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Officials urged to support petition against Brown

The lawyer who filed a court petition seeking to remove Bell County Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown is seeking community support, especially from the county attorney, as the issue will be addressed next week.

Brett Pritchard, a Killeen lawyer, urged Bell County residents and County Attorney Jim Nichols to push for Brown’s removal in response to the petition filed. A hearing on the matter is set for March 9.

“The citizens of Bell County elected Jim Nichols as their county attorney. It is his duty to protect the citizens of Bell County from the unconstitutional actions of another elected official,” Pritchard said Wednesday.

Nichols said he couldn’t say much about Prichard’s request since he would be the prosecuting attorney if a citation is issued in the case.

“Of course, everyone has opinions (about Brown),” Nichols said Wednesday. “I’ll have to hold off until the judge does his preliminary step.”

If the appointed judge hearing the case, Stephen Ables, senior judge of the 216th District Court in Kerr County, determines there are valid reasons to proceed with a case against Brown, a citation will be issued. Nichols said that he would be the prosecutor, according to rules stipulated in Chapter 87 of the Local Government Code.

Brown received worldwide attention when she recently set a record-breaking $4 billion bond in a Killeen murder case. She told a Telegram reporter that she set the bond even though it was unconstitutional to protest how the legal system is broken. Brown said she was urged by colleagues to increase her bonds but declined to say who lobbied her. After the record-high bond was set, Brown switched tactics and began setting very low bonds.

Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza, who is monitoring all bonds set by Brown, said he filed a motion Wednesday to increase the $3,000 bond for Cetera Barnes, who arrested on a charge of assault of a family or household member. The motion will be heard Monday in the 27th District Court before Judge John Gauntt, Garza said.

When asked for his thoughts on the situation surrounding Brown, Bell County Judge Jon Burrows said Wednesday that he hopes the system will work itself out. He did not comment beyond that.

Commissioner Tim Brown said it’s troubling for county officials to see the way the justice of the peace has acted in her new office.

“Our hope up here is that she’ll get past her growing pains as a newly elected official and figure out what her job is and focus on that,” the commissioner said. “We’ve been very fortunate here in Bell County that we’ve had good solid elected officials and very little controversy internally.”

Bell County officials generally work well together and focus on their jobs, Tim Brown said.

“We maintain a good level of service,” the commissioner said. “It’s troubling for all of us when an official has problems like this. We want to see her get past it and move on — one way or the other.”

Pritchard said the weight of Nichols’ office behind the effort to remove Brown from office would add viability to this effort.

“Citizens of Bell County have contacted me in droves wanting to know how to proceed. I’ve instructed them to call Jim Nichols’ office,” Pritchard said.

Other than courthouse attorneys talking to him about Brown and the recent events, Nichols said no one has recently contacted him about Brown.

The justice of the peace did not return a phone call from the Telegram on Wednesday.