A Haltom City council member admits he drove without a license for nine years after a video surfaced of him unable to produce a license after getting stopped by police.
Former mayor and current council member George “Trae” Fowler said he passed his driver’s test on Friday and was waiting for the Texas Department of Public Safety to issue his driver license.
A police dashcam video posted to YouTube by a group of firefighters opposed to his re-election showed a traffic stop in October in nearby North Richland Hills. NBC 5 obtained the video separately.
The officer said he stopped Fowler because his brake light was malfunctioning and asked if Fowler owned the vehicle.
“Yeah, I’m one of the councilman,” he said.
In an interview Friday, Fowler said he mentioned he was a council member not to ask for preferential treatment but to let the officer know he wasn't a threat.
The officer quickly learned Fowler had warrants for his arrest in North Richland Hills and McKinney.
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Fowler said he had the North Richland Hills warrant because he failed to follow up on an earlier ticket for driving without a license.
"I actually missed the second hearing that I wasn't aware of,” he said.
Fowler also said he didn't pay $110 in court fees for the same offense in McKinney in 2015.
Back in his patrol car, the officer called his sergeant about arresting a council member.
"Usually we don't -- for me, unless there's some really extenuating circumstances or whatever, if they have North (Richland) Hills warrants, they're coming (to jail),” the officer told his supervisor. “I've not encountered a situation like this with a sitting city council member."
The sergeant's answer isn't heard on the video. But the officer ended up allowing Fowler to drive away. He did get tickets for defective brake lights, expired registration, and no license.
“Now listen to me,” the officer told him. “I’m not going to take you to jail tonight for that. I should be.”
The officer said Fowler’s driver’s license had been expired since 2009.
"It's a long story. It's dumb. I've been hard headed with it,” Fowler told the officer.
Fowler wasn't arrested that night.
But he was arrested the following month when he showed up at North Richland Hills Municipal Court because he hadn't taken care of the warrants.
And it wasn't his first arrest.
He spent two days in the Johnson County jail last year - also for driving without a license.
Fowler said his troubles started nine years ago when he got a nearly $1,000 citation when 3 of his cows got out.
He blamed city workers who he said cut through his fence and thought the ticket was taken care of. But it wasn't and he was blocked from renewing his license.
Amid all this, Fowler is running for re-election. Early voting is already underway for the May 5 election.
"If the citizens want me to come back and serve, I'll serve,” he said. “And if they don't, I'll go fishing."
The group that first posted the traffic stop video online is the Haltom City Firefighters for Responsible Government.
“We are embarrassed that a member of our council has acted in a manner that has brought discredit to Haltom City,” the group said in a written statement. “We believe that informed citizens are empowered citizens.”
Fowler’s opponent in the race, Brent Weast, declined comment, saying he wants to run a positive campaign on his own vision for the city.
Carissa Katekaru, a spokeswoman for North Richland Hills police, said officers have discretion in taking someone to jail for minor traffic warrants and that the officer didn’t get in any trouble for not arresting Fowler.