A Gonzales city councilman who is the subject of an election fraud investigation has resigned and agreed to cooperate with law enforcement officials who continue to investigate the case.
Russell Grant, who represented District 2, submitted his letter of resignation by mail this week. The letter was received by Mayor Bobby O'Neal on Monday. On Tuesday, the city council met and determined they have 18 days to replace Grant.
Grant and Rev. Charles Roaches have been the subject of a lengthy investigation concerning possible voter fraud in the 2009 city election. Roaches unsuccessfully ran for the council. He was easily defeated by Gary Schroeder, who presently serves on the city board.
But following the election, allegations surfaced about possible voter fraud involving both Roaches and Grant.
Several citizens in District 1, where Roaches was running, claimed that Roaches and Grant gave them misleading information and may have tampered with their mail-in ballot applications.
District Attorney Heather Hollub on Tuesday released a statement saying that a "partial resolution" to the ongoing investigation had been reached with Grant. She said Grant has "agreed to resign his position on the City Council, accept responsibility for several acts of voter misconduct and assist the District Attorney's office in their ongoing investigation surrounding the May 2009 City Council elections and possibly others."
Assistant district attorney Bill Squires, who was recently hired by Hollub and brought into the case, said the DA's office has "devoted a tremendous amount of effort to address this issue and respond to the concerns of the Gonzales community."
But Squires was vague when answering a question related to a statement released by Hollub.
In her statement, Hollub said, "The District Attorney's Office stated that it was important that Grant resign the position he won by using these illegal acts."
The facts, however, indicate the crux of the case involved the 2009 election, one in which Grant did run but he was unopposed. The statement did not say whether they believe Grant also used those tactics for his own election as well as for Roaches.
"I can't go into specifics at what agreements we have made but generally he will be assisting our office in looking into any and all issues about what he knows …," Squires said in a Tuesday telephone interview with this newspaper.
He said that "if a person is assisting another," there is a "pure sense of altruism or they seek to gain some benefit out of it."
He did not explain the statement which said that it was important for Grant to resign because he won his seat "using illegal acts."
Squires did indicate there could be further investigation of the 2008 election in which Grant won his seat. Also winning seats in that election were O'Neal and councilman Bobby Logan. Both won by wide margins.
"We suspect the rabbit hole goes deeper," said Squires. "I suspect that election (2008) may come up. Again, at this point, I can't tell you about what he told us in front of the grand jury."
He did say the DA's office will be "looking at any and all credible evidence he provides. Any credible information he gives us we will be following up on."
Squires was also asked about elections prior to 2008 and if those will be part of the investigative mix.
He said those elections "carry two or three year statues of limitations. That doesn't mean it is not relevant."
But because records are purged less than two years after a municipal election, the chances of any investigation into those seem slim.
Hollub said as part of the agreement, Grant will be placed on community supervision for two years in addition to resigning his seat and cooperating with authorities.
"Public corruption not only undermines our citizen's confidence in the system but creates ongoing discontent among the electorate," said Hollub. "These acts hinder the democratic process and good governance by flouting or even subverting the public's choice.
"The corruption in these elections reduces accountability and distorts representation in the community. My office is committed to seeking the justice our community demands. At this point, we are not commenting on what direction this investigation will take, but we will fully debrief Mr. Grant and follow up on any credible and reliable leads."
Squires said he was brought into the case and has prior experience in election fraud prosecution. He said he was "amazed at the level of coordination in this one."
He said they will be "debriefing" Grant in the "coming days. I fear that we may be facing a broken electoral landscape, but only further investigation will tell. I feel this is a good resolution to this investigation. We are certainly going to continue looking into this issue. The public has a right to know what their public officials are doing."
The Roaches investigation
Though the case against Grant has been at least partially resolved, that isn't the case when it comes to Roaches.
Roaches also serves as a member of the Gonzales Economic Development Corporation board of directors.
Squires said the case against Roaches is "still ongoing."
He did say Roaches appeared before the recent special Grand Jury. However, he said Roaches did not have an attorney present. When that happens, Squires said it is "always a concern."
Squires said the DA's office is hoping to come to some sort of similar agreement with Roaches.
"We have not reached an agreement at this point," said Squires. "All things being equal, the culpability of the two parties is equal. Our position is fundamental fairness to both."
Squires also said that if Roaches does not reach an agreement, they will press forward with the case.
"It is this office's intention to go forward with several felony indictments if we cannot reach a resolution prior to those indictments," said Squires.
He said they are seeking a deal with Roaches which is similar to what Grant accepted.
"Without knowing anything further, we are in a position to be offering him the same type of agreement," said Squires.
Asked about how it could be similar since Roaches is not an office holder and Grant is, Squires only said, "That obviously changes one aspect of it."
He did say they are hoping to reach an agreement.
"Community supervision and debriefing is what we are looking at," said Squires.