Why Is County Judge Gunning for Elections Chief Bruce Sherbet, "One of the Good Guys"?

Categories: Politics
Bruce Sherbet.JPG
Via.
Dallas County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet
[Update: For reasons explained in the piece below, Bruce Sherbet tells Unfair Park he has resigned, effective March 1. He says when he spoke to Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price today, he told him he would work through the May mayoral election -- or he'd leave earlier, if Price so wanted it. Price told him to leave on March 1. "And I was like, 'OK, March 1 it is.'"

When we spoke this morning, Sherbet hinted he would rather jump than be pushed out of the job he'd done to much acclaim for the past 24 years. After the jump, you will see him mention that perhaps a beach is in his near future. "I'm ready to see what my next adventure is," he says. "Sometimes, you have to take a stand. And I am taking a stand." Now, then, to the original story.]

Dallas County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet -- whose office we named Best Local Government Agency back in '01 -- is too classy to speculate about why Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has called for a meeting of the County Election Commission on Friday, the first such meeting in more than two decades. As Gromer Jeffers wrote this morning, Jenkins insists he's just going by the book. But as Sherbet explains, the book was closed long ago, when the county lifted the requirement that his position be subject to renewal every two years.

Sherbet will say he "was as shocked as anybody" when he found out Jenkins had called the meeting. And, as of this morning, he had yet to speak with the newly elected county judge.

Speculation among long-time observers of Dallas County politics is that Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price is behind this in an effort to replace Sherbet with one of his own people. He refused to give The News a comment about Sherbet's job performance this morning. When I called his office this morning, Price's assistant said, "He doesn't deal with the Observer, so I doubt you'll get a call back." At which point, she hung up. A message has also been left with Jenkins.

[Update: Lauren Mish, Jenkins's chief of staff, explains why the judge called the meeting via e-mail: "Pursuant to Section 31.033 of the Texas Election code, the chair, vice-chair, or three members of the commission may call a meeting of the County Election Commission. As chair, Judge Jenkins intends to call a meeting every two years after each election to affirm leadership of the elections administrator or express concerns, or both. He was surprised to learn that such a meeting had not been called in almost a quarter of a century."]

County Commissioner Mike Cantrell tells Unfair Park he heard about the meeting Tuesday morning from Jonathan Neerman, chair of the Dallas County Republican Party. At that point, Cantell says, he went to see Jenkins, who, he says, "sloughed it off."

"But it's hard for me to understand why you'd even call a meeting if you didn't intend to do something," Cantrell says. "As I've observed over the last 16 years I've been on the court, clearly Bruce has had pressure applied to him by individuals he has stood against by doing what was required by law and not doing stuff he shouldn't be doing. And when you have both party chairs who feel like he's been fair and above-board in the elections, and all of these election judges and precinct chairs who also feel like this, I'm not sure you can meet the standard that talks about good and sufficient cause to remove him. I haven't heard anything that would say there's good and sufficient cause. He's well-respected across the county and state, even across the country. He's a straight-shooter, and he's always accountable."

"Bruce is one of the good guys, and it's terrible the things we put the good bureaucrats through," says Neerman, who sits on the five-member commission along with his Democratic counterpart, Darlene Ewing, who I couldn't reach this morning but who also voiced her support for Sherbet in the paper this morning.

"I've had nothing but good experience with Bruce in the two elections I've been through with him," Neerman says. "If there have been problems with our Republican poll workers, he has called me and made sure I've corrected them. And if I've had issues, he's always responsive."

Neerman says he thinks that Jenkins doesn't have the required four votes on the committee to oust Sherbet on Friday. But if they're not there, asks Cantrell, "then why the meeting? Are they trying to send a message?" Cantrell wonders if perhaps the meeting was called just to force Sherbet to resign, since he wasn't even invited to the meeting.

Asks Neerman, "When you find someone that passionate, why would you want to get rid of that person?"

And Sherbet is decidedly passionate about his particularly thankless task. It is, he tells Unfair Park, "everything I ever wanted to do."

Sherbet will not talk about why he thinks Jenkins called the meeting. But he will speak, at great length, about why he doesn't want to leave a job he's held since 1987 -- six years after county officials moved the job out of the tax assessor's office and created the elections department in an effort to remove partisan politics from the voting booth. Matter of fact, Sherbet says, he has not voted in a primary in the last 30 years, since he went to work as a supervisor in the county tax office.

"It's not the politics -- it's the process," he says when asked why he loves his job. "It's the election judges, the people I look at when I'm training and who are doing it because they believe in it. They're not making a lot of money. They're working their butts off. It's a complicated, stressful job, but they do it because they believe in the process. Whoever wins, I've been able to facilitate voting and give people what this whole country was founded on -- the right to vote on those who will decide their future.

