Glory Hopkins, the longtime District Clerk of Fort Bend County, authored this extremely well written dissertation about the outrageously overpaid County Judge et al in Fort Bend County. This was published on the www.fortbendnow.com news website serving Fort Bend County. It is applicable to many other counties, I suspect.
This important information also regards the Conference for Urban Counties (CUC) Techshare scheme.
Their pay rates, and the lack thereof for longtime senior level (i.e. Felony Prosecutors) employees was one of the main reasons I left Fort Bend after nearly 15 years of employment there.
Hopkins: Our Commissioners Don't Qualify For A Pay Raise
It�s the time of the year when Commissioners Courts adopt budgets. It appears that Commissioners in Fort Bend County are in complete agreement with other county commissioners when it comes to giving themselves hefty pay increases.
The Waco Herald-Tribune described the Commissioners in McClennan County as �sneaking in their raise� at a meeting where a Commissioner stated, �I think it would be best to talk about it since we don�t have the newspaperman here right now.� They proceeded to award themselves an 11.8% raise after comparing their salaries to the salary of the Waco ISD Superintendent of Schools.
Our Commissioners have a much higher self-esteem quotient than those in Waco, and are so impressed with themselves that they want to tie their salaries to the base salary of State District Court Judges!
County judges and commissioners must get filled with blinding self-importance at training camp, because they spend most of their terms in office looking in a mirror admiring their own reflections. They learn the definition of a commissioner is �being self-employed while picking up a county paycheck�, and probably spend a lot of time laughing at the poor taxpaying fools back home.
The truth is that our Commissioners Court are working less and are less informed about County government than any group that I have encountered in the 20 years that I have served as your District Clerk. I would like for you to meet the Commissioners that I know. You may not recognize them.
They are not bothered with the daily mundane functions of County government because it is so much easier to �delegate� their responsibilities to �committees� or �volunteers.� They can�t even make a decision about which armored car service to hire without forming a committee to serve up a recommendation.
�Committees let them avoid responsibility and the mental strain of making educated decisions. It�s so much easier for them to rubber-stamp recommendations.
�Committees are a clever mechanism for avoiding those pesky �open meetings� requirements when they don�t want the public and the press to know what they are up to.
�Commissioners can achieve predetermined goals when volunteers meet �under the radar� and under the guidance of handpicked minions.
�They can award high paying committee-related jobs to their unqualified, unemployed friends who will follow their marching orders.
�And, while the �volunteers� are doing the Commissioners� work, the Commissioners can spend the extra time doing something important, like raising money and campaigning for reelection.
I was a �volunteer� on the Commissioners� technology committee (JST) for nearly 3 years and attended over 100 meetings. They expect other elected officials, department heads, and county employees to quit working fulltime at our jobs and become their servants. If you complain, they immediately charge that you are �uncooperative� and �not a team player.� They don�t work fulltime and can�t understand why anyone else would want to.
The JST committee did exactly what the Commissioners planned:
�Recommended that Fort Bend County funnel millions of dollars into the Conference of Urban Counties (CUC) TechShare scheme;
�Gave Commissioners control over the technological business applications of independently elected officials; and
�Gave Commissioners control of all of the public records and data in Fort Bend County, which gives them the option to turn it all over to the CUC.
Commissioners claim that TechShare is going to �save� money but they can�t provide a detailed budget that mathematically proves their claim, and the funding proposal looks a lot like a pyramid scheme. County judges and commissioners are in charge (RED FLAG) of the CUC that is headquartered in Austin and supported by membership fees of participating counties. A lot of people are suspicious of the TechShare project because commissioners don�t support anything that does not benefit them, and don�t know a computer from a carburator. The question that is being asked across the State is �What are the commissioners getting out of it?�
Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell is on the CUC Board of Directors. His poor judgment regarding technology has landed Dallas County in a mess that, according to the Dallas Morning News, has been ongoing for 18 months and has already cost $5.4 million. He spearheaded the technology project that is �subjecting Dallas County to potential liability and creating headaches for officials trying to fix the problem.� As expected, Commissioner Cantrell is blaming the vendor that he recommended, instead of taking responsibility.
