WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Williamson County Commissioners voted unanimously to send cease-and-desist letters to Sheriff Robert Chody and the makers of the A&E reality show “Live PD” to stop filming in the county. They say Chody had no authority to sign an access agreement with Big Fish Entertainment that brought cameras back into patrol cars last week.
“Last Saturday, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody allowed a cameraman with no enforceable contract, no legal relation to the county, no duty to our citizens into a county cruiser to shoot a TV show,” Commissioner Russ Boles said. “In doing so, he exposed the county to millions of dollars of liability. This is a fact. Only a careless sheriff would do that.”
Chody did so despite county commissioners terminating an access agreement with the production company last August, nine months before it was set to expire.
Commissioner Cynthia Long said at the time she didn’t believe the show was in the best interest of the county. Long said Tuesday that she found out film crews were back in the county via Twitter.
“I am deeply disappointed that we are even having to talk about this today,” Long said. “To be clear, it is state law and case law that the commissioners court is the only body that has the ability to authorize or contract on behalf of the county.”
Each of the four commissioners had strong words for the sheriff after the unanimous vote.
Commissioner Terry Cook said she asked Sheriff Chody for a copy of the access agreement he signed and was never sent one.
“You just dissed the Commissioners Court,” Cook said. “We are in the middle of a pandemic crisis. You want to throw non-critical personnel into vehicles to travel around in the county when we have stay home and stay safe orders.”
Chody said Live PD has been one of the department’s best community outreach and recruiting tools, but the Commissioners Court said none of the felonies recorded on the show are ever prosecuted because of lack of evidence.
“The show is almost a lie,” Commissioner Boles said. “One hundred percent of the Wilco felonies you have ever seen on Live PD have been dismissed. I don’t think this is what the Williamson County citizens want the sheriff to do with their resources.”
Boles also mentioned the county’s insurance carriers, Travelers Insurance, contacted the county specifically because camera crews were back filming with deputies. Boles said the county pays around $125,000 in law enforcement insurance premiums, and Travelers said those premiums would rise “significantly” because of “Live PD” crews riding with deputies.
Chody wrote in a tweet Tuesday that the commissioners were responding to rumors rather than going directly to him with concerns. He posted text messages between him and Commissioner Boles from February 2019 saying Boles wanted to attend the “Live PD” watch party.
Commissioners, including Cook, said Tuesday they did reach out to Sheriff Chody and never heard back.
“I hope the message is loud and clear and that Big Fish doesn’t show up this weekend or ever again,” Commissioner Long said. “Dealing with this foolishness is going to cost our taxpayers money.”