Shawn Nixon campaign photo.

Northeast El Paso City Council candidate Shawnson “Shawn” Nixon was arrested Friday on charges that he issued bad checks to fund his campaign, police said in a text to the media.

He was taken into custody Friday morning. Court records show he is charged with one count of theft of service over $2,500 and under $30,000, which is a felony punishable by up to two years in state jail. Nixon is being held on a $20,000 bond, jail records show. The police text message said other charges could be filed.

El Paso Matters has reported that vendors and employees alleged that Nixon bounced dozens of checks and failed to pay workers. The total amount the Nixon campaign owes is more than $300,000, according to the allegations.

In an interview with El Paso Matters last week, Nixon blamed campaign staffers for the bad checks and said he’d raised about $1,200 for his campaign. The vendors who received the bad checks told El Paso Matters that they dealt directly with Nixon and not campaign staff.

Two people who said they were victims of Nixon’s bad checks said his arrest helps protect El Pasoans.

“This has been a truly unfortunate situation for all involved. If Mr. Nixon has been arrested, it’s a good thing. That way he is no longer in a position to harm any other businesses and bring more disruption to the lives of the people of this great city,” said Edward Lee, the franchisee of a temporary employment service who said he is owed $170,000 for services Nixon paid for with bad checks.

Aaron T. Jones, the owner of an Albuquerque-based security firm that Nixon allegedly paid with a $100,000 bad check expressed mixed emotions about the arrest.

“I like Shawn. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I also wouldn’t want the citizens of El Paso and beyond to be taken advantage of. I hope he gets it sorted out,” Jones said.

At least 10 people have filed police complaints alleging that Nixon paid them with bad checks, or didn’t pay them at all, for work done on his campaign.

Additionally, the owner of an electrical services company filed suit in small claims court against Nixon. He said Nixon hired him in June to do work on a house he used as his campaign headquarters, but never paid the $320 bill. The owner alleged that Nixon told him someone broke into his office and stole his credit cards, then didn’t pay by other means when asked. 

The $300,000 Nixon allegedly spent on his campaign likely is more than any candidate has ever spent on an El Paso City Council race.The money allegedly went to things like temporary employees for clerical work and calls to voters, to a security firm, to a graphic designer for signs and other materials, and to a cleaning service, among others.

Nixon, 21, is one of five people running for the District 4 City Council seat. 

The incumbent, Sam Morgan, is seeking re-election as he awaits trial on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and assault on a family member stemming from an alleged attack on his wife in 2019. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is set for February.

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986.