A county judge already facing serious allegations of explicit sexual behavior online while adjudicating cases and representing taxpayers is now in even greater trouble after being indicted on charges of conducting illegal closed-door meetings.
Judge Joel Baker turned himself in to the Smith County Jail on Friday on a misdemeanor charge of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. A warrant was issued for the Judge on Thursday from the 114th District Court.
A petition against Baker was filed in April by Grassroots America—We The People. The petition charged that Baker failed to adhere to procedures and processes when executing a service contract with the red light camera company American Traffic Solutions (ATS). Baker and other county officials approved the contract in closed session in 2014 and then kept it from the public for over a year.
Following Baker turning himself in, Grassroots America issued a statement that, in part, says:
“Citizens have a reasonable expectation that elected officials will obey the law – all of the law, all of the time – when conducting The People’s business… To those who trivialize these alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act, Grassroots American considers an official’s oath of office, respect for the rule of law, and respect for the public trust to be very serious matters.”
Baker is calling the charges a “political witch hunt” saying that at no time did he knowingly violate the law. As of yet, none of the Smith County Commissioners have been charged. At the time of the contract becoming public the commissioners said they were unaware that it had even been signed by Baker.
If convicted, Baker would be removed from office. Grassroots America has also filed a separate petition calling for his removal from office.