LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY — Little River-Academy Mayor Ronnie White, who also serves as the municipal judge, admitted Friday he is under investigation by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct after Police Chief Frank Poole filed a complaint against him.
The executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, Seana Willing, said Friday that she couldn’t confirm or deny an investigation and couldn’t comment until there is a ruling.
Drew Lanham, a City Council member, revealed the complaint Thursday night during a Council meeting.
The Temple Daily Telegram requested a copy of the letter notifying the city of Little River-Academy about the filed complaints and investigation. The city didn’t immediately provide one. Instead, City Secretary Nonie Tomastik faxed the Telegram a letter that said the city was seeking clarification from the Attorney General’s office as to if it could be released.
Poole said Friday he filed possibly more than 12 complaints of alleged judicial misconduct over a period of time against White.
The accusations center on White’s unprofessional demeanor in court, Poole said.
He said White doesn’t follow Rule 12 of the Texas Rules of Judicial Administration, shows favoritism, reduces citations to warnings or lessens citation amounts, has prior knowledge of people’s citations and reported offenses before they come to court. Poole also said White interrogates him when he writes citations and talks about the people to Poole, talks about the cases with people outside of court, makes fun of the violators inside and outside of court and ridicules Poole in court.
He said that White breaks the law and it’s hard to enforce the laws for everyone else when the judge is doing something wrong. His only options are to ticket White and take him before his own court or arrest him and take him to the Bell County Jail — neither good options, Poole said.
Poole said he’s supposed to be represented by a city attorney every time he goes to court, but that’s only happened twice since Aug. 24.
“When I pointed it out to Ronnie, he said ‘This is the way we’ve been doing it for 25 years and we had no problems until you came along,’” Poole said.
White told his side of the story Friday morning.
“The cop called it in. He didn’t like me changing people’s citations, giving them breaks on tickets,” White said.
He said he changed one to a warning, reduced another because someone was broke and let another make payments.
“I’ve always done it like this ever since I’ve been judge. We talk about it and work it out. I help them all I can. We’re not a money-hungry court,” White said. “We have an ample supply of money in the court fund.”
White said he wished someone had sat down and told him they didn’t like the way he was “doing judge.”
“I would have changed it, talked to them about it or quit. But they didn’t. They just filed this beef,” White said.
White said he isn’t doing anything any different now than he’s done since he was appointed municipal judge in 1988.
A verdict on the complaints is supposed to be received in two weeks, White said he was told Thursday.