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Karbowski nepotism trial begins Monday

Conviction would lead to immediate removal from office

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LIBERTY – Attentions will be on the courtroom of 75th District Judge Mark Morefield next Monday as the nepotism/ misconduct trial of Commissioner Pct. 1 Bruce Karbowski is set to begin.

The Liberty County Grand Jury indicted Karbowski in August 2020 on Class B misdemeanor charges following the hiring of Commissioner Pct. 2 Greg Arthur's son to perform work for Pct. 1.

"What I did was not nepotism. I didn't hire anyone that was kin to me," Karbowski told The Vindicator and felt any other comment needed to wait until after the trial.

Following the indictment, Karbowski surrendered to authorities and was released on a personal recognizance bond.

At the time, he made public statements denying any knowledge of wrongdoing, suggesting he had sought legal guidance from County Attorney Matthew Poston related to the hiring. 

Poston, who had no comment on that, told The Vindicator he had requested an opinion from the Attorney General seeking clarity on conflicting opinions on hiring authority by the county, specifically commissioners court.

"I think my request for an opinion speaks for itself. I expected the attorney general would agree with my conclusions," said Poston.

A look into nepotism on the Texas Association of Counties website under the Legal Publications section does seem to show two opinions on hiring authority. One states it is illegal to hire the relative of a fellow commissioner if the court has hiring authority, and the other appears to say it is, in fact, legal if the individual commissioner has hiring authority.

However, the law states under Government Code Section 573.041(2):

"PROHIBITION APPLICABLE TO PUBLIC OFFICIAL. A public official may not appoint, confirm the appointment of, or vote for the appointment or confirmation of the appointment of an individual to a position that is to be directly or indirectly compensated from public funds or fees of office if:

(2)  the public official holds the appointment or confirmation authority as a member of a state or local board, the legislature, or a court and the individual is related to another member of that board, legislature, or court within a degree described by Section 573.002."

Karbowski also alluded previously to political reasons for his indictment, which came while former District Attorney Logan Pickett was in office.

Since that time, Jennifer Bergman was elected and subsequently took over administrative duties in that office.

In Dec. 2021, a motion was filed by her office by Assistant District Attorney Mark A. Boemio to dismiss the case against Karbowski.

"We filed a motion to dismiss that was refused and denied," said Bergman, who had no other comment ahead of the trial.

Morefield formally denied that motion for dismissal leading to the upcoming trial.

If convicted by a jury, Karbowski will be immediately removed from office.

In this case, Karbowski is represented by Joseph C. "Lum" Hawthorn.