Residents question county actions
By Tony Farkas
COLDSPRING — Several San Jacinto County residents expressed their concern to the Commissioners Court that the county’s business dealings were not completely above board.
At the Sept. 21 meeting, Gerald Deeter, after reading statutory job descriptions for county judges, berated the court for voting themselves a $6,240 raise at the last budget session.
He said commissioners already make $66,000 for 32 hours a week of work, since the commissioners don’t have to punch a timeclock.
Deeter said that while the salaries for commissioners were entirely too much, the judge should be making more.
“I wonder what your qualifications are; do you have any degrees in road and bridge work,” he said.
Deeter said he the salary schedule was never published, in violation of the law, and those raises should be rescinded.
Faulkner said in the original budget proposal, there was no money for raises; however, the Sheriff’s Office obtained a contract for housing other counties’ prisoners, which will generate enough revenue to allow for raises.
He also said that auditors felt the raises were not handled properly, and the court discussed the matter with several entities, including the District Attorney’s Office and the Texas Association of Counties, and the recommendation was to form a grievance committee, since those raises are now in the final budget.
The letter states that Texas Law requires prior published notice of proposed raises for elected officials, and that those raises could not be paid out. However, the law also states that the commissioners could appeal that decision through the grievance committee.
Former County Commissioner Ray McCoppin took the court to task over open meetings, claiming the court is not in compliance regarding agenda items, which he said were not fully disclosed as to what was to be discussed.
Faulkner agreed the listings are general in nature, but it wasn’t the county’s intention to “trick or treat” anybody, but that they are letting people know as much as they can.
Since the items came up under public forum, no action was taken.
Also in public forum, representatives of Friends of Hopewell, who had a request for American Rescue Plan Act funds, told commissioners that the organization was in no way affiliated with Hopewell Church, which was used as a basis of denial of those funds.
The court did approve the creation of the committee, and there will be a meeting on Oct. 4 regarding the raises. He did say the employee raises were not at issue, but only the ones for the elected officials.
Faulkner is chair of the committee, but not a voting member. Other members include the county Sheriff, Tax Assessor/Collector, Treasurer, Clerk, District Clerk, DA, and a number of members of the public to bring the total of voting members to nine; Faulkner drew names from a hat for the remaining members.
Faulkner also said that al 18 elected officials have filed grievances, which will be held at the October meeting.
In other business, the court:
•renewed the VINE victim notification service agreement;
•tabled a $86,072 change order from Timberline Construction for work on the Innovation Center to determine the proper contract language;
•approved the purchase of a John Deere skid steer for the Precinct 3 Road and Bridge Department for $91,900;
•tabled the replat of Peach Creek Farms near Kelley Road for more information;
•rejected a donation of church building;
•approved the purchase of a 2022 John Deere utility tractor;
•accepted a portion of Somerset Trail into the county’s road maintenance system;
•approved a memorandum of understanding for bullet-resistant shield grant for $40,020 for the Sheriff’s Department;
•discussed reimbursing a county resident the cost of a trailer which was destroyed by a tree on county property falling;
•approved updated contracts for housing out-of-county prisoners; and
•approved the purchase of six Ford Explorers for the Sheriff’s Department.
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