TEMPLE (March 11, 2014) Temple Mayor Pro Tem Judy Morales was released on $1,500 bond Tuesday after she was charged with destruction/removal/alteration of public information.
The offense is a class-B misdemeanor.
She turned herself in Tuesday after an arrest warrant was issued and was released at around 2:30 p.m.
Temple Mayor Danny Dunn said a special workshop meeting of the council will be scheduled next Monday to discuss what if any steps to take against Morales, who remains on the council and can attend the session.
No final action will be taken Monday, he said.
Dunn reiterated Tuesday that he and other council members had been waiting for the County Attorney’s Office to act before taking any action.
The charge stems from an investigation of allegations that Morales directed an employee at the publicly-funded Temple HELP Center, where she served as director until last fall, to delete emails and documents linked to use of county equipment and personnel for campaign purposes when she ran for city council in 2011.
The now former HELP Center employee, Mari Paul, is spearheading a petition drive seeking to recall the entire Temple City Council, including her former supervisor.
Paul, who alleges that she was asked to work on materials for Morales’ City Council campaign in 2011 during office hours, filed a complaint about Morales with the Bell County Attorney’s Office last year.
In November, Bell County Attorney James Nichols asked the Bell County Sheriff’s Department to look into the allegations.
Nichols said in a statement Tuesday that the investigation also found “convincing evidence that there was a violation of campaign or abuse of office statutes.”
But he said a two-year statute of limitations on prosecution has expired.
Paul told investigators that she was assigned during office hours to do such things as design brochures for Morales’ city council campaign, voter logs for people who voted in the election, and materials for LULAC projects in which Morales was involved, according to an affidavit submitted for the arrest warrant.
“Mrs. Paul stated that she was assigned to do these projects in addition to regular duties that she had been assigned for the operation of the HELP Center, the affidavit said.”
Paul told investigators that Morales informed HELP Center employees in September 2013 after learning she couldn’t serve on the council while she was paid from tax dollars that she would resign from her position and serve as a volunteer “until she was hired back as a consultant until a replacement was located and hired,” the affidavit said.
In November 2013, after a newspaper story appeared about Morales’ apparent conflict of interest, Paul said Morales called her and asked how to delete files from her county-issued laptop computer, according to the affidavit.
The next day Morales called Paul and told her to delete files from her work computer, the affidavit said.
Morales, who was elected to the council in 2011, retired from the publicly-funded Temple HELP Center in 2013.
She’s a Temple native and graduate of Temple High School who had worked as director of social services at the HELP Center since 1972, according to her online city council biography.
The HELP Center is a government organization that's run through Bell County Human Services to provide resources to area residents who are in need.