WAXAHACHIE (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A Black elected official in Texas was in the spotlight late in 2020 when he was relegated to a basement office space that had the word “negroes” on a nearby archway, now the county judge who worked to ‘resolve’ the incident is a suspect in the segregation-era sign’s vandalism.

The sign in a courthouse in Waxahachie, a city about 30 miles south of Dallas, drew attention in November when Constable Curtis Polk Jr. spoke out over being moved to a shared office space near the sign. That issue was resolved amicably when Ellis County Judge Todd Little gave Polk another office.

Sign and plaque in Ellis County Historic Courthouse (credit: Curtis Polk, Jr.)

But Little, who is the county’s top executive, not a judicial official, has now been identified as a suspect in an investigation into the sign being partially painted over, The Dallas Morning News reports. No one has been charged with any crime and the incident remains under investigation.

The sign, which is near what used to be a water fountain in the courthouse basement, was uncovered during renovations two decades ago. It was marked with a placard as a reminder of the evil of segregation, Little said in November.

Later that month, the sign was painted over. A video was posted online showing Little urging another man to take spray paint to it, according to the Morning News. It was not immediately known why Little asked the man to paint the sign.

The Ellis County sheriff and district attorney reportedly opened an investigation into the incident. But the district attorney then recused himself because he knows Little, handing the case off to prosecutors in Dallas, the Morning News reports.

Little is identified as a suspect in court records but it’s unclear how the case will proceed. The Morning News could not reach Little or Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot for comment Thursday.

Lane Grayson, an Ellis County commissioner, told the paper the county intends to restore the sign.

“Any defacing of government property is an absolute insult,” Grayson said. “That sign was left as a historical reminder of a place we should never go again.”

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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