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Waco council candidate with felony conviction ineligible to serve

Waco council candidate with felony conviction ineligible to serve

From the Election 2020: Complete local coverage series

A candidate for Waco City Council has at least one felony conviction, a long list of misdemeanor convictions and currently is under indictment for felony theft.

Randy Gober, 50, a Waco nightclub owner, acknowledges he was “in trouble in the past” but said he thought he would be eligible to hold public office because his felony conviction was more than five years ago.

Not so, according to the Texas Election Code. A felony conviction disqualifies someone from holding public office in most circumstances.

And if Gober weren’t already disqualified by his 1989 conviction for delivery of cocaine in Dallas County, a conviction on his pending felony theft case would make him ineligible to hold office should he defeat District 1 City Council incumbent Andrea Barefield on Nov. 3.

“Why are you asking me about all that?” Gober asked Monday. “It’s no secret. I’m not trying to hide anything. I’m not no angel and I’m not trying to portray myself as no angel.”

When asked why he swore on his city council application that he had not been convicted of a felony offense, Gober said, “You need to ask the city council about that.”

Waco City Secretary Esmeralda Hudson said city officials take candidates’ words on whether they meet eligibility requirements for office “at face value” since the application is sworn under oath. The city does not check residency requirements or a candidate’s criminal history, she said.

Swearing under oath that the information on the application is true when it is not could subject Gober to a new criminal charge, officials said.

While Gober is ineligible to serve, ballots for the Nov. 3 elections that include his name have been printed. More than 10,000 mail-in ballots have been sent out and about 5,000 already have been returned.

The oath Gober signed says he is eligible to hold office under the constitution and laws of this state and that he has not been finally convicted of a felony for which he has not been pardoned or had his full rights of citizenship restored by other official action.

Gober said Monday he has not bee pardoned by the governor but he has had his voting rights restored. The right to vote does not make convicted felons eligible to hold office, officials said.

Gober submitted the application on Jan. 15, three weeks before he was indicted on a state jail felony charge of theft of less than $2,500 with two or more prior theft convictions.

Gober said Monday he was unaware of the pending felony indictment, although he signed a waiver of arraignment in September, made a $5,000 post-indictment bond in July and has a tentative trial setting for Jan. 25, 2021, in Waco’s 54th State District Court.

Court records show Gober was arrested in February 2019 on the charge for which he is indicted after he reportedly walked out of a Walmart in Hewitt with two baby strollers valued at $99.72 each.

Gober scanned other items in his cart and paid for them, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. But he didn’t pay for the two strollers and exited the store, where he was detained by the store’s loss prevention officer, records state.

The misdemeanor charge against Gober was bumped up to a state jail felony by his previous convictions for theft by check in 2007, court records show.

Barefield, seeking her second two-year term on the council, said she was unaware of Gober’s criminal past and declined comment Monday. Jason Milam, Gober’s attorney on the pending felony theft case, also declined comment.

Court records show Gober was sentenced to 10 years in prison after his Dallas cocaine delivery conviction and served from Nov. 30, 1989, to Sept. 2, 1990, before being released on parole to McLennan County.

A year later he was placed on felony deferred probation for 10 years after he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Records show he completed his deferred probation, meaning there was no final judgment of guilt and it is not counted as a felony conviction on his record.

Gober also has one other misdemeanor theft conviction, two misdemeanor convictions for driving with an invalid license and misdemeanor convictions for interference with an emergency call and trademark counterfeiting, according to court records.

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