Texas county sheriff's office shares pro-Cruz photo in since-deleted Facebook post

Texas county sheriff's office shares pro-Cruz photo in since-deleted Facebook post
© Facebook: Tarrant County Sheriff's Office

A county sheriff in Texas used his office's official Facebook account on Thursday to share a photo in support of Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPartisan squabbles endanger congressional response to Trump's course on Syria Trump urged to hire chief strategist for impeachment fight The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump's impeachment plea to Republicans MORE (R) in a post that has since been removed.

The post, which went live on the department's official Facebook account around 3 p.m. ET and was taken down about an hour later, shows the sheriff of Tarrant County alongside other people smiling and posing with a Cruz campaign sign.

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Fraternal Order of Police guide on political activity for police officers indicates the sheriff's actions may have violated the Hatch Act. The document states that any member of a “state or local agency" cannot "engage in campaigning during working hours." They are also prohibited from using "any official authority for influence for political purposes, including using the officer’s official title or authority to coerce individuals to participate in political activity," the FOP's guide says.

The Tarrant County Sheriff's Office did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for the Office of Special Counsel, which prosecutes Hatch Act violations, said in an email to The Hill that campaigning for reelection or another political candidate while in uniform is not a violation when applied to members of local law enforcement, but noted that any use of official resources to do so would cross a line into violation territory.

"The Hatch Act prohibits employees from using their official authority or influence for the purpose of affecting the results of an election," according to an OSC letter provided to The Hill. The letter states that this "includes using agency resources, such as on-duty personnel, to support a candidate and using one’s authority to coerce any person to participate in political activity."

Cruz is locked in a tight Senate race against Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke eyes stronger enforcement of Emoluments Clause, limits to pardons Poll: Biden holds 10-point lead nationally over Warren Authorities seize weapons from alleged neo-Nazi leader under 'red flag' law MORE (D) heading into the Nov. 6 midterm elections. Recent polls show Cruz leading his opponent by single digits.

A government watchdog group filed a Hatch Act complaint against White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayTrump has floated Mnuchin, Conway for White House chief of staff: report Trump embarks on Twitter spree amid impeachment inquiry, Syria outrage The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges MORE earlier this week. OSC determined that she previously violated the act as part of the Trump administration.

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania Trump breaks ground on new White House tennis pavilion Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Buttigieg unveils aggressive plan to lower drug prices | Supreme Court abortion case poses major test for Trump picks | Trump takes heat from right over vaping crackdown Kroger to stop sales of e-cigarettes at stores MORE's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham was also warned over violating the act last month after she tweeted a message containing President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' MORE's campaign slogan.

Updated at 6:52 p.m.