CLAY COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — A new judge will soon be presiding over the petition filed to remove Clay County Sheriff Jeff Lyde from office.
Officials with the 97th Judicial District Court confirmed on Friday, January 20, 2023, that Judge Jack McGaughey has voluntarily recused himself from presiding over the petition to remove Sheriff Lyde from office.
97th District officials said an administrative judge that is over the region will appoint a new judge for the upcoming proceedings, though a timetable for this appointment has not been disclosed at this time.
Judge McGaughey was set to rule on a motion to suspend Sheriff Lyde for the duration of the petition proceedings on Tuesday, January 17, but less than 90 minutes before the hearing was set to begin in the Clay County Courthouse, Sheriff Lyde’s attorney filed a motion to recuse him.
The motion, filed by Randall Moore at 12:05 p.m. on Tuesday, brings into question Judge McGaughey’s impartiality in presiding over the case, alleging “he has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding, and he is a material witness to the proceeding, and he participated as an advisor” to Sheriff Lyde.
In an effort to not begin the process again in the event a judge ruled to recuse him, Judge McGaughey only extended a temporary restraining order against Sheriff Lyde until Tuesday, January 31, 2023.
Judge McGaughey’s recusal from the case comes a day after several employees of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office were placed on administrative leave.
Clay County Sheriff’s Captain Randy Handson issued the leaves and said they are being put in effect, not in retaliation, but to enable the sheriff to continue to do his job. He said they do not affect employees’ pay, employment, rank, or evaluations.
Hanson said they are being done to make sure the sheriff can comply with the temporary restraining order and also his bail bond conditions, which prohibit Lyde from being in contact with the three female employees named in the sexual harassment charges filed against him.
The petition to remove Sheriff Lyde from office was filed on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, by attorney Frank Douthitt. Douthitt is also a former district attorney and former 97th District Judge.
The State of Texas is represented in this petition by Casey Hall, 97th Judicial District Attorney, and Seth Slagle, Clay County Attorney.
The petition filed by Douthitt to remove Sheriff Lyde from office follows recent indictments against Sheriff Lyde charging him with three more counts of official oppression. Sheriff Lyde had two official oppression charges pending from 2021, for a total of five pending official oppression charges.