The Williamson County Commissioners Court voted 4-0 to send a cease-and-desist letter to all “Live PD” affiliates after Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody ignored their decision to terminate the county’s affiliation with the show.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Russ Boles said a crew member was invited to join WCSO Lt. Grayson Kennedy on a vehicle patrol for the purposes of being on “Live PD” after the court had voted in August to terminate the contract.
“In doing so, [Chody] exposed the county to millions of dollars of liability,” Boles said. “This is a fact. Only a careless sheriff would do that.”
Boles added Chody’s decision to continue minimized his duty to the county residents for the sake of a TV show.
“'Live PD’ is here to film a for-profit TV show. They're not here to be our friends. They're not here to support our community. They are here for the money,” Boles said.
County Judge Bill Gravell recused himself from the agenda item. While not present for the vote, Gravell has previously said Chody is an elected official and it is up to voters to make their decision about his work at the polls.
The demand letter will be sent to Chody, as well as Big Fish Entertainment LLC, A&E Network, Hearst Communications, Disney ABC Television Group—a unit of The Walt Disney Co.—and any other necessary entities and individuals to immediately cease and desist using Williamson County facilities, vehicles, and property for purposes of filming, producing and republishing the television series “Live PD” or any other type of television series or production, Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey said.
The angered commissioners called out Chody for going behind the court’s back.
Commissioner Cynthia Long said the sheriff stated on social media that he personally signed an access agreement—similar to the one that was terminated—that allowed the filming to restart, but he has no such authority, she said.
“I am deeply disappointed that we're even having to talk about this,” Long said. “To be clear, it is state law and case law that the commissioner's court is the only body that has the ability to authorize or contract on behalf of the county.”
The original termination of the agreement stated Big Fish Entertainment had no permission to enter upon and film county offices, facilities, be in vehicles, nor had permission to photograph, record names, voices, likeness images, trademarks and more, Precinct 1 Commissioner Terry Cook said.
“You just dissed the Commissioners Court,” Cook said of Chody. “We're in the middle of a pandemic crisis, and you want to throw noncritical personnel into vehicles to travel around the county when we have stay home, stay safe orders.”
On Aug. 20, the court voted unanimously to end its contract with Big Fish Entertainment LLC, which produces "Live PD," that coincided with controversies within the sheriff’s office.
The cancellation followed allegations against former WCSO Commander Steve Deaton for inappropriate behavior, such as challenging deputies in a meeting to have sex with a female “Live PD” producer and posting offensive images on Facebook. The court said they canceled the show due to concern for residents' rights.
Boles said the county pays about $125,000 in insurance premiums for law enforcement. He said he was told by Rebecca Clemons, the Williamson County senior director of human resources, that the insurance agency had been notified of the continued filming without a contract and the county can “expect a significant increase in [its] premiums because of that.”
Boles also said the district attorney has not been able to prosecute any cases using “Live PD" footage because the sheriff will not provide it.
“For all [of Chody’s] showmanship, there have been zero ‘Live PD’ prosecutions by the [district attorney] because the sheriff won't provide the necessary evidence,” Boles said. “The sheriff seems to refuse to collect any evidence as it relates to ‘Live PD.’ And because of this, the DA has to dismiss every one of those cases. The sheriff knows this. He knows what's going to happen. He doesn't seem to care. He likes being on TV and he doesn’t want to get ‘Live PD’ upset.”
Williamson County commissioners to issue cease and desist against Big Fish Entertainment, Sheriff Robert Chody after continued ‘Live PD’ filming post contract termination
Williamson County commissioners issued a cease-and-desist order against Big Fish Entertainment and Sheriff Robert Chody after continued "Live PD" filming post contract termination. (Screenshot courtesy Williamson County)