Editor's note: the story has been updated to reflect that 423rd District Court Judge Christopher Duggan was the individual who motioned and led the ethics commission meeting on March 25. A clarification on formal evidence submission also provided.

The evidentiary hearing slated to take place March 25 over an ethics complaint filed against Bastrop Mayor Lyle Nelson has been postponed for seven days as city officials received no witness lists, statements or documentary evidence for the board to consider.

Due to a procedural issue, Mayor Pro Tem John Kirkland, the complainant, and evidence in the case were not formally submitted by the meeting deadline. The evidence and witness list will be submitted in time for the following meeting, a city official said.

How we got here

In January Kirkland filed an ethics complaint against Nelson for allegedly interfering in the investigation of Visit Bastrop's financial management. The hospitality organization has a handful of employees and about a dozen board members, which oversee marketing and tourism promotion for the city.

A financial audit conducted last year by Haynie & Company found that around $70,000 of public funds lacked proper documentation from 2021-23, all signed off by the former CEO Susan Smith, as previously reported by Community Impact.

The audit states that food and entertainment expenses were among those referenced and related to the improper use of funds. Four Visit Bastrop employees also wrote statements about the misuse of funds and excessive spending on Smith's part.

The complaint against Nelson alleges that he violated Section 1.15.009 of the city's Code of Ordinances and that he interfered with a "criminal or administrative investigation ... including, but not limited to, seeking to persuade or coerce city employees or others to withhold their cooperation in such investigation."

The audit also found that Nelson and Smith had a romantic relationship for about a year from August 2022-23, which Nelson confirmed in December.

What happened

After about 40 minutes in executive session at the March 25 Ethics Commission meeting, Judge Christopher Duggan motioned to deny having the evidentiary hearing in a closed session—which was supported unanimously—so that the public has the chance to hear all statements and evidence.

However, the hearing was postponed for seven days since neither Kirkland nor Nelson had formally submitted the necessary information needed:
  • Witness list
  • Sworn witness statements
  • Documentary evidence
Without any information or documentation, the board cannot deliberate or take action on the complaint.

Next steps

If evidence is submitted to the city from Kirkland or Nelson, as motioned, by April 2, then the board will set a new date for the hearing.