12News has learned that a Beaumont City Councilman who was accused of improperly using city resources to promote Democratic candidates has been cleared of any legal wrongdoing.
The accusation against Beaumont ward 4 councilman Jamie Smith was made in the wake of this year's Juneteenth celebration.
According to 12News file stories, Rick Williams, a Nederland attorney who serves as legal counsel to the local GOP, told council members in June that the city-sponsored Juneteenth event promoted Democratic candidates. He said doing so at a city-sponsored event, using city-owned facilities and equipment, is a Class A misdemeanor.
Councilman Smith organized the event at Beaumont's Tyrrell Park. He said it was intended to increase voter participation. Candidates were introduced by a disc jockey who Smith says took it too far by endorsing some of the candidates.
An estimated 8,000 people attended the event.
The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
According to investigative reports, during the City-sponsored event, the DJ read a list of elected officials and candidates for local office who were in attendance. Several candidates attending the event were omitted, leading to complaints of a violation of Texas Election Code Section 255.003, which prohibits the use of public funds for political advertising. A violation under this section is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in county jail and up to a $4,000 fine or both. Specifically, the complaint alleged City Councilman Jamie Smith was responsible for the list of elected officials which was used.
The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office investigated this incident and presented its findings to the grand jury, which voted to take no action. Therefore, no criminal charges will be filed. The Jefferson County District Attorney will turn over all evidence collected during the investigation to the Texas Ethics Commission to assist them should they decide to take any action.
Criminal District Attorney Cory Crenshaw stated, "Nothing in the decision by the Grand Jury should be taken as tacit approval for what happened during this city sponsored event. Our community is enjoying more competitive political races than in recent memory. Candidates should be mindful of their actions and expect to be held accountable when those actions violate criminal law."