Commissioners use the CUC as a tool to lobby for their special interests, which may not always agree with or be in the best interests of the taxpayers back home. Last legislative session, the CUC lobbied to eliminate the position of Fort Bend County Treasurer. Part of a Treasurer�s duty is to look out for the taxpayers, which makes a good Treasurer a real nuisance to Commissioners. The CUC also lobbied against legislation that favored the District Clerks. Frankly, I do not want my taxes spent on lobbyists for Fort Bend County Commissioners� special interests, much less to support their statewide fraternal brotherhood.
Commissioners statewide want control of public records because our records have become a commodity of considerable commercial value to special interest groups that purchase them in bulk from counties. Some vendors put the imaged records on the Internet. Others target personal data, harvest it, put it on the Internet and/or resell it to another commercial interest.
The CUC plans to control 80% of the public records in Texas. Rumors persist statewide that records and data of every CUC member county are targeted for their commercial value, and a lot of us are becoming very worried about the safety of our constituents and county records if commissioners and/or the CUC are allowed to have any control over the records.
Our Commissioners deliberately created the JST committee of �volunteers� to conceal from the public their intentions to take control of the records and to funnel millions of dollars to the CUC. We met in secret. They hired one of their unemployed friends in Year 2003 at an annual salary of about $100,000. He was the Commissioners� �facilitator� (enforcer), and they lied about his qualifications.
The lies didn�t matter because the Facilitator did what the Commissioners directed him to do. In my case, he delivered messages and pressure to my staff and me on their behalf. Occasionally, he would have an accident and deliver us the truth, particularly about the CUC. I was told to �play ball� with the Commissioners or else there would be �no more funding� to manage District Court records. Commissioners deviously arranged to get control of the District Court records over the objections of the District Clerk, and they arranged for the �volunteers� to recommend joining the CUC TechShare scheme.
Commissioners repeatedly sent their Facilitator to the District Clerk�s office to insult and bully my staff and me into lying about our software business application (ACS) in order to justify replacing it with software chosen by the CUC. He knowingly participated in lying and spreading lies about the District Clerk�s office on behalf of his employers. He cussed, he told me that I am �difficult to manage� and he would �fire� me if he could.
The Facilitator delivered the last straw when he sat next to me at a meeting and whispered into my left ear that he knew how �hard� the other �volunteers� had been on the District Clerk�s office and that he knew we �had been treated unfairly.� I never went to another meeting.
It took the Facilitator over 40 months, but he finally got the �volunteers� to serve up every recommendation that the Commissioners wanted, which the Commissioners rubber-stamped in July 2006.
The Commissioners hope you don�t find out that the recommendations include optical imaging of all District Court records, including thousands of records that are preserved on microfilm. This means that the imaged District Court records, just like the imaged records of the County Clerk, will become available for bulk sale to any vendor that will pay for them and will also end up on the Internet.
I am the only �volunteer� on the JST that opposes the recommendation to image, sell in bulk and publish District Court records on the Internet. District Judges, the County Attorney, and the District Attorney put their stamp of approval on the recommendations. The District Judges could put a stop to this plan, because the records are judicial and they have the power to control what happens to them. But so far, they are going along with everything that the Commissioners want.
None of the �volunteers� are the least bit concerned if commercial vendors put your personal information, such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, legal signatures, addresses, phone numbers, or driver license numbers on the Internet or sell them to persons in India, China, the Bahamas, Iran or Russia. And, they may even turn the control of your information over to a bunch of other county commissioners like Mike Cantrell and the CUC.
In January 2006, the Federal Trade Commission listed Sugar Land NUMBER 8 in the nation for Identity Theft-Related Consumer Complaints. If our identities are stolen, perhaps the persons responsible will be our own elected officials. Do you feel betrayed?
The Commissioners have no statutory or Constitutional authority to take over any of the duties of the Fort Bend County District Clerk. They are strictly limited to budgetary authority, but that is not enough for them. They meddle and want control. They have become so meddling that they want to send Justices of the Peace Geick, Fredrickson, and Clouser packing and replace them with lawyers. Do they have any particular friends or family members that qualify as replacements?
The Commissioners had no right to create a committee of �volunteers� in order to avoid the open meetings requirements, but they could not risk your knowing how they plan to funnel millions of your taxes to the CUC to support their pet projects. It may have been legal to exclude you and the press, but it was unethical and they should be ashamed of themselves.
