Public officials can face numerous criminal charges that would not be brought against members of the public.
But there is often a gray area in these matters as demonstrated recently when Texas Governor Rick Perry was indicted by a grand jury on abuse of power charges. He strongly denied the charges.
City Council members can also fall foul of these kinds of charges. The Dallas Morning News recently reported on how Balch Spring officials are investigating a City Council member over allegations that she abused the city’s 911 system.
Deputy Police Chief John Haber said the council member, who was not named by police, could face charges of abuse of official capacity, an offense which is a third-degree felony, or silent or abusive calls to 911 service, a class B misdemeanor.
Police claimed the council member called 911 merely to test the police response time and then left the line open, meaning it was difficult for dispatchers to contact her to get more information. Haber said it also meant resources were pulled from an active 911 call.
Haber said the 911 call pulled resources away from a 911 call in which a couple said their adult son with a history of intoxication and assault, was acting violently.
The Dallas Morning News reported on how Wanda Adams, a council member, had acknowledged she had tried to get the police to “send a high-ranking official” to a Dollar General store following a series of robberies there. She said Haber said he would send someone.
She said after nobody showed up, she watched security footage from one of the robberies and became so disturbed that she called 911. “Then, she said, she reconsidered and put the phone down. Only later did she realize the line was still active and hang up,” reported the Dallas Morning News.
The councilwoman disputed Haber’s contention that she was merely testing police response times. She claimed her goal was to get an official on site and show that “store employees had been in danger during the robberies and that a more urgent response was needed.”
Adams said that when an officer responded, she explained her concerns about the robberies. The officer told her that the department was understaffed, she said.
“Now I’m going to get charges filed against me for trying to do what is right,” she said.
The report also alluded to a Sept. 15 special council meeting in which four of the six council members voted to not to approve police Chief Ed Morris’ position for the next year.
Although charges had not been brought against a councilwoman at the time of the report, the media story illustrates some of the complexities in cases against public officials and how these investigations can often be a he said/she said kind of affair. It can be easy to end up with a criminal record if you are in public office – often on the flimsiest of grounds. It’s important to hire an experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney if you find yourself in this predicament.