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By Randall Scott Gates, Minister of Irritance
A review of the agenda for Commissioners’ Court today, revealed a curious budget amendment. First thing noted was the paperwork was devoid of any signatures. Under the former County Judge, the signature indicated the proposal had at least gotten the once over from the County Auditor and someone who took responsibility for the proposal. Unfortunately, under County Judge Scott Felton, a new level of obscurity has been added, so now the absence of signatures is pretty commonplace.
The amendment proposes to take funds allocated for the salary of an elected official and re-allocate said funds to a “new” position. It also proposes to add some money from the emergency fund.
Salaries of elected officials are a little different. At budget time, there has to be a special and separate vote setting the salaries. If some portion of their compensation increases, they also have to run a notice in the newspaper.
So, what do you say? These salaries are special for the reason that statutory requirments prevent the court from blackmailing an elected official by messing with their money. This is not completely dissimilar to the way our former governor is jammed up right now, answering a felony indictment. Also, by eliminating the funds for the elected official, they are eliminating an elected constitutional office, which is prohibited by Article 5 Sec. 18C of the Texas Constitution. Before the voters amended the Constitution, the Commissioners’ Court could eliminate Justices of the Peace and Constables on a whim. The voters went to the polls and took that authority away from the Court when they voted in favor of amending the Texas Constitution.
The Texas Attorney General has ruled the Court has almost limitless authority to modify the budget. They can move money from the fuel budget to pay for a weekend getaway at a resort hotel. The reasoning is, as long as there is a record of a budgetary amendment, the voters can pass judgment on the action of the court. It is almost limitless because there is a limitation on reserve funds. The theory is these funds were represented to have been taken from the taxpayers under the premise of an emergency fund. The AG held that an emergency has to be declared in order to use “unencumbered” funds. No emergency has been declared, but the suspicion is they screwed up when they did the redistricting, Judge Kristi DeCluitt knew it, and blackmailed the Court with the threat of a lawsuit that would expose the screw-up.
Sec. 42.033. EFFECTIVE DATE OF BOUNDARY CHANGE. (a) A change in a county election precinct boundary takes effect on the first day of the first even-numbered voting year following the voting year in which the change is ordered.
You see, the first day of the first even numbered voting year would be 1/1/16. None of the turmoil was necessary. The law is very plain and not hard to understand. See, they were prevented by law from doing what they did. They all know it but decided the voters/taxpayers are so thoroughly indifferent no one would challenge them. Three people were directly affected. Constable Danny Tate who is now the park supervisor, Justice of the Peace Belinda Summers who is now the administrative assistant to Commissioner Gibson and Justice of the Peace Kristie DeCluitt who is now the new Criminal Justice Analyst. The kicker? None of the three positions were funded in the budget. Imagine that.
Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. Jonathan Gruber
Your elected officials appreciate your indifference and inattention. Minister of Irritance