KILLEEN — A Bell County justice of the peace turned in his resignation letter Monday morning, County Attorney Jim Nichols told the Telegram.
Precinct 4, Place 1 Justice of the Peace Daryl Peters’ resignation will be effective June 24. The extra time is to allow Peters to address some things already scheduled, according to Nichols.
Nichols gave the initial reason for Peters’ resignation as health concerns, but admitted after Telegram questions that “things happened that could have muddied the water out there.”
However, the issue was resolved without Nichols’ office taking legal action, he said.
“It was a good outcome for my office,” Nichols said.
The issue involving Peters would have been a misdemeanor, Nichols said. He said the Killeen Police Department reviewed some facts and he gave his opinion.
Peters was not officially represented by an attorney, but Nichols said he was “uncomfortable” talking about that.
A call to Peters was not returned Monday.
Peters lost in the Democratic Party primary election to Gregory Johnson, a former Killeen City Council member. Johnson beat Daryl Peters with 66 percent of the votes.
Michael Keefe won the Republican race for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1, with 65.79 percent of votes, topping Hal Butchart and Chet Southworth.
The Bell County Commissioners Court could appoint an interim JP or someone on a part-time basis, but that is the decision of the court, Nichols said.
Bell County Judge David Blackburn said he received Peters’ resignation Monday morning. Copies were given to the commissioners and human resources, and the resignation will be formally accepted at the next Commissioners Court meeting, Blackburn said.
Although resignation letters are public records, a phone request for Peters’ letter was not automatically granted Monday. Instead, Blackburn was instructed by human resources to give the letter to the attorneys to review because there were some questionable parts in it, Blackburn said.
A member of Blackburn’s staff told the Telegram at 5:46 p.m. to send an open records request because that is “Blackburn’s policy,” even though he previously said around 2:30 p.m. that he would provide the letter. He said after the 5:46 p.m. conversation that he would try to get a copy sent Monday night.
A variety of factors will come into play when the court considers what to do with the opening, Blackburn said.
“We have a lot of options to consider,” he said.
Bell County Bill Cooke, the Justice of the Peace for Precinct 4, Place 2, said he didn’t know Peters submitted his resignation until the Telegram called him for a comment Monday.
“I wish Peters well in his future endeavors,” Cooke said. “I would like to insure the citizens of West Bell County that they are there to bring professional and efficient service to those in need. Our goal is to provide due process to all seeking justice in the people’s court.”
Peters is the second JP in a row in Precinct 4, Place 1 to have issues.
Previous complaints and petitions filed by Bell County lawyers eventually led to a trial in which Claudia Brown was removed from her elected position last year. Jurors unanimously decided she legally needed to abdicate her position because she had engaged in official misconduct; was grossly incompetent or negligent; or had developed physical or mental defects since her election.
“It’s purely coincidental that this occurred in the same precinct,” Nichols said as he answered the Telegram question about problems that have occurred.
Peters had both judicial misconduct and civil complaints filed against him after he took office.
The Commissioners Court unanimously appointed Peters, a Democrat, to fill the last two years of Brown’s unexpired term for Precinct 4, Place 1 after a motion to include candidates from other parties in the selection process failed by a 3-2 vote.