A former Henderson ISD school board member, who was accused of criminal mischief against his opponent in the election this past year, said Monday that learning the charge had been dropped was a major burden off him and his family.
In September 2019, Jon Best, 60, was accused of hiring someone to place sugar into the gas tank of a vehicle owned by his then-school board challenger Adam Duey. That November, a Rusk County grand jury indicted Best and charged him with felony criminal mischief the same day as the school board election in which Best lost to Duey.
Best, however, learned this past month that the charge of criminal mischief between $2,500 and $30,000 was officially dismissed on Aug. 25.
Court documents included a polygraph test taken by Best, and it showed the examiner believed his answers were truthful.
“The primary evidence against him was alleged accomplice testimony refuted by the said report,” the motion said. “Hence the State is of the opinion it would be improper to try the case.”
Best said the news was welcome.
“It is a major burden off myself and my family to have these charges, just totally dismissed,” he said Monday.
Information in the polygraph examination stated that Best was accused of paying two teenage boys to “sabotage” Duey.
“Law enforcement alleged two or more acts of vandalism occurred targeting Mr. Duey; taking down (stealing) Mr. Duey’s campaign signs; and causing damage to Mr. Duey’s vehicle,” the polygraph report said. The teenagers did not identify Best as involved until after additional questioning by law enforcement, the report said.
During the polygraph exam, Best was asked if he gave money to one of the teens to engage in vandalism or sabotage against Duey. Best said he did not.
“No deception indicated,” the test showed.
Best said when he received a call in September 2019 about a warrant for his arrest, he could not believe it.
“I thought it was a joke,” he said, adding that he thought a friend was playing a prank on him.
He also said it was difficult seeing people who believed the accusations against him.
“I felt like the truth would eventually come out because I knew that I didn’t do it,” he said.
When the story broke about the charge against him, Best said he was surprised by the response.
“Innocent until proven guilty — but in the court of public opinion, I was guilty,” he said. “People thinking I was guilty, it affected my business ... You’re in a total suspense; you’re in a holding pattern for a whole year. You can’t plan. You can’t do anything.”
Best said he loves Henderson and the community, which is why he served on the school board for about 15 years.
He added that school board members do not take a salary likening the seat to a volunteer position.
“School board is not about power and prestige,” Best said. “It’s about getting things done for your community ... We did a lot of good things.”