Background checks into Fort Worth’s mayoral candidates revealed three candidates have been involved in criminal or civil proceedings in the past 15 years.
The Fort Worth Report conducted checks on each of the five mayoral candidates, including cross-checking local and national court records for criminal and civil proceedings. Those checks found that three of the five candidates — Jennifer Castillo, Adrian Smith, and Alyson Kennedy — have been involved in legal proceedings since 2008.
James Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University, said having a criminal or civil history doesn’t necessarily doom a candidate.
“It depends upon how the candidate reacts to it,” he said. “If a candidate tries to explain a criminal record and can do so in a compelling way, then it might mitigate the impact on an election. It’s hard to guess, these days. Obviously, it’s a disadvantage, but whether it’s a crippling disadvantage, depends upon the circumstances.”
Outside of the city manager, the mayor is the most powerful position in the Fort Worth government, responsible for leading the City Council and charting priorities for city departments.
Jennifer Castillo: Temporary restraining order, 2018
The ex-husband of mayoral candidate Jennifer Castillo sought and secured a temporary restraining order against her in California in 2018, court records obtained by the Fort Worth Report show.
Castillo’s ex-husband alleged she was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive in his request for a restraining order. That request was granted the same day by a Los Angeles county judge.
The temporary restraining order is considered a criminal protective order, court records show, but no criminal charges were filed against Castillo.
In a statement, Thomas Guastaferro, a senior strategist with McShane LLC who is working on Castillo’s campaign, called the allegations in the restraining order false. The restraining order was dissolved before she became aware of it, he said.
“This seems to be an attempt to divert attention away from her mayoral campaign, which is gaining momentum and uniting the citizens of Fort Worth,” Guastaferro said.
Ultimately, the temporary restraining order was dropped because authorities never served Castillo with the paperwork, and neither party showed up for a scheduled hearing.
She later moved to Fort Worth to found a real estate company, Money Hause, and a mortgage-focused counterpart, Money Inc. Castillo received a full-time MBA scholarship from the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Texas Christian University in 2022.
Records from the Tarrant County Clerk’s Office show Castillo registered several business names in the area, including Designed by House of Whiting in 2020.
Castillo is running on three issues — property taxes, affordable housing and entrepreneurship.
As a real estate agent, Castillo said, she knows “all too well the ineffectiveness of our current property tax solution. I see firsthand, as I work with residents to find homes, the high property tax rate that is nearly 3% of market value and the burden it places on our community.”
Adrian Smith: Resisting arrest, 2008
Mayoral candidate Adrian Smith was previously convicted of resisting arrest in Fort Worth, court records reviewed by the Report show. He was assessed a $200 fine and probation for a year.
“I’m not going to dodge questions,” Smith said when asked about the conviction. “I’m not going to make excuses, point fingers. I accept responsibility for my past.”
The arrest and subsequent conviction came after a Fort Worth Police Department officer responded to a domestic disturbance call at an apartment in 2008. When he arrived, per a court summary of the incident, officer Sean Nguyen tried to talk to Smith’s mother, who made the call, but was repeatedly interrupted by Smith, who said he was trying to explain to officers that his mother was inebriated.
“A resisting arrest charge, that’s normally when they don’t have anything else to put on someone,” Smith said. “This is the most common thing that they put on someone, resisting arrest.”
His trial was delayed while he was deployed with the military until 2011. Then, a jury convicted him of resisting arrest. Smith appealed the decision to the Eighth District Court of Appeals in El Paso in 2013, which upheld his conviction, a Class A misdemeanor.
Smith said, in his experience, the key to improving police-community relations in Fort Worth is increased education, particularly around how to communicate with law enforcement.
“How can we bring the Fort Worth Police Department and communities together? That’s my stance. I want to see that happen,” he said.
Smith previously ran in District 3 for a City Council seat. He told the Fort Worth Report that if elected, one of his priorities will be getting city spending under control. He pointed to the new City Hall project as an example of wasteful spending. The project’s budget has ballooned in recent weeks, after the city announced needed maintenance and scope changes.
“You mean to tell me no one all this time, no one took time out to do their due diligence to find out everything that was wrong with that building?” Smith said.
Alyson Kennedy: Chapter 7 bankruptcy, 2013
Mayoral candidate Alyson Kennedy filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2013 with over $41,000 in debts, according to bankruptcy filings.
Kennedy was living in Chicago at the time. Kennedy incurred debt claims from multiple banks, and from medical services companies. The largest debt claim against her was $6,943, from Asset Acceptance LLC, a debt buyer and collection agency that had taken on her debts to Citibank.
“Like millions of other working people, I filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy because of the lack of jobs during the economic downturn and this enabled me to get back on my feet,” Kennedy wrote in an emailed statement to the Report.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings are used when someone is unable to make regular payments toward their debts, and instead convert their assets into cash for their creditors.
“The compelling way to deal with that is, ‘You know, that was a bad time. I’ve dealt with it as honorably as I could and we’re moving forward,’” Riddlesperger said. “And, for goodness sakes, President Trump went bankrupt several times. Most people don’t have a hugely negative view of bankruptcy.”
Kennedy previously ran for Dallas mayor in 2019. Then, she filled out a candidate survey for WFAA, which asked if she had ever been involved in any lawsuits or declared bankruptcy.
Kennedy disclosed a previous lawsuit she was a part of in relation to the United Mine Workers union in Utah, but did not disclose her personal bankruptcy filing.
She is a member of the Socialist Workers Party, and was the Socialist Workers Party candidate for president of the U.S in 2016.
“It is working people who create value, and our bosses pay us a tiny portion of what we create,” Kennedy said. “They take the rest in exorbitant profits. If we use these enormous profits as the basis for the city budget we can begin to solve problems like lack of affordable housing, childcare, and health care.”
Kennedy has been a Fort Worth resident for one year, according to her campaign filing.
If elected, she said, her priorities will be to back union organizing drives and strikes; amnesty for undocumented workers; and building solidarity with international workers who fled their countries during difficult times, “such as the courageous battle of Ukrainian people to defend their independence and the struggles in Iran against the repressive regime.”
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.