WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — County Judge Dan Gattis has been charged with official oppression against Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody, the sheriff’s office said.
Court documents show Gattis, in his capacity as county judge, allegedly impeded the sheriff in his right to free speech on Tuesday, July 17. The charge is a misdemeanor.
As county judge, Gattis, 76, has been the chief executive officer of Williamson County since 2007. Judge Gattis told Chief Deputy Tim Ryle to tell the sheriff to quit tweeting or his budget would be “zeroed,” according to Chody.
In an interview with KXAN, Chody said the comments were not only an infringement of his right to free speech but “more importantly, he’s talking about the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office.”
He said, “We’re at a dire need to properly fund and properly staff [our department].”
The sheriff said the department had some hope this budget cycle of some relief, but what happened Tuesday now throws that into question. “It concerns me because now I wonder, ‘Is this something he’s going to try to sabotage behind the scenes?”
A tweet of Chody’s the county judge may have been referencing was sent out on Friday, July 13:
Demands of the WilCo Sheriff’s Office are not only growing due to population growth but were poorly maintained by past admin and other factors.This budget year staffing is our #1 priority. We are short personal and cant maintain this pace without relief for long.
While the sheriff says friction is not uncommon when it comes to the budget, he believes Gattis is not used to pushback.
“For the past year and a half, I’ve been more transparent than Williamson County has ever been as far as the sheriff’s office,” Chody said, highlighting the way his tweets have opened up the department to the community and the media.
“They know about my family life, they know about our K-9s, they know about the lives that officers are saving inside the jail when inmates are trying to harm themselves… We’re humanizing the badge.”
The sheriff said he was shocked by the threat. “For the CEO of this county to tell me to stop tweeting because he doesn’t like a negative comment — or what he perceives as a negative comment — is out of line, and against the law, as he said it.”
When reached, the judge’s office said he had no comment on the charge.