Wilkerson said Monday he fired Ashford for “being dishonest with me. He lied about an issue I thought was critical.”
“Well, that’s just not true,” Ashford said Monday. “I was not dishonest with him. He asked me Thursday if I was a dead beat dad and I told him it was an outright lie.”
The matter concerns a child fathered by Ashford about 20 years ago while he was a college student in Florida.
Ashford said he has never denied paternity and his wife was aware of it before they were married.
“I never denied existence of the child. My wife, family and close friends knew of it,” he said. “Why should I lie to him?”
Ashford paid about $500 a month to the mother for years, he said, and a final lump sum of $18,000 a few years ago with an agreement with the mother his financial obligation ended.
Wilkerson pressed him for details on Monday, he said, and he told him the whole story.
Wilkerson said Ashford’s paternity was not the basis of his being fired.
“I demand honesty from my employees,” Wilkerson said. “I fired him because he lied about an issue I thought was critical.”
“I told him I was paying child support when I was under no obligation to do so,” he said. “Once I decided to run for state court this came up.”
Ashford said his private life was no business of Wilkerson’s, and he did not break the law.
“Show me the court order, show me how I broke the law,” he said.
Ashford said Wilkerson has told him on more than one occasion that he was under heavy political pressure to fire Ashford and George Hartwig, another attorney in the DA’s office.
“This was a politically motivated dismissal,” he said. “I’m disappointed but not surprised.”
Wilkerson, Hartwig and attorney Arthur Creque are candidates in the Nov. 2 election to fill the remainder of Kelly Burke’s term as district attorney. Burke stepped down earlier this year to run for Houston County Commission chairman, but ended his bid when County Manager Tommy Stalnaker announced for the post being vacated by Ned Sanders.
Ashford is a candidate of Houston State Court judge, along with attorney Charles Bond and municipal Judge Fred Graham.
Ashford said the firing would not affect his campaign.
“Absolutely not. I am still running,” he said. “I’m not going to let this derail me.”
The out-of-wedlock child became a matter only after he announced his candidacy for state court judge, Ashford said.
“Once I decided to run I got this telephone call that amounted to an old-fashioned shakedown,” he said, saying the mother was seeking more money. “There were some blog posts about it which were taken down but not fast enough for it to stop spreading.”
Amy Smith, a senior assistant district attorney, will now serve as interim chief assistant district attorney pending the outcome of the Nov 2 election, Wilkerson said.
“Honesty was the sole factor in Ashford’s dismissal,” Wilkerson said. “I take no pleasure in this decision.”