The city of Tom Bean is considering its options moving forward in regards to a seat currently held by City Councilor Ben Vincent. In July, Vincent was arrested for intoxicated assault with a vehicle following a two-vehicle wreck in Tom Bean.
That followed reports and the release of a body camera video that appeared to show Vincent being pulled in Whitewright earlier that month over suspicions that he was driving while intoxicated. During the stop, Vincent admitted to consuming a bottle of wine, however, he was not charged with DWI and was allowed to call for a ride home.
“I pray that our city can recover from this and that we can carry on as elected officials,” Tom Bean Mayor Sherry Howard said Friday following a special session of the Tom Bean City Council.
Friday’s meeting was called to discuss budget updates to the city’s water fund. Both Vincent and council member Daniel Harrison were absent from Friday’s meeting. This lead to a slight delay in the meeting as council member Dawson Nitcholas was running late, and the meeting did not have a quorum.
KXII reported that Vincent has missed the two previous meetings, making Friday his third absence from the council since the issues arose.
Howard said the Texas Municipal League handbook states that three consecutive absences by a council member means that the seat is now considered vacant. However, she added that recent legislative changes that require a petition to remove a council member may supersede this requirement. As such, Howard said the city’s attorney is currently looking into and weighing the city’s options.
Howard said the petition could be started by any resident of the city and would need to be filed with the district court. The petition would need to be based on one of three criteria: incompetence, misconduct or intoxication.
“Right now, he probably fits two of the criteria,” she said. “Intoxication is one and misconduct is another.”
If the petition is required, Howard said it could take months to resolve the situation, leaving the council short one member. Beyond opening the possibility for missed quorums, Howard said this personally sets her in an odd position as it leaves the council with four other members. In the event of a tie, her vote would be the tiebreaker, she said.
If Vincent is removed or resigns from the council, Howard said the city has multiple options on how to handle the replacement. The city could choose to leave the seat vacant until the next election, or it could appoint a replacement during the interim, she said.
Since the issues revolving around Vincent arose, Howard she has spoken to the councilors, but she declined to discuss the topic of those conversations.
When contacted in an effort to reach Ben Vincent, his wife Nancy Vincent said she had no comment regarding his future with the city council and referred all questions back to his attorney, Bob Jarvis.
“I have not discussed with Ben about his plans or future plans regarding the city council,” Jarvis said Saturday.
Tom Bean Police response
In response to the ongoing situation regarding Vincent, the Tom Bean Police Department issued a press release Friday evening updating the public on the situation. In the release, Tom Bean Police Chief Timothy Green outlined three incidents that involved law enforcement and Vincent from May 9 through July 27. The first was following a medical call on May 9, the second was when he was pulled over by Whitewright Police Officer Andrew LeFevre on July 22 and the third was following a head-on collision on July 27.
Prior to the recent incidents, Timothy Green said he has not had any run-ins with Vincent, and the department has policy regarding situations involving a city official or employee.
“Let it be formally and finally stated here that officers of this department are not permitted to act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudice, animosities, friendships or an individual’s status as a public official to influence their decisions with regards to enforcement activities,” Green said in the release. “It is the policy of this agency, anytime there exists a situation where a decision on whether or not to arrest an individual is probable, and that individual is a public official, or employee of the city of Tom Bean, ALL TOM BEAN OFFICERS are required to recuse themselves from the situation and turn the investigation over to an agency with concurrent jurisdiction such as the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office or the Texas Department of Public Safety.”
Vincent was pulled over by Whitewright Police on July 22 and despite LeFevre’s suspicion that Vincent was driving while intoxicated, he opted not to arrest Vincent and instead gave him the option of calling a family member to come pick him up. LeFevre was fired several days later. Then, just five days after the traffic stop, Vincent was involved in a head-on collision in Tom Bean that sent the Tom Bean Independent School District’s transportation director to the hospital.
May 9 incident
Timothy Green said Tom Bean officers first encountered Vincent during a medical call at The Depot Apartments, located at 412 Highway 11 in Tom Bean, on May. Whitewright Police Officer Michael Green responded to the call as a Tom Bean officer was not available at the time, Timothy Green said.
“It’s going to come across as a silly answer but this is exactly what happened,” Timothy Green said in an interview Friday. “I was actually the officer on call that night and I had previously been to a city council meeting and turned the ringer off on my cellphone and neglected to turn it back on. So when Grayson County reached out to me, I did not hear the phone call. So they called the closet available officer, which was Whitewright.”
Since the incident, Timothy Green said he has tried to be more vigilant about keeping the ringer active on his phone.
The caller reporting the medical call said Vincent was intoxicated and had injured himself during a fall. No arrests were made in the incident, nor were any charges filed as Vincent was not located at the scene and was only later located at his residence.
Herald Democrat reporter Drew Smith contributed to this article.