Budget Cuts Bring Acrimony to Bowie County Commissioners Court

Bowie County TexasAt today’s session of the Bowie County Commissioners Court, debate over budget cuts — and how they should be handled — quickly became heated.

On September 17, 2013, the Commissioners voted to enact a hiring freeze in anticipation of severe cash flow shortfalls. County supervisors who sought to hire for a new position, or to fill an existing vacancy, were directed to bring all such for the consideration of the Court. On October 28, when the shortfalls didn’t materialize, the Commissioners voted to rescind the hiring freeze on elected officials only. (Outsiders noted after the freeze was enacted that it seems state law prevents the Court from directing elected officials regarding the operations of their respective departments, but I don’t believe this was ever mentioned in Court.)

However, today’s agenda contained requests for the Court to decide whether they would allow Judge Leon Pesek to replace a bailiff in the 202nd District Judge’s office, and whether they would allow Jerry Rochelle to replace an investigator in the Bowie County District Attorney’s Office. Judge Lacy attempted to dismiss both agenda items, quoting the rescinding of the hiring freeze mentioned above, and stating that the Court had no business in the affairs of either office. Commissioner Pat McCoy insisted that Lacy could not do so, and Judge Pesek asked to be heard. Citing the many years of cooperation between his office and the Court, he gave the reason for his request. The Court voted 4 to 1 to allow him to hire the new bailiff; Judge Lacy voted against the motion, apparently in accordance with his earlier statement that the Court should not have been involved in the decision.

Next, a statement from District Attorney Jerry Rochelle was read regarding his request, and discussion followed as to whether he had actually planned to ask for the Court’s permission to hire the new investigator, or whether his email was in response to learning that the matter had been placed on the agenda. The motion was made and carried to allow the new investigator, again 4 to 1, with Judge Lacy voting against the motion.

The last item of the day was in response to an agenda item from two weeks ago in which each county department was required to submit a plan to cut at least 10% from their budget for the rest of the fiscal year (through September 30, 2014). Commissioner McCoy presented a detailed list of the items he planned to cut from each department, for a total of $989,552. Included in the cuts was the elimination of two jobs, Kathy Hicks, the switchboard operator, and Paula Williams, Judge Lacy’s financial assistant, although McCoy didn’t mention either position in his discussion of the cuts.

McCoy made the motion that his cuts be enacted, and the motion died for lack of second. Commissioner Blackburn made the motion that the cuts be enacted with the exception of eliminating any jobs, prompting several outbursts from the citizens in attendance demanding to know whose jobs were to be cut. There was a long pause, and finally Commissioner McCoy seconded the motion.

The Commissioners had attempted to eliminate Paula Williams job several months ago, claiming that Judge Lacy had exceeded his authority in hiring Williams without asking the Court’s permission. This proved to be true, but an examination of records going back at least thirty years showed that every single position created during that time had been done without the Court’s permission. No one knew of the law until, apparently, someone looked for a reason to deny Williams, a career county employee, the position with Lacy’s office. That Williams, who is black, would be the first employee in at least three decades to undergo the Court’s scrutiny opened the members of the court to charges of racial motivation in targeting her. Although it proved unnecessary, Williams sought counsel from local attorney from www.rhalaw.com/drug-offences.

Today, Crocket said, “I’m just happy that Commissioner McCoy’s consistent, unwarranted, and calculated attacks on Paula William’s livelihood have failed. The county needs budget cuts because that’s what any fiscally responsible body has to do when the obligations outweigh the income, but I’m of the opinion that firing Paula Williams was not going to resolve the problem. Additionally, considering that neither Paula Williams nor Kathy Hicks reports directly to the Commissioners, this would have been an overreaching move to make. They have the power to approve budgets, but I’m not personally aware of their power to micromanage all county departments. I applaud the Commissioners and Judge Lacy for failing to second the motion of Commissioner McCoy.”

Finally, it seems the last two Courts have been marked by a distinct lack of civility, especially today as several people in attendance shouted derisive comments, laughed, or clapped at remarks from the Court. Most of the outbursts followed barbs from Commissioner McCoy directed at Judge Lacy, although it seemed in some instances that the catcalls were in response to McCoy’s tone of voice rather than anything that was actually said. For instance, when Lacy asked if McCoy would consider cutting his salary as Lacy had, McCoy responded that the Judge had cut the part of his salary that came from the state, prompting jeers from the audience, when in fact Lacy had voluntarily cut the county’s portion of his salary by the same amount as a raise from the state.

I’ve been attending the Bowie County Commissioners Court for at least two years, and although the discussion among the members of the court has at times grown caustic, I don’t recall a single instance of an outburst from the citizens in attendance. Hopefully, this is an isolated occurence.

McCoy’s Budget Cuts (PDF – 18.7MB)

0 thoughts on “Budget Cuts Bring Acrimony to Bowie County Commissioners Court

  1. During one of my attempts to get the City Council of Texarkana, TX to modify the plans for Morris Lane/Galleria Oaks their were similar outbursts from the audience behind me, directed at me. No one on the City Council ever reprimanded the people responsible and … oddly enough … the video of that night’s meeting was the only one in quite some time to NOT be broadcast on the local cable channel. Quite a coincidence, eh?

