Burleson County Judge steps down amid ethics concerns

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CALDWELL, Tex. (KBTX) - Burleson County Judge Mike Sutherland says he's retiring.

In a phone call with News Three's Clay Falls, the judge said he was stepping down.

In a statement to KBTX, Sutherland said, over the past several months, allegations have been made against him with the Texas Judicial Conduct Commission. He said he is cooperating with investigators and denies the claims. Sutherland says no findings have been made against him.

Sutherland has been the county judge since 2003. He claims no grievances or complaints have been filed in his time as county judge.

Burleson County Commissioners are holding a special meeting on June 17 to address the judge's resignation. Commissioners are meeting in an executive session to discuss the selection of a successor. They will reconvene in public session to announce their choice. The meeting is set to start at 9:00 a.m.

Residents in the community are reacting to the news.

"Well, it’s kind of surprising," said Jimmie Groce, who owns Groce's Barber Shop on the downtown Caldwell square.

He said he's heard plenty of talk from his customers.

"You're going to hear that barbershop talk you know so you just take it in one ear and throw it out the other side," he said.

He and others are surprised to hear the county judge resigned after an ethics investigation.

"I think he's done a good job since he's been in there so I don't know who he'll be replaced with. But he's done all right," said Groce.

Sutherland sent a statement to KBTX saying he denies any allegations against him.

"We've had a good relationship with, working with the county and Judge Sutherland over the past years. Like I said it was a surprise to me this morning to hear that," said Caldwell Mayor Norris McManus.

He has known Sutherland for years.

"I've had a relationship with him way back when my kids were in athletics in Caldwell. He was a teacher and coach at the time and I've known Mike all along," he said. "It's kind of surprising. I mean, it’s really unexpected," said McManus.

KBTX asked the mayor about the ethics investigation into the former county judge.

"Whether it's true or not, it’s kind of surprising to me to hear that, but that's about all I can say about it," said McManus.

"We hope everything works out good," said Groce.

KBTX reached out to the other county commissioners. They were either unavailable or didn't respond to an interview request. We've also reached out to the ethics investigator in Austin and haven't heard back.

Former Burleson County Judge Mike Sutherland's full statement:
After serving more than 16 years as county judge, I am retiring from public service. It has been an honor to serve the good folks of Burleson County for all those years as County Judge. I’ve got a beautiful family that I’m going to spend more time with and I’m looking forward to life in Caldwell as a regular citizen. Over the past several months, for reasons I can’t fully understand, allegations have been made against me by certain individuals with the Texas Judicial Conduct Commission. With my cooperation, the Commission has investigated these claims, which I have denied, and no findings have been made against me. There have been no grievances or complaints filed with the county regarding these allegations or any others against me during my entire 16 years of service. With that said, the process has been stressful and I want the County to be able to move on without controversy or the potential for an unjustified loss of faith in our judiciary. I am very proud of our work and the county’s development during these last 16 years and hope that I can be remembered as a positive part of progress.