Did Judge Lacy Violate the Law in Filling a Vacancy at the Courthouse?

Bowie County TexasMonday’s Bowie County Commissioners Court has two (probably) related agenda items.

In the first, Precinct 1 Commissioner Sammy Stone directs the Court to “Consider and take action to find that Bowie County Judge Sterling Lacy violated Texas Local Government Code, Section 151.001.”

Sec. 151.001. OFFICER APPLIES TO COMMISSIONERS COURT FOR AUTHORITY TO APPOINT EMPLOYEES. (a) A district, county, or precinct officer who requires the services of deputies, assistants, or clerks in the performance of the officer’s duties shall apply to the commissioners court of the county in which the officer serves for the authority to appoint the employees. If the county has a population of more than 190,000, the officer shall apply for the authority to appoint any other kinds of employees.

(b) The application must be sworn and must state:

(1) the number of employees required;

(2) the title of the positions to be filled; and

(3) the amounts to be paid the employees.

(c) If the application is made in a county with a population of more than 190,000, it must also describe the duties to be performed by the employees.

(d) The application must be accompanied by a statement of the probable receipts from fees, commissions, and compensation to be collected by the office during the fiscal year and the probable disbursements, including salaries and expenses, of the office.

(e) This section does not apply to a district attorney or criminal district attorney in a county with a population of more than 190,000.

Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 149, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

The next agenda item, submitted by Precinct 2 Commissioner Tom Whitten, directs the court to “Consider and take action to eliminate, by court order, the two part-time receptionist positions recently hired for Bowie County Courthouse.”

Sammy Stone Bowie County Commissioner Precinct 1

Sammy Stone
Bowie County Commissioner
Precinct 1

Since Judge Lacy hasn’t hired a deputy, assistant or clerk in quite a while, I called Commissioner Stone for clarification, but he told me I’d find out Monday morning. I mentioned Commissioner Whitten’s agenda item, and asked if he was referring to the receptionists, and he replied, “Maybe, or maybe it’s something else.”

As I wrote last month, when former courthouse receptionist Kathy Hicks left to become Commissioner Mike Carter’s secretary, Judge Lacy filled the position by hiring two new part-time employees. Each of them works half a day, and as part-time employees, aren’t eligible for benefits, which results in a savings of several thousand dollars per year for that position.

There will obviously be a greater savings to the taxpayers if the Court completely eliminates the position, but at the cost of convenience to the same taxpayers. Anyone who has spent any period of time in the lobby knows that there is a likelihood that someone will come in unsure of where they are supposed to go. Absent a receptionist, they’ll probably ask someone in the County Judge or County Clerk’s office, the first visible offices with uncovered windows or glass walls. People who call in will have to select a random department to ask for help.

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