FILE PHOTO Trinity County seal
Concern about contract for vehicles results in argument, no action
By Tony Farkas
GROVETON — Concerns raised by the Trinity County Treasurer over a contract for Sheriff’s Office vehicles with Enterprise Fleet two weeks ago led to a battle between elected officials on March 23.
It also led to Sheriff Woody Wallace asserting his sole authority over the Sheriff’s Office, saying he was the only one to decide what vehicles he and his deputies will drive, and that the Commissioners Court’s only responsibilities were to provide vehicle replacements and approve finances.
He also said the court has been less than supportive in the matter.
Wallace also cautioned Treasurer Bob Dockens about meddling in areas that are not of his concern, saying that according to the State Constitution, that was a crime.
“These people in this room, they elected me sheriff,” Wallace said before a packed courtroom. “They did not elect Bob (Dockens) sheriff. It’s my job as sheriff to operate this department.
“My authority is granted by the constitution as to what I can and cannot do. when one elected official interferes with another elected official he has committed a crime for trying to influence another office. You cannot do it.
Commissioner Neal Smith said he put the item on the agenda today because questions have been raised over the last month regarding the contract, and that Wallace brought the contract forward because no one could not buy vehicles as the manufacturers had shut down production.
He also said there is no one on the court more supportive of the department; he said that everything Wallace has asked for he has gotten, and that day’s discussion, and another item to purchase vehicles outright, should indicate that.
Addressing the meeting, which was moved to the grand courtroom because of the crowd, Dockens said that at a Commissioners Court meeting two weeks ago, he brought up concerns after he was asked by the auditor to take a look at the contract, basically regarding the interest rate being charged and actual vehicle ownership.
Dockens also said he was told by Wallace at the last meeting that if he could find some vehicles, he should; Wallace interrupted, saying he was being facetious.
However, Dockens said he talked with several dealers in the area that had vehicles ready to go.
“All I was doing was exploring if there were other places that had vehicles ready, because if we can buy them then let’s do that,” Dockens said.
Wallace disputed that account, saying the information he received from the same dealers was the vehicles were 90 days out. He also was adamant about being the only one to run his department; saying the Sheriff decides what the Sheriff’s Department drives.
Dockens said he only got involved because he was asked to look into it and because his office is in charge of risk management.
“I have a problem with one man getting you to cancel a contract that we’ve already signed,” Wallace said. “I have a problem with anyone getting involved; this is between me and this court.
“The commissioners can only tell me what I can spend,” Wallace said. “They cannot tell me what I can or cannot drive. The people of the county deserve officers that operate in safe vehicles that are not worn out or subject to crash. It’s a known fact that in the automotive world that vehicles wear out at 150,000 miles. We operate vehicles at 120 mph every day.”
County Attorney Colton Hay said he was asked to review the contract by Dockens, and to “get ahead of” some misinformation provided by Dockens, he did the review.
Hay said he thought the contract was standard and a good deal, and since the contract has been signed, work has been done by Enterprise.
“If we back out of this contract because Dockens has cold feet, even though he was not in on the contract from the beginning, that could potentially cost us everything they’ve spent without any of the benefits,” Hay said. “I urge you to remember you agreed to it, and nothing’s changed except one person got involved that wasn’t in on it at the beginning and didn’t understand it all because it was not his department.
“I don’t think this is too good to be true,” Hay said.
Commissioner Tommy Park, a former law enforcement officer, said he took things upon himself to find answers for the questions the court and treasurer had, and then relayed those answers to everyone concerned.
Smith said that no action was needed on his agenda item as he withdrew his objections; however, he said that in the future, there will be no votes whatsoever until everything is understood by the court.