CLAY COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — A new petition to remove Clay County Sheriff Jeff Lyde from office has been filed with the 97th District Clerk in Clay County following new charges of official oppression against Sheriff Lyde.
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.
This is the second petition to remove Lyde from his office as the sheriff of Clay County.
According to Clay County Judge Mike Campbell, Lyde now has until January 17, 2023, to respond to the latest petition to remove him from office. At that time, a hearing for his response will be held in 97th District Court.
If Sheriff Lyde chooses to resign from his office as the sheriff of Clay County and forego a removal trial, the Clay County Commissioner’s Court would appoint an interim sheriff.
If Lyde chooses not to resign and go to trial, a date would then be set for the removal petition to be heard by 97th District Court Judge Jack McGaughey. The petition includes a request to temporarily suspend Lyde from his position until a decision is made in the case. If Lyde is temporarily suspended, Judge McGaughey would appoint an interim sheriff at that time.
Also requested is a temporary restraining order prior to a hearing, preventing Lyde from taking any action against employees of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. This would include commissioning or certifying employees, terminating, demoting, or altering the pay status of any CCSO employees.
Lyde’s most recent official oppression charges stemming from allegations of sexual harassment made by CCSO employees are just one item among many listed in the petition as grounds for Lyde’s removal from office.
And in another related development, in this case, Judge Campbell confirmed that a reported supporter of Sheriff Lyde was arrested on a charge of aggravated robbery Tuesday. The victim was outside the sheriff’s office Monday evening, apparently live-streaming the anticipated arrest of Lyde when the man slapped her phone out of her hand and then threw it on the roof of the library. We are attempting to obtain the arrest affidavit and confirm the name of the suspect and will post that when available.
The petition also lists controversies that surrounded Lyde during his time serving as president of the Clay County Memorial Hospital Board of Managers as grounds for his removal from office.
According to the petition and accompanying exhibits, Lyde is alleged to have made an attempt to secure arrest warrants against members of the Clay County Commissioner’s Court.
In the transcript from a venue change hearing in October 2022, Sheriff Lyde admitted to attempting to secure a warrant to arrest Clay County Judge Mike Campbell for allegedly violating the open meetings act. No judges in Wichita County or the 97th District Court issued any warrants that Lyde requested.
The petition said Lyde refused to call a special meeting of the CCMH Board of Managers, though it was requested. When the meeting was called anyway, the petition said Lyde interfered with the special meeting by threatening board members using his position as the Sheriff of Clay County. As a result, a quorum was not reached in this meeting.
According to the petition, Lyde is also alleged to have created an intolerable work environment at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
The petition alleges employees of the CCSO are concerned Lyde will lead or force them into acts or situations that will cause them to be sued, jeopardize their personal safety, lose their peace officer’s certification, or cause harm to members of the public.
The petitioner said the latest indictments against Lyde “demonstrate his incompetency, his official misconduct, and the criminal acts of Official Oppression and are grounds for his removal from office.”
Sheriff Lyde’s attorney Randall Moore issued the following statement after Lyde was indicted on Monday, January 2, 2023, on three new charges of official oppression:
— Randall D. Moore, Attorney Representing Sheriff Jeff Lyde
These indictments are clearly politically motivated. It is clear they were handed down only after DA Hall stated that the actions of Sheriff Lyde in the two existing cases for official oppression, for allegedly detaining inmates in jail by delaying magistration, were not committed in Sheriff Lyde’s official capacity, but in his personal capacity, in an email dated November 9, 2022 (“As you are aware, the basis of Sheriff Lyde’s removal involves alleged criminal conduct.
The claims against him allege actions outside of a public duty, or a failure to perform a public duty, rather than the performance of one. Thus, I believe it would raise constitutional concerns if Clay County were to agree to pay for Sheriff Lyde’s legal representation in this particular removal case.”).
I immediately demanded the two existing official oppression cases be dismissed based on Hall’s admission the acts used to obtain the two indictments for official oppression were not official in nature. In response, DA’s Hall and Heatly apparently went back and found acts that were allegedly committed up to a year ago, that had never been the subject of a complaint, and obtained indictments. Going back, I note one case like this that I know of that has been filed as a criminal action (I admit there may be similar cases I am not aware of).
While the Penal Code sets out sexual harassment as a crime, it is not commonly used to prosecute employers of “at-will” employees, who do not make immediate outcries or complaints, except for political or harassment-related reasons. I find this pattern of behavior and willingness to use the District Attorney’s prosecution powers as a weapon to criminalize essentially any act in Clay County extremely concerning, as should the other employers and citizens of Clay County who could be next.
This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates on this story as more information becomes available.