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Residents file claims against auditor’s bond

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By Chris Edwards
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TYLER COUNTY – Several Tyler County residents have served a notice of intent to file against the county auditor’s surety bond.

At present time, 12 residents have filed against Jackie Skinner’s surety bond. Surety bonds are required, by statute, of all public officials.

The bonds provide financial guarantee against loss that the official’s duties of his/her office will be performed according to the law during the term the official is sworn-in for.

According to information on the website tycoarparemedy.com, the notices have been sent in the claim amount of $3,500 each, which is the amount of money officials and county employees were awarded from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fund allotment.

The notices of intent, which have all been published to the aforementioned website, outline each resident’s claim, alleging that Skinner, in her role of disbursing the ARPA funds to elected officials, “willfully violated multiple laws relating Bondholder’s employment and misused $392,000 of government property.”

The claims cite “multiple official acts undertaken” by Skinner “without constitutional, statutory or regulatory authority” and goes on to cite a dereliction of duty.

The ARPA fund disbursement to the county’s elected officials in the form of premium pay was part of the $392K sum, which was split up between 144 active and retired county government employees, both appointed and elected. Fifty-nine thousand, five hundred of that went to elected officials, while the rest went to retirees, part-time employees and full-time employees of the county’s government.

The claims note how the ARPA funds were determined by the federal government to be used, including as a response to the public health emergency caused by the pandemic and its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses and non-profits, as well as investments in infrastructure.

In September, the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, issued a non-binding opinion on the use of the ARPA funds. The opinion was made in response to a request Skinner made in February.

Paxton stated that “a court could conclude that ARPA premium pay funds are not ‘salary’ for purposes” under Local Government Code 152.013, which requires advance public notice of salary increases, expenses or allowances of elected county or precinct officials.

Skinner, who presented a breakdown in a March regular meeting of the Tyler County Commissioners Court, said that in 2021, when the county became aware of the funds, there was no understanding or knowledge of how or what they could be used for, and in an interim ruling at the time, said there was no guidance stating whether or not elected officials were eligible.

“If I at any time felt I was committing a criminal act, I never would have allowed it to happen,” Skinner said during that court session in March.

The notices posted on the website state that in order to rectify the situation, Skinner must either admit error and provide a check to the claimants in the amount of $3,500 or cite statutory authority for the ARPA disbursement.

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Woodville barber says goodbye

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Claude Gulley, in August 1986, cuts a young Jeremy Nichols’s hair. Jeremy’s mother, Becky, holds him still.Claude Gulley, in August 1986, cuts a young Jeremy Nichols’s hair. Jeremy’s mother, Becky, holds him still.

By Kelli Barnes

WOODVILLE Always known for his keen sense of humor and with a joke at the ready, Claude Gulley, local barber in Tyler County is officially retiring after serving the community more than 50 years. “I had no desire to go to college,” said Gulley.

“Trade school and becoming a barber has been good to me and my family and I have Tyler County to thank for that,” he said.

Claude raised two children, Amy and Chad, with his wife Ricki of almost 51 years, right here in Tyler County. Now he has eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

“We are planning to move closer to our kids and grandkids to make a lot more good memories with whatever time God has allotted for us,” said Gulley. “May God be with us as we embark on our new journey, but our door is always welcome and open to family and friends. Thank you again Tyler County for all the wonderful friendships and memories. I would love to be remembered as a person that treated people the way I would like to be treated.”

Over the years, Gulley watched hairstyles come and go. His favorites are a regular men’s haircut and a high and tight, but he is well-known for his flat-tops. He comes from a family of barbers: dad Thurman Gulley, uncle Hunter Gulley and brother Gary Gulley.

Gulley moved to Chester at age six, began school in Woodville in seventh grade, graduating in 1969. Next, he attended barber school in Humble and began working with his dad at the Woodville motel for a few months, before they poured the slab in 1970 where the shop still sits today. “I want the public to know the shop will remain open to serve Tyler County. The current barber, Christy, is there to serve the community.”

There is no way to know the number of haircuts Gulley has done over the years, but like so many, Jacques and Leza Blanchette testify they have a son who will only let Claude cut his hair.

“All haircuts were special and memorable in their own way,” said Gulley.

How many of you can remember waiting in Gulley’s Barber Shop for his chair to “get open”?

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School district addresses hate speech posts

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By Chris Edwards
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Last week a series of posts emerged on Facebook portraying hate speech allegedly referencing Hemphill Hornet football players.

The posts, which are screenshots taken from a Snapchat group chat, feature several users allegedly commenting on the Friday, Oct. 21 Warren Warriors/Hornets game, which took place in Hemphill.

