Former Goodrich mayor enters guilty plea

LIVINGSTON -- Former Goodrich Mayor Jeremy Wayne Harper pled guilty Monday in the 411th District Court of Polk County to the state-jail felony offense of tampering with a government record.

Harper was sentenced by Judge Tom Brown to serve two years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice state jail facility. However, Harper’s sentence was suspended for a period of five years and Harper was placed on community supervision. Harper was also assessed a $2,000 fine and required to perform 120 hours of community service.

“I would have stayed and fought, but it takes money to take things to trial, and sometimes thousands of dollars,” Harper said. “If I had the money to fight it, I would have fought it and won. It’s an unfortunate situation, however, I accomplished the goal I set out to accomplish. That was to liberate the city of Goodrich from the handful of people that had run the city for more than a decade illegally. There was not a mayor, and that itself was illegal. I am very happy about the way things went, because I did accomplish that goal.”

According to Polk County Criminal District Attorney Lee Hon, the charge against Harper stemmed from a sworn representation that Harper made on his 2015 application for a place on the Goodrich Mayoral election ballot. On that application, Harper swore under oath he had never been convicted of a felony offense.

During a 2016 investigation by the Polk County Sheriff’s Department into a claim that Harper was using electricity from the Goodrich City Hall in conjunction with the construction of his own private residence, it was discovered that Harper had previously been convicted on felony charges of issuance of a worthless check in 1994 in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, and theft of greater than $500 in value in 1997 in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

“As far as transparency, the city is more transparent now than it ever has been,” Harper said. “We have signs on the building. Before I came, there wasn’t even a sign that marked city hall. That was because they didn’t want signs up and didn’t want you to know where city hall was. We had an open-door policy. I worked with the city council and we resolved a lot of issues the city had. One was the TCEQ issue with the pond. The other was street signs. We had stop signs that were not even up in the city and had two accidents right there near the school. We started resolving drainage issues. The city council did a tremendous job for the city and it’s evident. I really don’t have to say a lot about it, you can just drive through the city and see. We started the first Christmas festival in 2014 and this year will be the third annual (one was cancelled due to weather). We enacted garbage service and really tried to improve the quality of life.

“It was mentioned by the prosecutor’s office that there was theft of city services. I have never stolen anything from the city — and people know that. This is all politics. I have never considered myself a politician. But this is a good situation. The city will continue to be prosperous and will do well. My goal that I accomplished can never be undone.”

According to Hon, a subsequent investigation in December of last year also revealed that Harper had obtained City of Goodrich water and sewage services at his personal residence without paying a required installation fee. The sheriff’s department investigation also led to an allegation that Harper, in his official capacity as mayor, had caused road materials belonging to the City of Goodrich to be delivered to a private driveway.

“The takeaway from this unfortunate situation involving former Mayor Harper, is that we expect public servants to be transparent and accountable in their actions. The public has a right to expect honesty and integrity on the part of their elected officials. The citizens of Goodrich are certainly entitled to that,” Hon stated.