Two former Kaufman County commissioners are facing possible indictment for work done by county crews on what officials say was a private road.
Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson has been appointed to head up the investigation into the actions of former Kaufman Commissioners Kenneth Schoen and Jimmy Joe Vrzalik. He was appointed after Kaufman District Attorney Erleigh Wiley recused herself.
The case is set to go to the grand jury next month.
Wilson declined to comment. But in cases like this, prosecutors often pursue indictments for abuse of official capacity.
Schoen was not at home when WFAA went to his house. His wife says he has met with investigators.
Vrzalik, in an interview with WFAA, insisted it’s all politics. It is well-known that he and Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood have often been on opposing sides.
“I say it’s a county road,” he said. “It was in pretty big disrepair so [Schoen] just improved the road just like he does any of his other county roads. Commissioners don’t have to get approval to maintain their roads.”
He says he has not been contacted by law enforcement.
The controversy centers around Country Road 273, an asphalt road just outside Terrell. County maps show the road to be about 2,000 feet. It dead-ended just after Rose Hill Cemetery.
The county is required by state law to maintain the road leading to the cemetery.
Wood says county road crews, under Schoen’s direction, put down crushed asphalt on what had been little more than a gravel path at end of County Road 273.
Last August, Schoen requested that an item be put on the agenda to extend County Road 273. Wood responded in an email that he could not put the item on the agenda because state law required certain procedures be followed.
The road also would have to have been brought up to county standards at the expense of private landowners. It would not be done at the county’s expense, Wood said.
“There's dozens of dead-end roads all over the country and if we did that for one, you would almost have to do it for all,” Wood says.
Wood, who lives in Terrell, says one day he drove by and noticed that improvements had been made to the private road. He alerted the district attorney and soon learned Schoen’s work crews had done the work.
“The road is not county-owned property and never has been,” he says.
The county judge says there is another nearby road named Bedrick Lane that private property owners have repeatedly asked the county to adopt.
“We have not done that despite numerous appearances before the commissioners court because it has not been brought up to county standards,” Wood says.
Vrzalik once owned the property at the end of what at the end of the road. He traded it for a nearby property in April 2015.
Vrzalik and Schoen both lost their bids for reelection last year.
In December, at their last meeting as commissioners, Schoen again sought to put changing the length of County Road 273 on the agenda. Wood, this time, allowed it to be put forth.
By then, Wood says improvements to the road had already been done by county work crews.
Vrzalik, in the interview says, Schoen was merely trying to correct county maps.
During the meeting, Wood repeatedly questioned Schoen whether procedures for designating the stretch of county road had been followed. Schoen replied that yes, they had been followed.
Wood and others county officials said that the procedures had not been followed.
Schoen insisted that what he was asking for was merely a correction to the maps.
“It’s not added,” he said. “It’s corrected.”
When questions were raised about improvements having been made to the road, Vrzalik said, “It was repaired so that people could use it.”
Schoen and Vrzalik were ultimately on the losing end of a 3-2 vote.
Until the matter is brought before a grand jury, it remains to be seen what’s at the end of the road for the two former county commissioners.
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