"As corny as it sounds, it's what rewarded me all these years. It's been a good job. It's a hard job. I used to have a lot of hair. Now, I have none. But it's been good. But I've always known there would come a time when I'd look around and know when it's time to move on."

Sherbet, who could have retired five years ago and begun collecting his pension but decided to stay on, spends a long while reciting all the changes he's seen since going to work for Dallas County in '80 -- "from levers to touch screens," he says, "from the National Voter Registration Act to the MOVE Act." He was there when the Reagan sweep of '80 kicked all of the Dallas Democrats out of office, and he was there in '06, when it went the other direction.

"I've seen the pendulum go both ways," he says. "I've seen a lot of stuff in my career, and it's been challenging, fascinating, rewarding. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do, and when I leave I'll do something related -- except run for office. That's the last thing I want. Maybe there's a beach somewhere..."

He laughs.

"But I consider this my legacy," he says. "My life's work."

To which Cantrell would add this: "If Bruce is taken out, it would be a travesty."
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62 comments
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Mike
Mike

So Dallas gets a JWP sock puppet on the court. Miss Foster yet? I strongly recommend that the U.S. Attorney's elections fraud office fill out some subpoenas, search warrants, and arrest warrants, to save time later. They're going to need them.

Thebooze
Thebooze

As a former precinct chair, I enjoyed the help and support from Sherbert's office. I find it abhorable that Jenkins and John Wiley Price now have to throw a wrench in an office just to repay some political debt by putting in one of their lackeys! That's what it is, pure and simple, and it stinks!!!

Truthteller
Truthteller

Jenkins without a doubt shows himself to be John Wiley's bitch.

Dlbrooks9
Dlbrooks9

My daughter followed this story closely and alerted me. I am shocked. I am sure racial politics are not involved. Democrats, Republicans and Tea Partiers are united in saying that this man is fair and qualified. So, what are the REAL issues?

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Bruce was told by John Price he wanted him out March 1, 2011,Bruce said I would like to stay until after May election.Price said no I want you out March 1,2011. Bruce can count it only takes 3 votes on commissioners court to fire him.The Commissioners Court has to ratify the commission vote or over rule it so Bruce knows this and as he said if they did not get him this time they would do something else. I know how John Price did me it took him three years because of Judge Jackson and Jim Jackson support but he will harass you every time you have an item on the agenda it's the worst working condition in the world and people are not there to see it.

bubblegirl
bubblegirl

Listen to Ms. Culbreath, people! She LIVED it and under much worse circumstances. Can't catch a break for health issues, huh?

TracyClinton
TracyClinton

"...To which Cantrell would add this: "If Bruce is taken out, it would be a travesty."

So I still don't get why Sherbet freaked and took himself out? He cemented his pension. It's obvious it would be nigh impossible to force him out because virtually nobody on that committee would vote to remove him.

What the hell???

I've met Bruce, and I like & respect him a lot, too. It's odd how he took it upon himself to blow this thing up in public like this.

Katarina
Katarina

Bruce Sherbet got "freaked," 'cause he's given decades of excellent service to Dallas County and didn't expect to be ambushed by John Wiley Price and his toady Clay Jenkins. He's probably sick and tired of Dallas County politics anyway, and who'd blame him for that?

I wish he'd held his ground, called a press conference and showed that letter where Jenkins didn't even spell his name right. I would have made a bigger issue out of it than Sherbet, but then again, I'm not as nice a person as Bruce Sherbet. He's been an asset to this county and will be sorely missed.

PaulinFB
PaulinFB

"It's odd how he took it upon himself to blow this thing up in public like this."Tracy, where did you get the idea that Bruce brought this on. It seems he did everything he could to keep this from blowing up.

TracyClinton
TracyClinton

I get the idea because I am acquianted with most of the members of that meeting on Friday, and there was no sense of a Sherbet firing brewing for the agenda and definitely not enough votes to fire him. I get the idea because Sherbet was the one workinging with Neerman to get this story out early and often (notice he wasn't calling Ewing or any notable Dems to start a message machine going). More and more, I think he overreacted to the notion of this meeting actually happening for whatever reason and escalated things to where we are today. Well done, Sherbet.

I know everyone wants this to fit into the narrative that began a year ago by a certain faction of people who became upset that their guy was not the Dem nominee that Jenkin's was going to always going to be a puppet for JWP, but that's just not the impression I got in the months I spent working with him.

