Waco, Texas – Constitutional officers of the County of McLennan made a cut and dried decision to contravene and abrogate the Constitution of the State of Texas last week by funding an appointive position with line item funds designated to pay the salary of an elected official.
A $55,000 per year contractual slot of criminal justice analyst created out of whole cloth for former Justice of the Peace Kristi DeCluitt, to be funded by money budgeted to paying the salary of an elected official, is now a legal reality, thanks to a timely transfer of emergency funds to make up the difference in what was left over from the judge’s salary fund.
That is a direct abrogation of the concept of Article 5, Section 18(c) of the Constitution of Texas. While neoconservative thinking denies that any one person has a right to an elected office, the Constitution enacted and ratified following Reconstruction holds that a public office belongs to We the People of the State of Texas, and not to elected officials who may from time to time pull a lever or push a button to redistrict or gerrymander elected officials out of the office to which they were elected.
It’s become a fiscal pattern that has led to a shortfall in income and expenditure, one that has twice forced a tax increase to the “roll back” rate, the maximum amount possible without causing a need for a public referendum.
It’s what passes for the kind of hardheaded fiscal responsibility espoused by the GOP, the Tea Party, and the neoconservative, madding crowd in American politics.
And only one person stood up and challenged authority, called them out on their baloney. In a clear and compelling argument, the Judge of the Precinct 6 Justice Court elected to office in the year 2006 to serve a term from 2007 to 2010, spoke up.
Randall Scott Gates, self-appointed “minister of irritance,” a man expelled from the McLennan County Tea Party by its executive committee, faced in 2006 the same dilemma as Judge DeCluitt when he won the Republican primary by four votes, Precinct 6 was eliminated by redistricting and reduction of the eight existing precincts to seven, and no Democratic opposition stood in the General election.
The only difference is that there was no offer of a salary for the period of the elected office – 2007-2010 – left to run. That money, $24,000, was spent on the appointive position of Jail Magistrate newly created for Gates’ defeated opponent, the incumbent, Raymond Britton. He held that appointed office for four years, until incoming Criminal District Attorney Abel Reyna pointed out early in 2011 that as the holder of three municipal judgeships at Moody, Riesel, and Bruceville-Eddy, he was in violation of a law that dictates only one emolument for any state public office by any given office holder.
Such a deal.
One may listen to an audio report of Judge Gates’ remarks here:
One may read a previous account of County Judge Scott Felton’s explanation given in 2013 of just how these transactions are accomplished and their ultimate implications: