ECUD board members ask president to step down after uncovering felony conviction

Recordings of the CBS7 News at 6 broadcast.
Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 7:20 PM CDT
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ECTOR COUNTY, Texas (KOSA) - Two members of the Ector County Utility District Board of Directors are calling for ECUD president Tommy Ervin to step down after uncovering a 1975 felony conviction.

ECUD Director Troy Walker, one of two directors involved in a lawsuit against ECUD, said he would ask Ervin to resign if he cannot show proof that he was pardoned.

According to the stipulation of evidence documents obtained by Walker and given to CBS7, Ervin was found guilty of four felony counts of dealing cocaine and methamphetamine in 1975.

According to Texas Election Code provisions, subsection 141.001 (a)(4) states, “A finally convicted felon is not eligible to hold public office if the person has not been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities.”

It is unclear what qualifies as being “released from resulting disabilities”, but multiple candidates convicted of a felony have run or have tried to run for office across the state in recent years.

In 2019, in response to an inquiry from Webb County, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton attempted to clarify the definition, writing in part:

Construing the plain language of the two provisions, multiple courts have concluded that the automatic restoration of the right to vote to a convicted felon through the completion of his or her sentence does not also restore his or her eligibility to hold public office.

In recent years, state lawmakers have also tried to clarify the language used in the election code but were unsuccessful.

Walker says that Ervin has been able to retain his position as president of ECUD because of a Letter of Clemency filed in 1979 by the 70th District Court; however, a letter from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles said Ervin has not received any type of official pardon.

“After deeper research, through the lawsuit, it was found that he was never granted a pardon,” Walker said. “He was convicted to 35 years in prison for one of his felonies.”

It was not immediately clear how much prison time Ervin served.

Walker and ECUD treasurer Will Kappauf called an emergency meeting Monday at 6 p.m. to discuss Ervin’s position. Ervin told CBS7 that he was unaware of any official meeting being called and did not comment on his 1975 conviction.

Without Ervin or the two other board members, a vote on Ervin’s position could not be held.

“It has to be something specific like a tornado, chemical, or water problem. For them to say, “I don’t like this guy, and we need to take action to get him off the board.” That, to me, is not an immediate threat,” Ervin said in a statement.

On Friday, Nov. 21, a judge ruled the ECUD elections, which involve both Kappauf and Walker, can continue. Walker, Kappauf, and another Ector County resident had challenged the validity of ECUD’s elections under Ervin’s leadership, saying they were held in violation of Texas Water Code due to being held at the incorrect time of year.