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Investigation: Former county judge accused of inappropriate conduct

(KBTX)
Published: Jun. 17, 2019 at 3:18 PM CDT
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Former Burleson County Judge Mike Sutherland has been accused of inappropriate conduct, according to state records obtained by KBTX.

Sutherland agreed to resign from his position on Sunday, June 16, as part of a voluntary agreement he signed earlier this month with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

According to the report, the action comes after the commission received two complaints against Sutherland alleging that he "sexually harassed a woman and/or engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman employed by Burleson County."

The voluntary agreement did not detail the allegations but said, "no Findings of Fact or Conclusions of Law have been made."

to see the full voluntary agreement document.

The agreement says in exchange for Sutherland stepping down from his position as county judge, the commission would no longer seek disciplinary action on the matter. It also states Sutherland is forever disqualified from any kind of judicial service in Texas, including the performance of wedding ceremonies.

Sutherland continues to deny any wrongdoing and last week told News 3's Clay Falls that he wanted to retire and believed it was the best time to step down.

DPS confirms there is no criminal investigation into the matter. KBTX has reached out to the Burleson County Sheriff's Office and Caldwell Police Department to see if there is an ongoing investigation, but we haven't heard back from those two agencies.

Sutherland began serving as Burleson County judge in 2003.

County Commissioners held a meeting Monday to address the judge's resignation and how to choose his successor.

Applications are being accepted on Monday and Tuesday for anyone interested in the position. The deadline to file is noon Tuesday, and the county hopes to have someone appointed by the end of the week.

"We want it on writing and it doesn't have to be a résumé just as long as it's a written statement stating your name and sign it and everything goes through the treasurer's office," said David Hildebrand, who is the Burleson County Judge Pro-Tem and Commissioner for Precinct 3.

He said they'll interview applicants starting Tuesday.

"We're going to set up five-minute meetings with each one of the candidates," he said.

"We’ll take in all the applications. Then we’re going to go back into recess Wednesday at 1 and the Commissioners will discuss the applicants that we interviewed Tuesday. Then we’ll see what happens there and then if we have to have another meeting. We’ll have to post one for Friday," Hildebrand added.

Residents like Richard Thompson wonder who the next county judge will be.

"Well I know it's going to be quite a transition but I'm certain that all the people here will look real hard to find somebody to replace him," said Thompson.

News 3 asked Hildebrand about the judge's departure.

"The judge is going to be missed greatly. He did a lot for this county, I will say that. And he's a good friend and I hated to see him go," said Hildebrand. "As far as the rest of it I don't know what's going on," he said.

The County Treasurer said the requirements for the new County Judge will be they must live in Burleson County and be 18 years of age. They also have to qualify for a $100,000 surety bond and cannot have any unpaid debts to the county. Earlier Monday afternoon five people had applied so far.

Former Burleson County Judge Mike Sutherland's written statement issued last week to KBTX:

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.