Published: May 11, 2020, 3:59 p.m. CDT
From Staff Reports
JEFFERSON – David McKnight, who last year posted on Facebook a photo of a homeless man in order to “piss off” those struggling to care for unwanted animals in the county, will retire as Marion County sheriff, effective May 31.
County Judge Leward LaFleur read the one-page retirement letter at the conclusion of Monday’s commissioners court meeting. No comments or votes by the court or audience were permitted.
McKnight’s brother, Pct. 2 Commissioner Joe McKnight, participated in the meeting from his Dallas hospital room by Zoom. Joe McKnight, David McKnight’s brother, has been a patient at Medical City Dallas since May 7, readmitted nine days after an 18-day stay in April.
David McKnight was present wearing a rumpled civilian shirt.
The past year was marked with controversy over animal control, public information, and a Confederate statue.
“Elmer” MCSO Facebook Post
When a satirical post of “Elmer,” the county’s new animal control officer, appeared on the MCSO Facebook page April 24, 2019, David McKnight attempted to evade responsibility, but Texas Public Information Act requests by the Jimp finally revealed a text message from McKnight admitting ownership of the offensive post.
“Incompetent and unprofessional. The community has little to no faith in this department,” a Marion County resident wrote in a public evaluation of the MCSO under David McKnight’s leadership after the “Elmer” post.
Following a March 5 column by News Editor Bob Palmer suggesting the Confederate statue on the Courthouse lawn would be better placed at the Jefferson Historical Museum, David McKnight threatened to arrest Palmer if he attempted to move the monument.
“I am making a firm promise and commitment–and you can write this in blood–as long as I am Sheriff of Marion County, the statue will not be moved, defaced, or altered in any way, and Palmer, or anyone else who attempts to do so, will find a new home that is fairly close to the statue,” David McKnight declared in a Facebook post.
The post was endorsed by many East Texas residents and Southern heritage supporters across the country.
“Nothing but the utmost respect for the esteemed and honorable Sherif (sic),” a resident from Marshall said.
“Y’all get in there and show him some love!” encouraged a Facebook page named “The Virginia Flaggers.”
Texas PIA Requests
Prior to May 2, 2019, the Marion County Sheriff’s Department reported jail logs and call type reports to the Jimplecute on a weekly basis without a Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) request. The Jimp reported to the office of the Texas Attorney General about David McKnight’s ongoing failure to provide public information in the manner and time prescribed by law. The AG’s office opened investigations into several of the complaints and David McKnight eventually complied.
On Monday, 28 days had passed since the Jimplecute initially requested “to inspect or obtain” the names of all persons, their age, place of residence, charge and bond amount who were booked into the Marion County Jail, the front page of all incident reports and the daily blotter for each day of the period of March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020.
The Texas Public Information Act allows David McKnight, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Custodian of Records, 10 business days to comply. A formal complaint for the missed TPIA request has been filed with the Attorney General’s Open Records office.
A similar TPIA for April 2020 has also not been received and is due May 14.
Jimp Publisher Mica Wilhite explained the importance of these requests.
“Our readers tell us they know this is public information and support our work in using TPIA requests to obtain it. There is no other government entity in the United States the Jimp works with who struggles with TPIA or FOI requests at any level. Only Sheriff [David] McKnight routinely subverts this law,” Wilhite said.
In his retirement letter, David McKnight declared that he would retire May 31, but added, “… I am responsible for the duties of sheriff up until the date that you all [county commissioners] appoint and commission another sheriff. I will work with the staff to ensure the department runs smoothly until that date and will be available for a smooth transition with whomever you choose to appoint.”
David McKnight continued, “I believe that the department is in good shape and is staffed with dedicated and competent personnel.”
David McKnight, nearing the end of his second term as sheriff, stated that the reason for his resignation was, “I am ready to retire.”
David McKnight had not sought reelection this year and his term was set to expire Dec. 31.
Print Subscription for Marion County & Surrounding Counties (Online subscription included)
Your online subscription will begin immediately. Print subscription will begin in approximately 1-2 weeks. Thank you for your subscription and for reading the Jimp!