Three weeks after Limestone County commissioners filed a petition seeking to remove County Judge Daniel Burkeen from office, Burkeen is pushing back against the commissioners’ allegations.
Three of the four commissioners filed the petition early this month in the wake of Burkeen’s placement in a pretrial diversion program after his DWI arrest in April. The commissioners also included a litany of other allegations against him.
Burkeen, the 60-year-old Republican county judge who won an unopposed re-election bid in 2014, issued a three-page statement to media outlets Friday evening in response.
“Since the lawsuit filed by the commissioners has not proceeded but has been well publicized, which, of course, was their goal, I thought it best to go ahead and respond so the public would know the truth,” Burkeen wrote. “It is ironic that those behind the lawsuit complain about the publicity from the DWI stop.
“The publicity had pretty much died down, until revived again by filing the lawsuit.”
An appointed judge has been selected to oversee the petition and pending decision, but no further information or hearing date was available Friday. Precinct 2 Commissioner W.A. “Sonny” Baker said he was unaware of Burkeen’s response to the media, but he declined to comment.
“We will just see how it plays out,” Baker said.
Mart police arrested Burkeen on suspicion of drunken driving April 12 after an officer saw a vehicle dragging its muffler on a Mart street. Police initially thought Burkeen was in medical distress because he claimed he was suffering from asthma, but officers determined Burkeen was intoxicated. He had a blood alcohol concentration of .112 percent two hours after his arrest, police reported.
In an interview with KWTX-TV Channel 10, Burkeen said he usually doesn’t drink but had been using his father’s old cold remedy of whiskey, honey and lemon to relieve asthma symptoms.
“The DWI stop was very much publicized. I was very open about the fact that I had made a mistake,” Burkeen wrote. “Anyone can believe or not believe how it happened, either way it’s not an excuse, it’s just what happened. It is interesting that the commissioners complain that I should have been at work at that time, when they each make $39-40,000 per year from the taxpayers while working full-time at other jobs.”
In the filing, commissioners also allege Burkeen was found lying on the ground next to his car outside the courthouse one morning in February 2016, and they list what they classify as questionable interactions with residents who had matters pending in Burkeen’s court.
“We are bound by requirements in the Fair Defense Act and the county’s indigent defense plan, which include mandates concerning the attorneys timely contacting the defendants,” Burkeen wrote. “These are intended to protect the defendant’s rights, not the attorney’s feelings.”
Burkeen wrote that he “will not apologize” for doing his job and helping defendants by “ministering to those who the Lord leads me to minister to.” He said he continues to deny any misconduct and will continue to uphold his duties to the people of Limestone County.
“And I do not appreciate these allegations, designed to hurt me and my family, being made by those who have no respect for the truth or the law,” he wrote.