored vehicle before getting taken down by a well-aimed sniper round. Not a single round fired at the SWAT team penetrated the vehicle, including the windows.
Sheriff Ray Nutt argued that in an emergency situation, the three hours or more it takes to do the paperwork and get the vehicle from Tyler could cost an officer’s life.
“We have a great working relationship with Tyler,” Nutt said, “but if there is an injured officer we need the vehicle quickly to extract him before its too late.”
Nutt added that BearCats are even protected underneath from grenade explosions. The BearCat will cost $132,000.
The 2010 incident was not without financial consequence to the county. Henderson County paid a hefty bill to repair damage the vehicle.
Nutt told Commissioners the County could have its own BearCat by July, if approved now.
BearCat is an acronym, standing for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin was vocal in his agreement.
“I think it’s a wise decision to invest in one of them,” he said.
Posted by : October 20, 2012| On :
Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace and Malakoff Municipal Judge Henry Ashford died today of an apparent heart attack, a county source confirmed.
There are no other details at this time.
Posted by : October 12, 2012| On :
By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
ATHENS – Donna Johnson started out the 2013 Domestic Violence Awareness proclamation signing ceremony Tuesday afternoon with a simple request: “I want everyone here, if they themselves or a family member have been affected by family violence, to please raise your hands and keep your hands raised.”
The East Texas Crisis Center Director of Outreach then asked for anyone who had a friend, or associate at work affected by domestic violence to do the same thing. Then she asked for anyone who knew someone who had been affected by domestic violence to do the same thing.
By that time, it looked like every one of the nearly 100 gathered on the courthouse lawn had a hand raised.
“Domestic violence in Henderson County is so prevalent,” she said.
October is about becoming aware of the dangers of domestic violence and the resources available in the community for victims.
Posted by : October 11, 2012| On :
State Sen. Robert Nichols met yesterday with school superintendents from Cherokee, Anderson and Henderson counties to talk about education issues and the upcoming Legislative Session. I’m working on a story for next week, but two quick things I noticed: It looks like the meeting took place in Athens, and in the above photo distributed by the senator’s office, that’s Cross Roads ISD Superintendent Clay Tompkins (left) sitting next to Nichols.
— Michael V. Hannigan
Posted by : September 21, 2012| On :
By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
ATHENS — Henderson County Commissioners’ Court approved the 2013 budget and tax rate Tuesday morning.
The tax rate remains the same at .472658 per $100 valuation.
The budget was set at about $33.7 million, which County Judge Richard Sanders said was around $1 million less than last year. These numbers do not include grants the county has received in the past, or expects to receive again in 2013.
“We did come up with a budget that did not increase taxes. I think that is very important in this day and time, with all the people who are hurting trying to make ends meet,” Sanders said.
Posted by : September 20, 2012| On :
By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
The Texas Department of State Health Services has confirmed a third instance of human West Nile Virus in Henderson County for 2012.
An official from the agency said the case was reported Thursday, Sept. 13. The agency could not say in what part of the county the case occurred.
The new case is the milder West Nile fever. This year, the county has seen two cases of West Nile fever and one case of the more serious West Nile neuroinvasive disease.
This marks the most confirmed human cases of West Nile in the county since the disease was discovered in the United States in 1999. The only two other confirmed cases of human infection in Henderson County came in 2005, according to state records.
Posted by : September 11, 2012| On :
Congressman Jeb Hensarling issued the following statement today in recognition of the 11th anniversary of the al Qaeda terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.
“It’s hard to believe 11 years have already passed since our country was attacked and our world was changed forever on that grave September morning. On 9/11, an unthinkable act of evil struck our nerve but it never came close to breaking our spirit. Instead of letting terror bring us to our knees, our nation stood tall and responded and rebounded in a way that has reminded the world that no adversary is too strong or severe to be overcome and defeated by the United States of America.
“No matter how much time passes or how many years go by, we will never forget the lives we lost or the families who still mourn them and miss them dearly. We must also remember the timeless axiom that all which is necessary for evil to prevail is for the good to do nothing. After all, it was 11 years ago today that the war against terrorism was begun in the sky above Pennsylvania by brave patriots who chose to fight back. When our military was called to action to defend our liberty, the men and women in uniform followed in the footsteps of those passengers and generations of warriors before them as they fought – and continue to fight – to defend freedom, bring evil to justice, and protect the land we call home.
“On this solemn anniversary, I join the American people in prayer as we pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 Americans taken from us in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, as well as those who have given their lives since 9/11 in defense of our homeland and our cherished freedom. Their sacrifices continue to inspire a grateful nation every day as we continue the fight for a safer and freer world for our children and grandchildren.”