Frankly, I'm surprised that so many Dems are swallowing the narrative that a shaken Sherbet and a salivating Neerman has presented to them.

Katarina
Katarina

So what's Clay done to prove "a certain faction" wrong?

Bubblegirl
Bubblegirl

who on earth would want to give their blood, sweat and tears where they are nol appreciateed???

crispinTx
crispinTx

Your bosses call a meeting about your department's performance and don't invite you? People are calling other people trying to line up votes against you? If you had a little bit of pride and self worth wouldn't you prefer to resign rather than be called on the carpet and nit picked and manipulated out of your job? Especially after having gotten national awards for your job performance? It's called self-respect.

Clay Jenkins should be ashamed of himself and that committee should BEG Bruce to come back.

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Everyone knows the triangle John Price elected Daphene Fain assistant to Price paid by taxpayers,Kathy Nealy political consultant right arm of Price.The last election Nealy in her role of consultant to Garcia tried to take over election department with the help of Fain using her influence of Price office.Bruce would not allow it.Fain,Nealy also told Garcia Bruce was helping Mayfield which was not true,there is no way to help one candidate over another but they convinced Garcia and Jenkins.Bruce is one of the best employees ever at Dallas County, he worked his way up from a CETA program participant to the top job by hard work and learning everything about the job.He is example of the American dream .Clay Jenkins and Garcia are being led by Price.Jenkins has power Garcia has vote.Price has ruined yet another Good County employee career with lies from Fain and vengeance from Nealy. When will it stop,who will stop this man? We knew Jenkins wouldn't I had hope for Elba but now I wonder.I know that Domingo knows the real John Price I though he would pass it on to Dr. Garcia. One man is destroying many lives and betraying the taxpayers he is suppose to serve and all we can do is sit idly by and watch because he's elected by people with blinders on.Daphene Fain worked for election before going over to Prices office,Toni Pippin-Pool was introduced to Election department and Bruce by John Price I was there.

crispinTx
crispinTx

Just heard via Facebook that John Warren will be taking all emails regarding Bruce Sherbet to the Elections meeting tomorrow to read them. Please let him know your thoughts.

John.Warren@dallascounty.org

SFC Ret
SFC Ret

Only met Bruce Sherbet one time but he has a great reputation nationwide. Big loss, I mean really big loss for Dallas County. And why would you even call JWP about anything.

crispinTx
crispinTx

I found out from one of the county commissioners' office that the meeting tomorrow at 3:00 is still on and will be at the Admin building, 411 Elm St., in the Fox Conference room. I plan to go early and carry a sign that says SHAME. If you would like to show your support for Bruce please come too.

This is an embarrassment and a disgrace.

Loli
Loli

Bruce is extremely professional and I am saddened to see him leave. I will try to make the meeting tomorrow if the kiddos are well enough for MDO.

Mark Allison
Mark Allison

Mark Allison;I worked for Bruce as a Project Manager for 4.5 years and he is the most upstanding, Professional man I have known. His resignation will have far reaching effects not just here in Dallas County but across the state and the country. This is wrong on so many levels.I wish Bruce all the best in his next adventure.

shocked
shocked

The last sentence says its all.......it WILL be a travesty.

crispinTx
crispinTx

This is shameful. SHAMEFUL. I am embarrassed to be a Democrat today. Please call Clay Jenkins' office and JWP's office and give them your feedback if you feel the same.

Clay cjenkins@dallascounty.org phone 214.653.7949JWP's number is 214.653.667.

I am a Dallas County Democratic Party precinct chair and I intend to submit a motion to censure this act at the next Executive Committee Meeting.

crispinTx
crispinTx

This is shameful. SHAMEFUL. I am embarrassed to be a Democrat today. Please call Clay Jenkins' office and JWP's office and give them your feedback if you feel the same.

Clay cjenkins@dallascounty.org phone 214.653.7949JWP's number is 214.653.667.

I am a Dallas County Democratic Party precinct chair and I intend to submit a motion to censure this act at the next Executive Committee Meeting.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Well, all of the below illustrates exactly why Bruce Sherbet had to go; he's fair impartial and the best in the state (and maybe the country) at his job. We can't possibly have someone like that working for Dallas County!

Pjhenger
Pjhenger

Speaking as an election judge, and I think I speak for both both Democratic and Republican, Bruce Sherbet has been the best Dallas County official I've seen! Talk about non-partisan! We are so fortunate to have Bruce - what a tragedy not to appreciate what an outstanding job he has done for so many years!

Twr
Twr

It will only get worse.

SocraticGadfly
SocraticGadfly

An even bigger travesty will be the person JWP gets to replace him.

