DA Barry Johnson fires Aubrey Robertson less than two weeks after hiring him
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson fired Aubrey Robertson on Wednesday, 12 days after Johnson announced in a splashy news conference that he was hiring the Democratic nominee for DA as his first assistant.
Word of Robertson’s firing spread like wildfire throughout the McLennan County Courthouse, where less than two weeks before, Johnson held a press conference – the only one during his first and only term in office – to announce he was hiring Robertson to help him make the office run more efficiently.
Robertson, who said Wednesday morning that he will return to work at the law office of former DA Vic Feazell, will meet Republican nominee Josh Tetens in the Nov. 8 general election to determine who succeeds Johnson. Tetens defeated Johnson 70% to 30% in the March Republican primary.
Johnson said Robertson left to focus on his campaign. Robertson said he was fired because he was told he was creating “too much chaos” in his efforts to reorganize the dysfunctional office.
“It was just one of those things that after a week, I think Mr. Robertson realized that this is a very, very busy job and it is going to be impossible for him to run a campaign and be the first assistant district attorney,” Johnson said. “That is all I am going to say about it at this point. He was able to come to that conclusion, as I did, after a week, and that’s it.”
However, Robertson tells another version. He said he was called into a meeting with Johnson, Executive Assistant DA Sharon Pruitt and office manager Paula Burns at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“Barry said when they brought me over, it was to help me get headlines to help with my campaign,” Robertson said. “This morning during the firing, Barry said, ‘We can do this one of two ways: We can say we fired you or we can say you realized you couldn’t do the job and run a campaign at the same time.’ I said, ‘I will tell you 100 % unequivocally that I can do that job and run a campaign at the same time.’ Barry said, ‘Well, those are the options we have.’ And I said, ‘Barry, you are the elected DA. You say whatever you want to say.’
“Barry has sour grapes for losing the primary and the people he is getting advice from are giving him the wrong advice. To have a press conference and laud my experience and how excited he is to hire me, only to turn around and fire me when I was actually trying to fix the problems shows he is not actually interested in running an effective office and the voters of McLennan County were right to vote him out.”
Robertson said he had just received his new business cards on Tuesday, adding that Johnson stopped by his office Tuesday evening to tell him what a good job he was doing and how hard he was working.
“We were moving things in the right direction,” Robertson said. “I will say that the individual prosecutors over there are doing their absolute best to make things work. But there is no leadership in that office. There is no direction that is given to prosecutors, and that starts at the top with Barry.
“I knew it was a mess from the outside. I didn’t realize how big of a Dumpster fire it was until I got on the inside. My understanding was that Barry brought me in to help fix things and get things turned around. But I don’t think he is actually interested in doing either of those things,” Robertson said.
Robertson said he thinks his firing was prompted, at least in part, by a new office organizational chart that he put together his first week on the job – a chart he said Johnson approved.
“Monday was Barry’s first day back in the office from the conference he attended,” Robertson said. “I spent that entire week getting to know how the office was functioning and how things were running in general. I developed an organizational chart because it was my understanding that the office hadn’t had an organizational chart in quite some time.”
Robertson said he intended to reorganize the office, which required some staff members to change jobs and be assigned to different courts. That didn’t set well with a few staff members, who Robertson said complained to Johnson and Pruitt.
Robertson said he had planned to prosecute a murder case Aug. 8 in 19th State District Court, which would have been a major change since none of Johnson’s previous first assistants tried a serious felony case.
“Maybe Barry should go try that case now since he hasn’t tried a case since he has been district attorney,” Robertson said.
Tetens, the Republican nominee for DA, said Wednesday that Robertson’s firing is another reason he decided to run for the office and why he was able to win more than 70 percent of the vote.
“This is also why I have garnered so many endorsements within our justice community and why we will be victorious in November,” Tetens said. “I am ready to get to work restoring integrity and a sense of justice to this important office. Our community knows it’s time for Tetens.”
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