A jury has found Liberty County Commissioner Mike McCarty guilty on two charges of Abuse of Official Capacity after a three-day trial. Although McCarty was sentenced to six months in jail plus two years’ probation, he will be allowed to stay in office until his appeal is heard.
McCarty was indicted in June 2015 for allegedly using county equipment and resources for his own personal use. The indictment details how McCarty had county employees doing work for his business, Triangle Petroleum Service, on the taxpayers’ dime.
McCarty also had employees use county trucks to perform tasks on his personal ranch. Employees on county time were instructed to transport supplies to McCarty’s ranch and for Triangle Petroleum Service.
The indictment states:
“As a public servant, namely Liberty County Commissioner for Precinct 1, and with intent to obtain a benefit for himself or with intent to harm and defraud Liberty County, did then and there intentionally or knowingly misuse government personnel, belonging to the government.”
The prosecution was aided during the trial by Buck Gordon, a lifelong friend of McCarty’s. An accomplice to McCarty’s crimes, Gordon was given immunity in return for testifying for the prosecution.
“I would pick up round bales in Winnie, Dayton, and Hardin as I was directed by McCarty,” Gordon stated, describing the farm work he was instructed to do on county time.
The defense argued that Gordon was not a credible witness and that McCarty never acted with criminal intent. They also pointed to the fact that McCarty was still reelected in 2016 while the case was ongoing. The jury disagreed, and McCarty was found guilty and given the maximum sentence for his two Class B misdemeanors.
Soon after the verdict, McCarty’s attorney filed a notice of appeal. The appeal will go to the Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont, where it could be a year before the court weighs in.
McCarty’s conviction technically constitutes a removal from office under the Texas Local Government Code, Section 87.031, which states:
“The conviction of a county officer by a petit jury for any felony or for a misdemeanor involving official misconduct operates as an immediate removal from office of that officer.”
However, Judge Joe Dean, while sentencing McCarty, decided to let him stay in office while the case is being appealed. The prosecution vehemently disagreed with the judge’s clemency.
The charges of which McCarty was convicted are very similar to accusations brought against Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal. A letter from a former employee’s legal counsel described Doyal ordering county employees to use county resources for his campaign. The document also alleges Doyal had employees working on his campaign while on county time.
McCarty’s case not only highlights the importance of transparency and ethics in government, but should serve as a stark reminder to all elected officials not to blur the line between public and private business or use taxpayers’ resources for their own personal benefit.