Longtime Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Britton Brooks announced this week that he has left the DA’s to concentrate on his private practice.
Brooks, who worked for the DA’s Office for 13 years, said the choice to leave was not his own.
He said he was forced out by Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith and two county commissioners despite promises to the contrary.
“Late last month, while I was busy securing a life sentence for a Denison drug dealer, the District Attorney and County Commissioners got together and decided to do away with my job,” Brooks said in a written statement. “I was then offered full-time employment with the DA’s office in exchange for shutting down my law firm.”
Brooks said that offer wasn’t worth much since the people making it knew that he had clients and a staff who were depending upon his private practice, and those obligations would prevent him from taking the full-time position.
Both wanted the same job
Back in the fall of 2017, both Brooks and Smith worked as assistants under then Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown. Smith was, in fact, part of the contract prosecutor program. Then, Brown was nominated as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.
In November of 2017, both Brooks and Smith made intentions to run for the District Attorney position known. However, Brown’s nomination and confirmation process dragged on past the deadline for getting on the ticket for the March primary so neither Smith or Brooks names appeared on the primary ballot.
While First Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Kerye Ashmore ran the office once Brown became the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, Republican party county chair candidates got ready to pick the person who would serve as the interim DA for Grayson County until an election could be held on the matter.
But in March, Smith and Brooks announced a compromise in which Smith was named DA by the County Commissioners and Brooks was named special contract prosecutor and allowed to open his own law firm, Britton Brooks Law.
Part-time position goes full-time
In January, Smith went before the Commissioners Court asking them to approve moving the contract prosecutor position, which Brooks held, from part time to full time. Even though it was outside of the budget season when they normally consider such matters, the request was approved.
Brooks said that was political payback and alleges that commissioners Phyllis James, Precinct 3, and Jeff Whitmire, Precinct 1, and Brett Smith all share a common campaign team and a desire to deprive him of his job as county prosecutor.
Both Whitmire and James said there was no political retribution in their decision to allow the county prosecutor to take the part time position to full time.
Each of the commissioners said they do use the same marketing team, Billow Marketing, but each said they run their own campaigns.
They said they did not discuss the issue of Smith’s wanting to increase the part time position together before it was brought before commissioners.
Whitmire said Smith came to him about the change, before it went before the full court and explained the increase in need due to increased cases. However, Whitmire said they didn’t really discuss Brooks other than when Whitmire asked if Brooks would be offered the full-time position.
Whitmire said Smith said he would offer the position to Brooks.
Because the matter dealt with a personnel decision, Smith said he couldn’t answer individual questions about the allegations. But, he provided a statement.
“I am the elected District Attorney. I am also the department head of the Grayson County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. I made a decision — an employment decision — that was in the best interest of this office. I have for the past two years continually tried to move this office in the right direction, and I will continue to do that as long as I am the elected DA. We have three felony prosecutors in the 15th and three felony prosecutors in the 397th (state district courts), and in the 59th where Mr. Brooks was a contract prosecutor, we had one other full-time employee. So, we had one full-time employee and one part-time employee. I made a decision to convert that position to full-time because that it is in the best interest of this office,” Smith said.
He said that he offered that position to Brooks and gave him a few weeks to decide.
“In addition there were other benefits to him continuing employment with the Grayson District Attorney’s Office in regards to outside employment that he would have been able to pursue had he desired to stay on board,” Smith said. He said he also told Brooks that should Brooks decide to take the offer, they would work around his needing to continue to work with his private practice clients until he could shut that down.
During his tenure as a prosecutor Brooks tried over 200 cases to juries, going undefeated in murder, habitual drug dealer, and child predator jury trials.