The Grayson County Commissioners Court hired investigations company Defenbaugh & Associates Inc. on Tuesday to perform background checks on the two District Attorney’s office employees who have applied to be named the county’s interim district attorney.
Danny A. Defenbaugh said he expects the background checks on First Assistant District Attorney Kerye Ashmore and Assistant District Attorney Brett Smith to take approximately four weeks to complete. An interim district attorney is needed because former Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown was recently confirmed as the newest U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.
County Judge Bill Magers said the process the commissioners are using to select an interim district attorney is similar to what Brown went through before his confirmation and mirrors the process for appointments used by the governor’s office.
“Just to be clear, we are not reinventing the wheel — we’re following a process that was put in place by the governor’s office,” Magers said. “I think it’s absolutely imperative that, as a commissioners court, we follow the process to a T. I was very impressed with Mr. Defenbaugh. He has proposed to interview all five of our county judges, plus others as we deem appropriate, and do an extensive background check on everything from personal to medical to financial stuff.”
Magers said while this process is underway, Ashmore, who is the top ranking official in the District Attorney’s Office, will continue overseeing the office.
“Kerye’s done a great job,” Magers said. “He’s a former DA for Lamar County, he’s got the credentials and Kerye’s applied for the interim.”
Magers provided the Herald Democrat a copy of Defenbaugh’s résumé, noting the investigator spent 33 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was the inspector in charge of the Oklahoma City bombing investigation in 1995 and retired in 2002 as the special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI Regional Office.
Defenbaugh said Ashmore and Smith have both authorized the release of information for his investigation, but he wasn’t sure whether he would be interviewing the two applicants themselves.
“It depends on whether or not there’s any issues,” Defenbaugh said.
Magers said the commissioners are not going to be involved in the investigative process at all.
“Our role is simply to follow the process of appointment,” he said. “A month from now, we’ll have a lot more information than we do today. I don’t anticipate anything negative about any of the two applicants, we’re just going through the process as we would for anything anywhere.”
Brown was nominated to his new post by President Donald Trump in November, but his confirmation didn’t come until after the deadline to get the DA race on the ballot of the primary elections that were held last week. At the time of Brown’s nomination, it was assumed he would be confirmed earlier, so Smith and Assistant District Attorney Britton Brooks announced they would each seek the Republican Party nomination to run for the unexpired term that Brown left behind.
Since the DA position wasn’t included on the ballot for the recent party primaries, local precinct chairs will choose Republican and Democratic Party candidates for the November election during each party’s county convention. In addition to Smith and Brooks on the Republican side, Democrat Pam McGraw has announced her intention to run for the position in the general election.
The county judge explained the background checks are part of the county doing its due diligence before making an appointment.
“Once we get this information back, then we can determine when, how, if we appoint someone,” Magers said. “While this is ongoing, the Republican executive committee will end up nominating the candidate for the general election and that will happen sometime in June.”
Magers didn’t offer a timeline for when an appointment could be made by the commissioners.
“Once we get the information back, we’ll discuss it amongst ourselves and determine where we want to go from there,” he said. “My gut says as this process unfolds, the right decision will be made.”