The commenters within the chat are shown commenting on the Hornets’ defensive line and certain players. Messages such as “f---k the big n-----r 61” and “Ik almost all them n-----s” appear within the screenshots.

Another message within the screenshots features a derogatory statement concerning a Hispanic athlete.

Warren ISD’s athletic director and head football coach Austin Smithey made a statement addressing the messages, after they came to light, publicly.

“Warren ISD is aware of an inappropriate social media post that was allegedly sent out by WHS students after the Hemphill football game. We are currently investigating and will make sure to take appropriate corrective action,” Smithey said. 

He added that as a coach, he is “embarrassed, disappointed and disgusted” by the posts. 

“These statements do not reflect the values taught at WISD and our athletic program. We will work hard to ensure this does not happen again,” he said.

According to Darryl Beasley, who works as the director of compliance for the University Interscholastic League, such allegations, which are violations of UIL rules, are to be investigated at the district level, starting with the coach, athletic director, principal, superintendent, or school board of trustees.

When the Booster reached out to the office of Warren ISD Superintendent Dr. Tammy Boyette, the district issued a statement addressing the messages; that it is currently investigating the report of the messages.

Due to federal and state laws regarding the confidentiality of student information, however, Warren ISD is not at liberty to further disclose more information.

“Nevertheless, rest assured, that all Warren ISD students, including our student athletes, are expected to communicate respectfully with their peers,” the statement read.

Warren ISD further stated that it “will continue reviewing the situation and issue reformative discipline per the Extracurricular Code of Conduct and Student Code of Conduct.”

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City of Woodville holds Send-off parade for Cruse

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Kim with the kids at Jacob’s Ladder, who had a party for her on Friday at the Family Life Center at Woodville’s First Baptist Church. JIM POWERS | TCBKim with the kids at Jacob’s Ladder, who had a party for her on Friday at the Family Life Center at Woodville’s First Baptist Church. JIM POWERS | TCB

By Mollie LaSalle

WOODVILLE – Woodville native Kim Cruse was feted with a community send-off parade last Thursday morning and also a Community kick-back and send off party Sunday afternoon at the city park. 

The parade route Thursday morning was lined with signs and supporters as the caravan started off at 8:15. Starting at the fire station, going to each campus 

then to Beech street, Hwy 190 to US 69 to Walmart and then back to city hall where Kim was given a proclamation by mayor Paula Jones.

Cruse was also feted with a send-off at the city park on Sunday, Oct. 30. She arrived on top of a fire truck (again), and everyone had a chance to meet and greet and get an autograph and Reverend Tracee Barlow was on hand to bring his message of unity and harmony. The community really has come together in support of Ms. Cruse as she leaves to go back to Los Angeles for the next phase of the competition on NBC’s the Voice, where she is a member of Team Legend (John Legend). 

Monday’s show (Oct. 31) marks the start of Fan Week where fans get to pick what songs the contestants will sing. The Voice airs on Monday and Tuesday at 7 p.m. on NBC.

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Chester ISD board hears reports

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Chester ISD logo template 300By Chuck Davidson

CHESTER – Chester ISD Board of Trustees President Ray McKnight called the regular meeting of the Chester ISD board to order at 6 p.m. last Monday with five of seven members present along with superintendent Dr.  Paul Drake, principal Kim Capps, business manager Austin Odom, school secretary Mrs. Pounds, myself, two aspiring candidates for the  Chester ISD board Jesse Gay and Calvin Bittick, and the TASB auditor Mrs. Meinardus.  After prayer and pledges no-one had any public comments thus Odom gave his business report covering revenues and expenditures, he highlighted the fact that they had just purchased a new route bus due to arrive early next year. 

Capps stated that enrollment stands at 212 and attendance remains above 96%. 

Mrs. Handley will be the sponsor for the new National Honor Society and the fall festival sponsored by the PTO is at the end of this month.

Drake informed the board that they will have a called meeting on Nov. 8 to align board policies with current practice and also have a board training.  The next regular meeting is on Nov. 14. 

He introduced Mrs. Meinardus who gave a very detailed update on her audit of the district buildings:  site usage, systems and components, security and safety, support spaces, and educational adequacy.  For example, the school has nearly 76, 000 square feet with many areas needed to be expanded such as the library and the kitchen.  Utilizing the dates of buildings, and conditions of all the components, she presented replacement costs and data which will be used for long range planning by the board. Each member will be given access to the granular part of the study and later this year Dr. Drake will place some of this report on the district’s website.

Before going into executive session, Drake updated those present on TEA’s intruder detection audit and reported that they have nearly completed installment of new locks on all doors and will soon be given a list of requirements from the state along with potential funding options. He also asked the board to select a date for the election canvassing and Nov. 14 was selected. 

At 6:58 they went into session and returned at 7:43 when the meeting was adjourned.

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