Embattled Local Councilmember Refuses To Resign

A local city councilwoman who’s been charged with destruction of public records and whose eligibility to hold office has been challenged refused Monday to step down despite calls from four council colleagues to resign.

Temple Mayor Pro Tem Judy Morales (city photo/file)

TEMPLE (March 17, 2014) Temple Mayor Pro Tem Judy Morales, who’s been charged with destruction of public records and whose eligibility to hold office has been challenged, refused Monday to step down despite calls from four council colleagues to resign.

Temple Mayor Danny Dunn and Councilmembers Perry Cloud, Russell Schneider and Tim Davis called on Morales during a meeting Monday afternoon to resign, but Morales declined, and instead requested a public hearing.

Dunn said that Morales has been untruthful and that the allegations against her have made it hard for the council to do business.

The public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, after which the council could vote on whether to remove Morales for the duration of her current term, which ends in May.

After the May 10 city council election, in which she’s unopposed, the process would have to be repeated unless she either declines the position before the election or submits a letter of resignation after taking the oath of office on May 14.

Morales was released on $1,500 bond on March 11 after she was charged with destruction/removal/alteration of public information.

The offense is a class-B misdemeanor.

She turned herself in after an arrest warrant was issued.

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 after Morales surrendered 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.

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