Smith County Judge candidate John Furlow on lawsuit: "it's despi - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Smith County Judge candidate John Furlow on lawsuit: "it's despicable"

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SMITH COUNTY (KYTX) -

Retired Major General John Furlow, a candidate for Smith County Judge, held a press conference Thursday morning in which he spoke for the first time publicly about the lawsuit brought against him by state leaders.

Furlow is convinced he will win in an Austin court-room, though he's not sure when that will be after years of waiting for the case to be scheduled for a hearing in Travis County.

"I believe that the character of a nation is determined based on how it treats its veterans and how it treats its elderly," he said Thursday. "And right now we're not doing real good in either area."

Furlow was in charge of the Texas Army National Guard. He was considered an Assistant Adjutant General, second only to the Adjutant General. Between 2003 and 2008 he would sometimes collect two pay-checks based on using emergency leave status from the state when he was deployed federally. For years, it was done under an understanding at the highest level of the Adjutant General's Office.

Furlow provided CBS 19 a copy of a 2004 email from the administrative arm of the Adjutant General's Office saying "the governor has approved the use of administrative leave" during federal deployment.

That practice later came under fire--with the state auditor deciding "after [military] leave balances have been exhausted... workers must use state leave without pay."

The report set off a firestorm of legal wrangling.

The attorney general weighed in saying the law "does not preclude the Assistant Adjutants General from accruing compensatory time." Compensatory time is a slightly different issue, but Furlow said the ruling helped establish the Adjutant General as a mostly-sovereign state decision maker.

Furlow's own department asserted its "determination that no amount is owed to [the] state."

Furlow also said the State Auditor's Office had released memo declaring that "a state employee who is called to active duty in the National Guard is entitled to unlimited emergency leave." CBS 19 has not been able to independently verify the existence of that memo but continues efforts to do so.

By 2010 the Attorney General's Office and the Adjutant General's Office sued claiming the law "does not allow for state compensation for emergency leave in this circumstance."

"Why would the Attorney General issue an opinion saying you could do certain things and then sue the people who were doing those things?" Furlow asked. "Politics. It's anti-veteran and it's despicable. As a result, I'm fighting this."

Furlow has filed a counter-claim in the suit against the state.

Though the press conference focused mostly on Furlow's lawsuit, he did make a few campaign-related remarks critical of Judge Joel Baker's 7-year administration. Furlow called Baker's tenure a "failure."

Baker had no comment Thursday. He and Furlow square off in a debate Friday morning at 11am at the Lakeview Church of the Nazarene.

Documents pertaining to this story and made public by Furlow can be found here.

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