My commissioners want to institute a policy that any expenditure greater than $300.00 must be approved by the court prior to purchasing. For example: If an elected official has $5,000.00 in a budget line item for equipment, an equipment purchase greater than $300.00 must be approved prior to purchasing.
It seems to me that various AG opinions are contradictory. (Imagine that!)
In one opinion, the AG says, "Although a county commissioners court sets a county officer's budget, the officer may determine how best to use the funds to accomplish the officer's constitutional and statutory duties."
In another, "A commissioners court's authority encompasses 'a power to decide that a particular purchase may not be necessary.' For example, if the county commissioners court does not approve a particular expenditure, the county treasurer may not disburse the necessary county funds."
In another, "...It [commissioners court] may, in effect, tell that official what resources it will place at his disposal. But it may not micro-manage his decisions as to the use of those resources."
I personally think that once the budget is approved the elected official may spend that money as he/she sees fit, as long as there is money available in the appropriate category for that item.
What do you think? How is this handled in your county?
Some of you may think the amount involved so small as to be absurd, but we are a very sparsely populated county with a very small budget. I am especially interested in hearing from those of you from other small counties.
In the absence of a Purchasing Agent, an Auditor, or an appointee under section 262.001 of the LGC, the authority to buy things rests with the Commissioners Court. Why? Most likely because the vendor would like to be paid or the county official would like to be reimbursed. In order to be binding on the County, the Commissioners Court must approve the contract. Anderson v. Wood (google it). Even a little bitty buy down at Walmart where you issue a county Purchase Order or a request from the Commissioners Court for reimbursement after the County elected official spent their hard earned money would trigger Commissioners Court approval. Either your County Clerk or your County Treasurer would be able to stop the reimbursement if it lacked Court approval by not signing the County check. As a practical matter the County Judge usually does the onsite buying in small counties. But the Claims process located at sections 113.061 thru 113.066 of the LGC make the Commissioners Court the final arbiter of the claim. Section 113.066 of the LGC. While the language is archaic, we have taken it to long mean paid the claims.
Additionally, a couple of years ago, I wrote an opinion for our commissioners court on the issue of control over line item budget expenditures. If you want it, I'll be glad to e-mail it to you.
Summarized version of it: It depends.
After posting this, I did a more thorough review of section 113 and came to the same conclusion that you outline, Ray.
It appears to me the only exception is that the commissioners cannot attempt to restrict the elected officer in performance of required duties.
It really won't be that much of an issue for most of us here. The Sheriff and commissioners are having a little battle of wills. Imagine that!
Scott - Yes, please e-mail that to me.
Scott - I would love to have a copy of that memo of yours also, if you don't mind.
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