By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – Unity within Tyler County was a theme expressed by many speakers at Monday morning’s meeting of the commissioners court.
The meeting had to be moved to the district courtroom to accommodate the large crowd. The first speaker to address the commissioners and the crowd during the public forum portion of the meeting was Woodville businessman and community leader Lonnie Grissom.
Grissom said he’d gotten a group together to encourage the officials, and to “use our tongues to build one another up, not tear one another down.”
Grissom led the group, which included other leaders in the community, such as Ivanhoe Mayor Cathy Bennett, to walk through the courtroom and shake hands with all of the officials. Prior to leading the group, Grissom cited several verses from the Book of Proverbs to encourage unity.
Other speakers, including Milton Odom, Colin Bishop and Rusty Hatton, spoke in encouragement to the officials, and appreciation for their service.
Sal Baldovinos, representing Concerned Citizens of Tyler County, approached the podium, and acknowledged that his presence could be seen as divisive. He offered an apology to the court for any perceived adversarial behavior caused by his and the CCTC investigation into the county’s distribution of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, particularly with the premium pay to elected officials last year.
Baldovinos spoke about the ARPA funds and said in a review of federal and state documents he’d “come up short in finding any authority to distribute [ARPA funds] to elected officials.”
He concluded his five minutes of allotted time with a demand for those officials who received the $3,500 amounts from ARPA funds to return the money.
In a press release from CCTC, it is stated that the funds were “taken under purported authority of ARPA for the personal use of elected officials were taken without Constitutional authority.”
The window of time Baldovinos and CCTC gave the officials to return the funds to County Treasurer Leann Monk is 20 days.
“Alternatively, if they don’t believe they need to return the money, provide to us, your Constituents; the residents of Tyler County, the legislative provisions within the U.S. Constitution that gave this court the authority to do so use ARPA to pay [premium pay to elected officials],” the press release further states, and also states that officials “may be subject to losing their governmental immunity.”
On the regular agenda, the commissioners began with approving several resolutions and proclamations. The first up, was to declare April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Tyler County.
Several members of the county’s Child Welfare Board, along with some CASA volunteers, were on hand to receive the proclamation.
The commissioners also approved resolutions to approve fireworks sales for Memorial Day, from May 25–30 at midnight.
An ordinance that was presented during the portion of the meeting set aside for proclamations and resolutions came from Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford. Weatherford presented an ordinance for the commissioners’ consideration to regulate game rooms in the county.
The ordinance, which spells out how and where gaming facilities can operate, was approved unanimously by the commissioners, later on the agenda, as an item to be voted on.