Citizens of Erath County,
I have recently been asked why I am no longer working at the Erath County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO). To be transparent, I have chosen to release a public statement. During this early campaign season, I have visited with multiple people and the question of my termination from the Erath County Sheriff’s Office often comes up. I have and will always remain open, honest, transparent, and accountable, regardless of the situation. This public statement was not something I wanted to put online but I believe our residents deserve transparency and truth.
I began my career in law enforcement in 2006 as a jailer at the Erath County jail. I enrolled and completed training in the police academy and in 2008 had the opportunity to move into the Pre-Trial Investigator position at the Erath county courthouse. I worked in that position until 2016 when I became the Erath County Attorney Investigator. During this time, I worked closely with Matt Coates, District Attorney Investigator. Once Coates was appointed Sheriff, I accepted the opportunity to work at the Erath County Sheriff’s Office under his leadership. I was described by Sheriff Coates as an asset to the department in a newspaper article not long after he took office. Within six months of working there I was promoted to patrol sergeant. I received commendation letters and was in charge of multiple additional duties because of my leadership abilities, loyalty, and support.
In May of 2019, I was contacted by a former ECSO employee with information regarding a rumor that allegedly involved Sheriff Coates. I assured the person I would not be party to any alleged rumors, in hopes to stop further rumors being spread.
During this time the Sheriff found out that I somehow knew about this rumor and he called me into the office and placed me on administrative leave with pay. I asked why and all he said was that it was for “rumors.” An investigation of the situation went on for about a week and I was called in and terminated for violating the Garrity order, later being exonerated for the alleged violation. The Garrity order states law enforcement officers are not allowed to discuss internal investigations with anyone except spouses, attorneys, and spiritual advisors. Sheriff Coates thought I had talked to a member of the press. I was able to clear my name of that assumed accusation, so the department changed the termination paperwork to read that I was terminated for running a license plate for personal use. In November of 2018, I did make the regrettable choice of running the license plate of a truck that was parked at the home where my children reside with their mother part-time. Having two young daughters, I wanted to know who was around them. Running the plate for personal use was wrong and not the best way to handle the concern for my children. I took responsibility and owned my mistake for which I am truly sorry.
The ECSO knew about the license plate when they terminated me for rumors, but it was not mentioned in that paperwork. Once I was exonerated of the Garrity order charge, instead of getting my job back, I was fired for running the license plate, referring to the incident that had occurred eight months prior.
Running for Sheriff has always been my career goal and my intent is pure without vindication or anger. I have forgiven Sheriff Coates and wish him and his family the best. The decision to run for Erath County Sheriff was after prayerful consideration and my priorities being to serve God, my family, and the citizens of our wonderful community.
Being born and raised here, I know this community and its residents. I am not a “good ‘ol boy,” but rather a hometown boy who cares deeply about this community and the betterment of it. Those who know me, know I am approachable, compassionate, and have always had an open line of communication in every position I have held. This is not about the title or money as I could go out of town and make more money as a deputy than what our county Sheriff is paid. I do not view this as a job – it’s a way of life for me and I am vested in this community. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to me by phone, email, or Facebook message. I’ll gladly respond or meet with you in person. I am dedicated to this position and will be accountable to each and every one of you.
With Sincerity and Respect,
Kent Howell, candidate for Erath County Sheriff