Armstrong will not conduct commissioner’s hearing

Published 4:15 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dallas County District Judge Bob Armstrong will not hear a case involving a county commissioner and local educator.

District 3 Commissioner Curtis Williams appeared in district court Wednesday afternoon with his attorney to find out if evidence is sufficient to present a case against him.

About a dozen other people attended the court session as probable witnesses.

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But Armstrong didn’t hold the hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m., saying he did not realize the day’s docket included the case. He said judges must hold to an ethical canon and felt like his association with Williams in the courthouse would breach the rules.

“To me it’s just a little too close to my position here and his political position,” Armstrong told the group gathered around the bench.

The judge apologized profusely for the inconvenience his decision might have caused some potential witnesses.

“I feel like the ethical canon overrides your inconvenience,” he said. “I think in the long run, it’s the fair thing to do.”

Williams’ attorney, Theron Stokes of Montgomery, said his client did not take any offense to the judge’s decision.

“These things happen,” the attorney said. “We understand the conflicts judges have.”

District Attorney Michael Jackson couldn’t be reached for comment. He was not in the courtroom at the time of the announcement.

About a month ago, a former student of Williams filed a complaint alleging he harassed her.

Williams is assistant principal of Southside High School. Lee Cleveland, the former student, alleged the harassment occurred on school grounds when she came to Williams seeking a copy of her transcript.

Williams was placed on paid administrative leave from his job as assistant principal shortly after Cleveland filed the complaint.

The Dallas County School Board is conducting a separate investigation. There is no timeline for completion of that investigation.

This is the second time a hearing has been delayed.

Armstrong said the sitting circuit judge would appoint another judge to conduct the hearing.

Last week, Dallas County voters in District 3 re-elected Williams to serve another term. Williams defeated Darryl Moore, the city ordinance enforcer, in that race.

Probate Judge Kim Ballard has said Williams will continue to service as commissioner. The only thing that affects a commissioner or public official’s ability to serve in office is conviction of a felony.