Two members of the Gonzales County Commissioners Court have been accused by Gonzales County Judge Pat Davis of “undermining” the court. Davis alleged Commissioners Donnie Brzozowski and Kevin La Fleur attempted to resolve a policy matter without the consent of the court.
The two commissioners, as well as Gonzales County auditor Becky Weston, travelled to Austin to speak with Allison, Bass and Magee, a law firm that represents the county in matters outside the purview of the County Attorney’s office.
Davis asked Commissioners Collie Boatright and K.O. ‘Dell’ Whiddon if they knew of the meeting before it took place and they both said no. When asked what date this meeting took place, neither Commissioner Brzozowski nor Commissioner La Fleur were able to answer. The group met with the Austin law firm with the intention of discussing infrastructure, but the conversation turned to policy matters.
“Jim Allison said Mr. Bass was under the assumption that y’all were coming down to talk about building a bridge,” Davis said. “When you got there, you started talking about policy. Jim Allison stated that it probably wasn’t good of Mr. Bass to continue to talk them on policy without the full amount of the commissioner’s court there.”
The policy in dispute relates to the chief clerk position and the qualifications of the job. When Judge Davis was elected, he wanted to move his Texas Department of Public Safety clerk to the same position in the County Judge’s office. However, the commissioners court had argued that the individual was not qualified.
“Up until August 13, 2018, she was qualified to come to the department,” Davis said. “The commissioners decided to cut the county judge’s budget and take the chief clerk position away because they said the one that I wanted to hire--and they knew who I wanted to hire--was not qualified for this position.”
One of the rulings sent to the court from Allison, Bass and Magee said the commissioners court has the right to establish the number of positions, salary and steps in an office, but they do not have the right to impose qualifications.
“If you look at the chief clerk’s salary position it used to say eligibility for the position is 15 consecutive years of service with the county. It used to say must be able to fulfill the duties of the office in the absence of the official, only one position per office, and it is county official’s discretion to assign the designation or not to the qualifying employee,” Davis said. “After August 13, they came back in and they put of the 15 years, the qualifying employee must have worked a minimum of four years in this office before they would be eligible.”
Davis questioned the constitutionality of the qualifications and said it would be “impossible” to fill the position with the requirements as they are currently written by the commissioners court.
The whole issue began when Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Darryl Becker filed an open records request
“This isn’t right,” Becker said at the meeting. “County business is done in here. In commissioners court.”
Both of the accused commissioners argued that they had nothing wrong and that if they had, the attorneys at Allison, Bass and Magee should have mentioned it and the meeting should not have happened.
“I don’t believe we owe you (Judge Davis) any explanation, or Collie (Boatright), what we did,” Brzozowski said. “We went out there to talk to him and he gave us some legal advice. You’re trying to make it look like we did something bad; only thing we did was seek legal advice.”
Gonzales County attorney Paul Watkins had qualms with the way the two commissioners went about their business, but said they needed to get the other attorneys in question to attend a meeting to straighten it out.
“Truthfully Judge, I think you should get Mr. Allison to attend a meeting. There are two sides to this argument. The objective side of me says that the two sides of the court are not working with the same facts,” Watkins said. “It’s time to bring the guy in that can answer both of those questions and find out whether they should have been meeting with them in the first place. It would be my understanding as an attorney, that an attorney should not meet with part of his clients without instructions or approval from the entire group of clients.”
The item was tabled and will be brought up again at the next meeting July 8. Both James ‘Jim’ Allison and Robert Bass have been invited to the next meeting.
Other news from the meeting:
Minutes for the June 10, 2019 meeting were approved.
The court received the monthly report from constable precinct 4.
Tax-Assessor Collector’s monthly report was received.
Gonzales County Historical Commission received the Distinguished Service Award for the 2018 year of service.
Gonzales County Emergency Services District #1 presented its annual audit.
The court approved a bank depository contract with Southstar Bank.
Discussions on the donation deed in precinct 1 were tabled.
A preliminary plat for the Cannon East subdivision in precinct 1 was approved.
A verbiage variance from the Gonzales County Subdivision Order in precinct 3 was approved.
The court authorized two representatives to work with TexPool on the Gonzales County Clerk Trust Fund.
Rotary Club was permitted to use the Randle Rather Conference Room each Tuesday from 12 to 1 p.m. However, the court noted each request must go through the commissioner’s court and will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
The court approved a project to replace the lighting at the Gonzales County Annex. They are also allowing them to use the county’s lift for the project.
A lease agreement between the county and the Gonzales Central Appraisal District was approved.
The county will move forward with the procurement of a Texas General Land Office Hurricane Harvey recovery grant. The court hired Langford Community Management Services to write the grant. The court has until Aug. 31, 2019, to decide what project they would like to finance.
The court will hire Hanson Engineering in the event an engineer is needed for the grant.
No budget amendment were presented.