By Tony Farkas
COLDSPRING — San Jacinto County residents offered praise and criticism for their sheriff, but only criticism for the Commissioners Court, during heated public forum comments at a Wednesday meeting.
Taking up roughly half of the regular meeting of the San Jacinto County Commissioners Court, the comments came on the heels of a recent Associated Press/Yahoo News article alleging corruption at the Sheriff’s Office.
The article, which came out the weekend of July 8, claimed that Sheriff Greg Capers gave inaccurate figures regarding the office’s response to the mass shooting, and discussed a LION report alleging a “culture of corruption.”
Because of the information in the article, Dale Tiller demanded that the county investigate the department and called Capers unprofessional and a political joke; Annalisha Tiller said there are 1,700 people living in the Trails End area of the county who are scared to speak out because of repercussions.
Most of those in the audience, though, offered support, and condemned the commissioners for not fully supporting the department; Charissa Arizpe said that 40 percent of the court was biased against the sheriff.
Sheena Bass told the court that as a 40-year citizen of the country, she never thought that she would ever be ashamed of the people she voted for, but the character assassination of the sheriff is a shame and unacceptable, and it was time to vote the commissioners out of office.
“These are despicable means you are using … you are trying to destroy a man,” she said. “You are to do our bidding.”
George Garrett called the AP article a hit job and infuriating because it had nothing to do with the timeline of the deputies’ response, and even equated Capers to former Sheriff James “Humpy” Parker, who was convicted of torturing prisoners, illegally arresting motorists and extortion.
“Commissioner David Brandon’s comment (in the article) tied those two together,” Garrett said. “You could have taken the high road, but you didn’t.”
Garrett admonished the court to do their jobs and give the sheriff the items he needs to do the job.
“You guys need to take a look at yourselves and come together to support our county,” he said.
The comments were tied to a piece of business before the court where the Sheriff’s Office had requested to raise pay for jailers to around the $20 mark. Chief Tim Kean said that the jail was short 11 people, and because of low pay, they have not seen an application in months.
Kean said that other businesses in the area, such as Panda Express, hire people at higher wages that the county pays people to house criminal suspects, some of whom have attacked jailers.
He also said that if the problems that currently exist at the jail are not remedied, the state could take control of the situation, which could cost the county more.
Commissioners questioned the raises in relation to the banked comp time the jailers have and whether it would be paid out at the new rate or the rate when the time was accrued. The matter was settled when the court approved paying out all banked time prior to the raise, which amounts to $43,000, and then ending comp time in favor of paying overtime.
The court also approved the requested raises — $2.52 per hour for temporary-licensed jailers and $3.52 for licensed jailers.
In other business, the court:
•tabled an agreement with Lubbock County for capital case public defenders;
•extended an agreement with Tyler Technologies for software;
•approved the purchase of a pickup truck from Martin Chevrolet for $40,074, and from Covert Chevrolet-Oldsmobile for $40,916. The vehicles will be used by the permitting office;
•approved completion of the Texas election form;
•approved a change to the broker representing MASA and allowing that person to negotiate with county employees regarding helicopter and ambulance transport;
•approved seeking quotes for a copier for the maintenance department;
•declared 17 label makers as salvage; and
•approved a lot split for Eddie Ellisor pending the results of a drainage survey.