  2. Very well written article. We have a problem with civility from the four Commissioners and their supporters. I predict the two commissioners up for re-election in two years will face extremely tough re-election bids unless they shape up. Judge Lacy has done a remarkable job in improving our county government. He has led by example by cutting his own salary. None of the tax and spend commissioners have done the same. In these hard economic times, they just want to keep taxing and spending. They are the real problem here folks.

  3. When adults are reduced to name-calling and taunts, that is a sure sign that they are out of reasoned debate. It is my hope that the politicians and concerned taxpayers in Bowie County will take the high road in the coming months by sticking to fact-based discussions, and not resorting to personal insults and childish bullying. Let’s all set a positive example for our children to follow.

    Kudos to Commissioner Blackburn for taking the lead in a tough situation.

  4. Also, Kudos to Judge Lacy for opening his office to anyone who wants to see the records and know the truth for themselves. Did you know that Bowie County never got an acceptable rating for honesty and transparency from the State of Texas under former Judge Carlow? Judge Lacy has been the reason we have now gotten a Silver rating in 2012 and has even improved that to a Gold rating for 2014. You probably haven’t heard this from the Texarkana Gazette have you? I am hoping Paige Alexander in particular and the Gazette in general will start real un-biased news coverage. Until they do, the corrupt, back room deals between politicians will remain the norm for Bowie County. Government elected officials are not supposed to get together and discuss public business outside the public forum. Isn’t it strange that the four county commissoners have voted together as a block over three thousand times with not one opposing vote between the four of them except for I believe, nine occasions. Many of these times they have done so with little or no public debate. That is wrong. I hope that they will have a change of heart and start honoring the law and their sworn statements to uphold that law and start working with and not against Judge Lacy to uphold the law and be honest and stop being deceitful. And just like I have hoped for years the “main street Media” would stop being biased towards the Obama administration, the Gazette will start being truly un-biased in the reporting on our County Commissioners Court. In particular, that means Paige Alexander. If she is to be a Good reporter, she will go to Judge Lacy’d office and look at the documents I and a number of others have looked at and report fairly. We the citizens are watching.

  5. Please excuse the Mis-spellings above. I got in a hurry and didn’t proof-read. Got to slow down… :)

  6. I guess you think Four States News is unbiased. I Keep Wanda’n what you’re thinking “Jorge”!

  7. Hi Jorge, this is Paige Alexander Brock. I appreciate your comments and admit I’m embarrassed that I’m unaware of back room deals and illegal get-togethers by officials. However, I would love to hear about them. Please feel free to give me a call on my cell at 903-293-5409. It’s the best way to reach me, as I’m in and out of the office. But you’re also welcome to call my office phone at 903-794-3311 ext 7247. My email addresses are palexander@texarkanagazette.com or pbrock1978@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you, and thank you for your diligence.

  8. No, I will not call you or email you because there are some very powerful rich men that would love to see me gone.
    It is illegal for public servants like the four commissioners to get together outside of the public forum to discuss and get together on how to vote on issues involving public business. I would think you would know that being a reporter. It is very suspicious that out of over 3,000 votes cast by the four commissioners, I understand that they all voted together as a unit with the exception of only 9 times and in many of those votes with little or no public debate. That looks very suspicious to me and others. This is part of the training you have to do to be a county commissioner among other public officies.
    Another thing. I personally asked for and received an appointment to go to Judge Lacy’s office and look at the documents and records that he has which shows some of the illegal “back room” deals that Former Judge Carlow did. In my humble opinion, Former Judge Carlow is guilty of illegal acts against the law and the citizens of Bowie County. If I were James Carlow, I’d be running for the county line, not to be county judge again. But you need to go to Judge Lacy’s office and look for yourself. He has opened his doors by appointment to anyone including you who wants to see these documents with their own two eyes. I know several who have already done so.
    Lastly, about your unwillingness to be unbiased. I have heard you are the wife of Former Judge Carlow’s Attorney. It seems to me, you have a “dog in the fight.” Many of Bowie County citizens think you have a definate bias against Judge Lacy, including me. For one thing, you talk about how the big businesses will get most of the tax relief from the rollback election. Maybe on the surface, that is the way it appears. But in reality the people who have to buy the electricity and other services of those businesses end up paying for all of those extra expenses because as we all know they will be passed to the consumer. I see a very real simularity between your news coverage favoring your ideology and those who you like and being reluctant to present the whole of the other side. It seems to be just like the “mainstream media” and the way they favor Barack Obama, the worst President ever, in my humble opinion.
    So, in conclusion, I will admonish you to go to Judge Lacy’s office and look for yourself. I found Judge Lacy to be a very honest, and decent man who has made mistakes but is doing his best for the citizens of Bowie County. I admire a man like that who stands up against those who would do wrong. It disturbed me greatly when former Judge Carlow ran those dispicable and hateful ads against Judge Lacy and at the time, Judge Lacy wasn’t even running for re-election. I and others encouraged Judge Lacy to run and thankfully he made the necessary arrangements to run if his family problems got better. Knowing Judge Lacy and seeing and hearing the way Former Judge Carlow misrepresented him, made me realize that as a Christian, I could not turn my back on anyone who was being mistreated like that. I like many others in our community were taught those kind of values by our parents at an early age and I for one will hold those values dear to me until I leave this world behind. From the Once Great Republic of Texas, Jorge Washington

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.