District Attorney Mark Gonzalez asks Nueces County to pay legal fees in removal petition
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to state that the Nueces County commissioners hired a law firm to give them legal advice on whether the county is required to provide legal representation to District Attorney Mark Gonzalez.
Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez on Wednesday appealed to county commissioners, declaring the county should cover the cost of his legal representation against a petition seeking his removal from office.
“All I ask is that you do the right thing,” Gonzalez said, addressing commissioners during the meeting.
The commissioners did not respond after Gonzalez spoke. The panel does not typically respond to public comment, per the Commissioners Court policy. A discussion or action item on the matter was not on the Wednesday meeting's agenda.
The two-term Democrat's request comes after the Commissioners Court, during its March 8 meeting, voted to seek guidance from the Texas Attorney General's Office on whether the county was required to pay Gonzalez’s legal fees.
A spokesperson for the Texas Attorney General's Office told the Caller-Times on Wednesday that it received the opinion request March 14 and has not yet issued an opinion.
The attorney general’s website states most opinions are issued within 180 days of the request, but the timing can vary.
The issue has gone before commissioners before. They hired a law firm to provide them legal advice on the matter of Gonzalez's representation.
Branscomb Law attorney Keith Sieczkowski told commissioners that, while counties are required by statute to provide legal representation for county officials or employees when they are sued for “an action arising from the performance of public duty," it is unclear whether it was required of the county in this instance.
Sieczkowski said the Texas Attorney General’s Office "has been consistent" that, in removal proceedings, a district attorney is not considered to be a county employee. Instead, district attorneys are considered district officials, meaning the county may not be required to pay for legal representation, he said.
During the March 8 court hearing, a judge gave Nueces County Attorney Jenny Dorsey, who is leading the case to remove Gonzalez, a timeline to amend the original petition seeking his removal, setting the stage for another court hearing in the coming weeks. Gonzalez was represented by Corpus Christi defense attorney Christopher Gale, whom Gonzalez hired the day before the court hearing.
The original petition, filed by a Nueces County conservative activist, contends Gonzalez should be removed from office on the grounds of incompetence, official misconduct and failure to give bond and lists a half-dozen bullet points in favor of removal, including allegations of absenteeism and prosecutorial missteps in high-profile criminal cases.
This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Gonzalez asks Nueces County to pay legal fees in DA removal petition