Texas Sheriff Accused of Incompetence, Suspended
August 14, 2009 - 4:57 PMA Texas sheriff has been suspended amid allegations he filed false reports and was incompetent in hiring and supervising his staff.
Two Hockley County deputies in west Texas were arrested last month on federal drug charges related to a major methamphetamine ring. About a third are either under federal indictment or investigation or been fired, according to a petition for Sheriff David Kinney's removal.
But Kinney told The Associated Press he was "shocked" by the suspension and denied wrongdoing.
"I'm not guilty of anything," he said. "I just don't understand none of this."
District Judge Blair Cherry signed an order Thursday temporarily ousting Kinney as sheriff.
Hockley County District Attorney Gary Goff and Dick Baker, an assistant U.S. attorney in Lubbock, each declined to comment on whether a criminal investigation is under way.
Cherry suspended Kinney without pay after Christopher E. Dennis, the county attorney, filed a civil complaint against the sheriff.
Dennis said Friday his investigation is continuing. He did not rule out additional allegations.
A civil jury will determine whether Kinney will be officially removed from office, Dennis said. Kinney also could resign, he said.
"This is not a pleasant deal for Hockley County," said Dennis, who knows Kinney personally. "This wasn't fun. This wasn't anything I looked forward to."
Cherry also issued a restraining order barring Kinney from influencing witnesses and having access to county property. Kinney has worked for the sheriff's department for 20 years and been in charge for four years.
"It's terrible," Kinney said. "It's discredited me to no end, like I've done something wrong. I haven't."
Dennis's petition accuses Kinney of incompetence and misconduct, including abuse of official capacity, oppression, misuse of official information and misuse of county employees and/or property. The alleged misconduct has going on for several months at least, the document states.
A hearing on the restraining order is set for Aug. 24 in Levelland, about 25 miles west of Lubbock.
Cherry appointed Kevin Davis, Goff's chief investigator in the DA's office, as interim sheriff.
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