The Rockwall County Republican Party’s Executive Committee asked Rockwall County Commissioner Bruce Beaty last month to resign from his elected position, stating he infringed upon some residents’ freedom of speech rights.

Republican Party Chairman Eddie Conger said the committee took the action because of an e-mail Beaty wrote to all of the commissioners and County Judge Bill Bell.

The e-mail asked the Commissioners Court to consider filing a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission against alleged members of the No Higher Taxes Group. The letter states, “this group has numerous signs attacking various Republican candidates in the 2006 primary run-off election and the Rockwall County Courthouse bond issue. None of the signs have the required information, such as treasurer and required coding information, and they have not filed properly with the County Election Administrators Office.”

One of those candidates is his wife, Nancy, who ran against Justice of the Peace for Precincts 2 and 3 Larry Holloway, but lost to the incumbent.

“They’ve had messages against Barbara Coleson when she ran for the City Council and Nancy Beaty (Beaty’s wife) when she ran for justice of the peace. They’re not just putting information about lowering taxes on the sign. They’re involved in political campaigns,” Beaty said.

The e-mail names the following people as possible members of the No Higher Taxes Group: Mary Lou Hawkins Curtis, Joe Florey, Ricky Ferrell, Forrest and Sue Whitten, Bob Burnett, Justice of the Peace Precincts 1 and 4 David Karr, James and Susan Harrison, Johnny and Jane Cullins, and Charles Falls.

The e-mail says the names are suggestive “of membership because of various letters or articles to the editor which have appeared in the Dallas Morning News, Rockwall County News and the Rockwall County Herald-Banner and the Royse City Herald-Banner and second hand reports from various citizens.”

The e-mail is not signed by Beaty but rather as “The Rockwall Commissioners Court.” Beaty confirmed by phone that he wrote the e-mail after it was read to him.

Beaty believes the people are members of the No Higher Taxes Group, “just because of the letters to the editor. That is not a letter that I intended to sign. If I had gone to the district attorney, it would have looked like a political thing,” Beaty said.

Curtis is the treasurer of the No Higher Taxes Group and has filed an application for treasurer with the Rockwall County Elections Office. Curtis is the chairperson for Precinct 2A and is a member of the Rockwall County Republican Party’s Executive Committee, which asked Beaty to resign.

“The committee and the party fully support the right of an individual to be free. It’s just the concept of assuming that an individual is a part of a group because they are expressing an opinion that is unacceptable. This is not consistent with Republican values. It’s un-American,” Conger said.

He added the committee has no problem with anyone investigating if the group has not filed the proper paper work.

“That’s not the issue. The only issue to the committee is if we have any elected official assuming that people are part of a group based solely off of their expression of their political opinion. As far as Beaty resigning, well that’s his call,” Conger said.

Curtis recently confirmed the group does own the yellow marquee on Texas Highway 205, south of Rusk Street and just north of Ridge Road in Rockwall.

“I’ve seen Sue Whitten putting messages on the sign,” Beaty said, as another reason he believes Whitten is a member. “I just want them to abide by the law. They can’t take a position against a candidate if they are a specific purpose committee,” Beaty said.

Curtis said the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Office said that the group could place signs on the property on Main Street, which the group is leasing about candidates. Curtis added that Falls is not a member of the group and only supplied the yellow marquee sign for the group. The sign displayed messages such as, “Two Beatys is enough in Rockwall County” and similar messages during the primary.

“We didn’t think that it was right that Nancy Beaty would be justice of the peace because her husband would be directly in charge of her budget,” Curtis said.

She added that Johnny and Jane Cullins were not members of the group, nor was Karr.

Karr said he is not a member of the group and cannot be by law since he is a justice of the peace. He feels Beaty listed him as a possible member as retaliation against Karr’s letters to the editors written in local newspapers about when Karr did not work magistrate duties on the weekend earlier this year.

“The commissioners should think the citizens of Rockwall County should be able to express their First Amendment Rights without being investigated. I’ve had retaliation several times from the commissioners and the Sheriff’s Department and I have survived,” Karr said.

Curtis would not confirm if all of the people on the list were members.

Curtis believes Beaty wanted an investigation on the group of people who have written letters against Nancy Beaty running for the justice of the peace office for precincts two and three and people who openly said they did not vote for her in the Republican Party March primary run-off election.

“As far as I’ve been able to determine Mr. Beaty and his wife are still very upset about his wife losing the J.P. election. From what I could tell he just got a list of people he assumed or thought who voted against his wife in the J.P. election,” Curtis said. “When we first heard about the e-mail the members of the group agreed that this was retaliation.”

Susan Harrison said she felt Beaty named her in the e-mail as a possible member of the group because of the letters to the editor she has written about why she was not voting for Nancy Beaty in the primary and that she felt retaliated against.

Beaty said it is not retaliation when you’re asking people to abide by the law.

Ethics Commission says group would have to file financial records

According to Tim Sorrells, deputy general counsel for the Texas Ethics Commission, Curtis would have to file an application for treasurer of the party, which she has and financial records with the Rockwall County Elections Office twice a year, per chapter 254 of the Texas Elections Code. Sorrells added that it does not matter how much money the group had received in contributions or made in expenditures.

As of 3 p.m. Tuesday the Elections Office had not received the party’s financial records, according to Elections Office officials. Curtis said last week that she would call the office and ask about the paper work.

Curtis said Wednesday that representatives from the Texas Attorney General’s Office told her did not have to file financial documents with the Elections Office or any other county office.

A person could file a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission or a criminal complaint with the Rockwall County District Attorney’s Office about the which would be a class C misdemeanor if anyone was found guilty, Sorrells said.

Beaty said he did not know if he would file a complaint or not and has been directing people to contact the Texas Ethics Commission.

Conger said the Republican Party’s Executive Committee expects any committee or group that has not filed the necessary paper work, including the No Higher Taxes Group, to be held accountable.

“We do expect any group that has to file a report to file them on time and they should be held accountable, just like any other group or any individual,” Conger said.

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