The Candidate of Contempt

Rose Renfro: She wants to be a Dallas county commissioner. Or a Tarrant County jail prisoner.

If you're a candidate for office, there is one place you don't want to appear four days before election: in court.

But on Friday, the eternally bumbling Rose Renfroe, who is hoping to unseat Republican Dallas County Commissioner Ken Mayfield, is scheduled to go before a Tarrant County judge in an ongoing lawsuit related to a judgment she has yet to pay. Even better, if she doesn't come with a $1,000 check, the judge may have her arrested.

Today, the Mayfield campaign e-mailed transcripts of Renfroe's last appearance in court over an ongoing civil dispute. In 1995, Renfroe was ordered to pay $55,000 after she allegedly refused to return the business and personal property of a former houseguest. Like most civil standoffs, this is messy, convoluted case, and we won't bore you with the details. What's interesting, though, is that Renfroe failed to appeal in an earlier contempt of court motion for this very case, and the judge issued a warrant for her arrest.

Apparently, that arrest warrant is still outstanding. Generally, if you're trying to convince an electorate to represent them in a public office, you don't want to be wanted by the law. Sadly, Mayfield, who has consistently voted against budget increases for the floundering jail, deserves to face a credible challenge who can hold him accountable on his record. Instead, he's running against a joke.

At Unfair Park, we've dutifully chronicled Renfroe's legal problems and reported on her arrest warrant. (Remember that when you read about this in The Dallas Morning News tomorrow.) But a review of the transcript from Renfroe's court appearance yields additional details.

First, on several occasions the judge informed Renfroe that he has a warrant out for her arrest, which is interesting since the candidate herself disputed that was the case when we spoke with her after the hearing. In fact, the judge hinted that he was considering having her arrested right then and there: "So technically I have a question—I have to decide if I'm going to let you walk out of here today," he told her.

Later, after Renfroe claimed that she never received any requests for discovery, the judge told her, "Well, maybe I—you know what, maybe I ought to just throw you in jail until I rule on this. I can hold you in jail for six months."

He wasn't finished. The judge lectured Renfroe after she claimed that she hadn't "done anything criminal."

"Yeah, you did," the judge told her. "You failed to answer the discovery. You failed to show up at the hearing in which we were to rule on that. That's where you failed. That's—that is—the Court found you in contempt. That's a criminal act."

Finally, the judge ordered Renfroe to respond to the plaintiff's requests for discovery and told her to bring $1,000 to the plaintiff to "keep you out of jail."

The candidate, who is running for a political job that plays six figures, said she might not be able to come up with the money.

"Well, I don't know where I'm going to get it, but maybe I can borrow it, " she said. Sounds like Renfroe should just run for city council. --Matt Pulle

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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