Despite being under investigation by the Texas Rangers, Cherokee County Commissioner Byron Underwood (Precinct 4) will keep his seat on the Commissioners Court.
Underwood has faced scrutiny since a personal item was noticed on his expense report submitted during a recent Commissioners Court meeting.
The personal item in question on the report was a boom ax valued at $806.10 for a John Deere hay baler, a type of hay baler that Cherokee County doesn’t own, according to Precinct 2 Commissioner Steve Norton.
After Norton brought the matter to light at the Cherokee County Commissioners Court meeting on Monday, July 24, the item caused confusion for members of the court, and was ultimately disallowed.
In the meeting’s audio recording, Underwood is heard saying “I messed up and put it on there wrong,” after the bill was dismissed.
Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis said that he was unaware of the investigation’s results and that he knew of no action being taken in the case.
Due to the incident, Underwood, a Republican, has taken heat from the Cherokee County Republican Party, who announced in a press release that the party voted to censure Underwood after a 9-1 vote in favor of the measure Friday, July 28.
The party also released a resolution supporting their vote against Underwood, saying the decision, called Underwood’s “abysmal failure to support and defend the core Principles and Platform of the Republican Party of Texas” was reached based on three main reasons:
“1. Commissioner Byron Underwood voted to raise property taxes for Cherokee County in 2016, during an economic downturn and under heavy protest from citizens;
2. Commissioner Byron Underwood went to Austin in May 2017 and testified in opposition to pro-taxpayer reforms, thereby joining a coalition engaged in repugnant false rhetoric which claims that giving local voters the ability to vote on annual tax increases is somehow ‘Austin overreach’;
3. Commissioner Byron Underwood was caught in County Commissioners Court on July 24, 2017, attempting to have the County taxpayers pay for items for his own personal use and in a dollar amount constituting a felony if charged and convicted.”
According to Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell, the investigation has been turned over to the Texas Rangers and is being headed by Palestine native Sgt. Nicholas Castle.
The Cherokee County Commissioners Court will meet next on Monday, Aug. 14.