Petition hearing soon, commissioner's seat in jeopardy

Petition hearing soon, commissioner's seat in jeopardy

ANDREWS COUNTY, TX (KWES) - An Andrews county commissioner could be out of his seat in less than two weeks.

Two women filed a lawsuit alleging misconduct against Andrews County Commissioner for Pct. 1 Barney Fowler. They claim, they cannot do their jobs for the county with him as commissioner.

The district judge in Andrews recused himself from the case and a retired judge out of Ector County is assigned to the petition.

The first hearing for this petition is scheduled later this month. At that point, the judge will decide if there is enough evidence to take it to trial, but will be able to take Fowler out of office as soon as September 27.

Attorney O. Machelle Morris said it has taken longer than expected to have the petition looked at.

The petition's purpose is to remove Fowler from office. Morris said both of the women who filed the petition work for the county and said Fowler has created a hostile work environment.

"We're asking that he remove commissioner Fowler pending the jury trial because these two ladies still have official duties that involve appearances in front of the court, as a part of their job," said Morris. "So their jobs are made much more complicated."

On September 27 the judge will decide if there is enough evidence to take the petition to trial.

If the judge decides the petition will go to try he will have to decide if Fowler gets to keep his commissioner seat until then.

Morris said both side will be able to defend their arguments at the hearing.

"The judge wanted to have a hearing on this petition to see whether he should issue citation," said Morris. "Meaning, he wants to hear these allegations in person and he wants to give commissioner Fowler an opportunity to deny or defend those allegations."

An affidavit attached to the petition said one of the employees was admitted to the hospital when she almost had a heart attack. The documents said her health was affected by the harassment, bullying and abuse she received from Fowler.

Another affidavit said the second employee claims Fowler sexually harassed her. The documents said Fowler fondled the woman's breast and made sexual innuendos.

"Even if my clients can function in their jobs for a month of two, at peace, it would be a huge help for them," said Morris.

Fowler's term is up at the end of the year. A judge can decide to remove him from office, until the trial. The petition's only intention is to remove him from office, this is all a moot point if the trail is set for January.

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