Arlington officials say a convicted sex offender can remain on the ballot for mayor after another candidates filed a complaint.
Jerry Warden filed for the Arlington mayoral race on Feb. 11, joining seven other residents seeking to become the city’s 27th mayor. Mayor Jeff Williams is serving his third and final term, and is not eligible to run again for the position due to Arlington term limit laws.
Warden holds a lifetime listing on the Texas Public Sex Offenders Registry after being convicted in 1996 on charges of kidnapping and sexually abusing a 24-year-old woman. Warden ended up serving a 15-year prison sentence, according to sex offender registry documents.
Jim Ross, another Arlington mayoral candidate, filed a inquiry with the city secretary’s office on Feb. 22, about Warden’s eligibility for the race. Under Texas Election Code, a candidate with a prior felony is only eligible for an election if they have been pardoned or had their full citizenship rights restored.
In response to Ross’ inquiry, city secretary Alex Busken said in a memo, that Texas Election Code limits his office’s authority to declare a candidate ineligible. A candidate can only be determined ineligible due to their application or the documents presented with the inquiry.
Busken stated that Ross had provided a document showing Warden’s listing on the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry and that the document conclusively established that Warden had been convicted of a felony. But, this document did not conclusively establish if Warden had received a pardon or had his citizenship rights restored, Busken wrote.
Therefore, Ross’ inquiry does not reveal that Warden is ineligible for the election.
“A review of the “four corners” of Mr. Warden’s application reveals that he has provided the following sworn statement: “I have not been finally convicted of a felony for which I have not been pardoned or had my full rights of citizenship restored by other official action,’” Busken wrote in his response. “Although the provided report may very well raise a fact question relative to Mr. Warden’s eligibility, such a factual determination is beyond the authority of the city secretary to determine.”
Warden told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he had his full citizenship rights restored after serving his prison sentence.
In response to the city’s memo, Ross said he’s planning to “take whatever legal actions” necessary to maintain the city’s election process, according to the newspaper.