Wait for it ... wait for it ... wait for it ...

Former ousted-in-disgrace Lancaster ISD Superintendent Larry Lewis, maybe?

Doorknob, I'm evil at times.

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

John Price started all this because Daphene Fain and Kathy Nealy got into a mess with election because they could not have their way.Its a shame before God that a County Judge would do something like this to one of the Best Election Judges in Texas.Clay Jenkins is the worst thing that could have happen to Dallas County.Judge Foster would not allow John Price to run him.Elba Garcia has also bought into this lie being told by Fain and Nealy that Bruce did special favors for Mayfield and Republicans, there's nothing Bruce could do to favor either party.There should be a law against this type of action being done to people.I guess it will take an act of God to stop Price seems that all manor of Men are afraid of him and will allow him to continue to hurt people,hurt his constituents and Dallas County.

Candace McAfee
Candace McAfee

I don't want Bruce to leave, he is truly a professional and has done an outstanding job!

Doug in DFW
Doug in DFW

Jenkins is going to have to move faster & speak up more to become the Dallas County version of former Tarrant County Sheriff David Williams.

@ClayJenkins twitter account has been inactive since late July. Did the campaign funds run out for the ghosttweeter?

Kiuhgfs2
Kiuhgfs2

I also wanted to post a comment on the Morning News web site but it sucks.

This is criminal. Call the FBI. If JWP is involved you know there is a serious problem. Welcome to Chicago.

Joe
Joe

They want to replace Bruce with Toni Pippins-Poole for reasons that are unclear.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Thank you, straight-ticket voters! Another fine decision you failed to make in giving us Jenkins.

TracyClinton
TracyClinton

I keep hearing the criticism that straight-ticket voters along the lines that people who use the straight-ticket option are lazy or uninformed. You know what's lazy and uninformed? The people in Dallas County who don't bother to vote at all, which often constitute a healthy majority in almost every election.

It would be refreshing if there was this kind of outcry about straight-ticket voting in relation to Republican officeholders once in a while. It comes off as just more faux outrage along the lines of the gnashing of teeth regarding voter fraud because of voter ID concerns, something else that certain people are upset about even though it just doesn't exist in any notable or prosecutable number.

Native Son
Native Son

A black day for Dallas County, for sure. I can only hope everyone remembers so when an election in the future results in expensive lawsuits against the County, we'll all remember what Jenkins and his puppetmaster John Wiley Price have cost us. With what they'll put in place, Dallas County will make Florida look like a bunch of geniuses, and Chicago look clean.

JS
JS

Native Son, JWP says there's no need to go all racial here! :)Amazing that JWP, who does not sit on the committee that oversees Sherbert, can essentially force the guy out.

Bob Johnston
Bob Johnston

It is indeed a travesty. As a person who worked with Bruce on elections from the time he was an assistant in the elections office and since he became administrator, he is a prime example of a dedicated public servant who has done his best to assure honest elections in this county. I was in charge of elections for DISD and worked with him for 17 years and then while in the county judge's office in Dallas County for six years I also saw him work. I found him to be one of the hardest working persons on the county's payroll. He'll be missed and I fear for the operation of that department in the future.

John H William
John H William

Looks like Bruce should have put the axe to "Our Man Waxahachie" before he got on the ballot. This is very saddening. I wish Bruce the best in whatever his next adventure becomes.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

The only time you see this type of behavior is when you see a power struggle. JWP, Jenkins and their ilk are engaging in a power struggle, borrowing from the chicago-style book of government, which is dealing in intimidation and corruption.

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

I'm guessing he supports Voter ID?

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Actually Jay, in past legislative sessions he has opposed it. There's one thing Bruce Sherbet is very good on and that's what is documented voter fraud and what is not documented. Voter ID fraud is all hat and and no cattle (I'm assuming you know that one). He has lobbied along with the Texas Assoc. of Elections Administrators for good sense changes to fix the problems with mail-in ballots, which is where all the documented problems and prosecuted cases have come from. And he worked hard to make sure the new Secretary of State's statewide database was accurate and functioning as designed. This is bewildering to every governmental employee who works hard every day to do their job well, competently, with a smile and without political agenda.

Garland Guy
Garland Guy

Brenda: Odd. You begin your message stating that Mr. Sherbet has publicly opposed "Voter ID," yet you end your message stating that he has no political agenda. Which one is it? Don't get me wrong, by the way -- I passionately oppose "Voter ID" legislation.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Congratulations Judge Jenkins. It has taken you only a month to lose my support -- something no other previous Democratic elected official has managed to do in all my years in Dallas County. And the next time I see you, will tell you that in person.

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