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Commerce ISD School Board Member Resigns Over Firestorm Surrounding Miss Black Texas Arrest

Commerce Independent School District board member Michael Beane announced his immediate resignation Tuesday, citing the firestorm surrounding him and his involvement in an incident that led to the controversial arrest of Miss Black Texas last month.

Beane, who has served on the school board since 2013, said Commerce ISD "does not need to have this media attention."

"It's not because I did anything wrong, but because we don't need to be held hostage," he said. "We're in the business of helping kids here in Commerce. I volunteer for this spot on the board to help those kids. And nobody cares about that anymore. All they care about is something that someone said in the parking lot at Walmart."

Commerce police arrested Carmen Ponder May 20 following an encounter at Walmart with Beane and then-Police Chief Kerry Crews.

Beane said that day he was in his truck with his teenage daughter, who was driving, when Ponder cut them off and nearly ran them off the road. He then followed her into a Walmart parking lot and confronted her.

According to Ponder, Beane's daughter was driving erratically, so she simply passed the truck. She also claims he made racist remarks to her during their conversation, which Beane strongly denies.

"I'd like to make it clear that at no point in the whole scenario did anyone but Ms. Ponder make any racial claims," he said. "I did not call her anything racial at any point in time. I did say a couple curse words at her, but nothing racial at all. I hold nothing against Ms. Ponder or even [her attorney Lee] Merritt for the fact that that's what she believes, but that did not happen. And I want to make that clear more than anything. People who know me in Commerce know that I don't have that in my bones."

Beane said his wife called police to report the incident. While they were still at Walmart, he spotted Crews, who was off duty at the time, and approached him. After listening to Beane's account, Crews went to talk to Ponder.

According to police reports, Ponder "did not comply with Crews' requests" and she was arrested on evading charges.

Ponder says Crews began screaming at her and demanded that she apologize. When she told him she wasn't going to do that, she claims Crews grabbed her and told her she was being detained.

Charges were eventually dropped against Ponder. 

A city investigation into Crews' handling of the matter found no wrongdoing on his part.

Crews resigned as Chief during a city meeting Monday night.

"I think it's a shame he had to step down," said Beane. "But he's in the exact same situation I am."

Beane said in the weeks since the case first made headlines, he's received death threats and people have made disparaging remarks about him, his family, and the school district on social media. He hopes his resignation will help everyone move forward.

"People can attack me all they want to, but don't attack our school district," he said. "All these people here love kids. That's all it comes down to. And that's what's disappointing is that I won't be able to directly affect kids this way."

When asked if looking back, he would have handled the situation differently, Beane said he believes there were things he, Crews and Ponder could have done to avoid the entire ordeal.

"Yes, I owe her an apology," Beane said. "I shouldn't have said a cuss word to her. That was wrong. But I think she owes me an apology for the same, for running me off the road."

Calls to Ponder's attorney seeking comment have not yet been returned.

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