The Commissioners that I know are using all of us; let their employees neglect their duties for years on end; won�t hire qualified people to fill critical positions until we are almost in state of crisis; don�t understand budget requests well enough to engage in an intelligent discussion; use the County as a welfare program for unemployed friends; and allow blatant salary discrimination.
The only time that I hear directly from them is when they want something. They want to avoid jury duty; to help a friend avoid it; or call me at home for a certified copy of a divorce decree because an important �personal business� deal needs closing. Other than that, they speak only through minions.
The Commissioners that I know are detached and unresponsive. They discriminate and allow the Facilitator to use a County car for personal business, but won�t assign a vehicle to the District Clerk. The clerks who make $8.50 an hour must drive their own vehicles to the jail to attend court at lunchtime. Meanwhile, I ran into the Facilitator in Rosenberg during lunch one day. He�s browsing around Dostal�s jewelry store. I watched him as he left the store and drove off in a shiny County vehicle!
My staff has an old County vehicle to travel to the annex several times a day to retrieve public records. Thousands of insecticide-resistant ants have taken up comfortable residence in the passenger-side door. We would like to trade cars with the Facilitator.
Commissioners have problems accepting my way of doing business and let me know that I should not ask any questions or document any official concerns. They don�t want to hear from the District Clerk. I was told to be �friendlier� towards them if I expect to get favorable consideration.
The real message was to �keep your mouth shut and put away the ink.� It was a reminder that a woman MUST be subservient or somehow useful to the men, wear an apron, and never challenge the �men in charge� if we expect to receive favorable consideration. This kind of thinking makes me pause and wonder if the �men in charge� will ever crawl out of the Dark Ages.
Commissioners should stop the practice of HIDING behind committees; facilitators; �volunteers�; District Judges; the legislature; the CUC; Justices of the Peace; or the skirts of women, particularly those of Ms. Wilson.
Come out from hiding, Commissioners. Let�s find out if you can think. I would like to hear you string two sentences together without being sarcastic, insulting, or making a silly attempt at humor. And, is it possible to demonstrate some concern for County employees and the public?
The Commissioners that I know don�t qualify for a salary increase; they have not earned it. In fact, their salaries should be cut by at least half since they are less than half as informed and educated as any group of Commissioners since 1987. There are five empty pairs of shoes that need filling, and there is a job somewhere in the statutes for anyone willing to find it and do the work.
Our Commissioners may want to be careful about how much money they award themselves, and think about McClennan County Commissioner Wendall Crunk�s joking remark when he said, �As someone once told me, if we get our salaries up too high, someone with the qualifications for this job might actually want to run.�
Think about it.
Fort Bend County District Clerk
A public and employee furor has broken out over the Collin County Commissioners proposal to raise their salaries 17%. Reports of employees attending last night's first public meeting since the proposal reflect that many here would agree with the summary above.
Ten years ago or less the County judge made the same amount of money as an experienced felony prosecutor in Fort Bend. Now it is $40k+. Is that justice or just self-appreciation?
The other scary import of Glory's article is the CUC and the plan to sell data from public records.
County Judge is Rusk county makes $50k for being County Judge and gets a $50k stipend for handling a few criminal pleas.
Pray Fort Bend doesn't hear.
I think the stipend is $15,000, cannot remember for sure, but do not believe it is as high as $50,000.
I was told it was $50k by the county judge one time, but maybe I misundertood.
CUC does not have the capability to sell the records of any elected official. By that I do not mean contractually only, I include technically capable as well.
But Ray does. See you at the Wanna Wanna, Mr. Bauer.
The problem becomes that with so many entities purchasing criminal records, along with everything else they can find from every source, it is leading to consequences for a variety of people. I had a client who was denied an apartment in Houston based on an arrest in Gregg County, and have had many clients who received a deferred for theft by check (when they were in college or following a divorce) who were either fired or denied employment because of that case. Non-disclosure is available, but does anyone think that a company whose server is located offshore will honor it?
Course on the other hand, I run every client through one of those services prior to our first meeting so I can know about their past history. At some point there is too much information available. In this case, if divorce documents are scanned without redaction of social security numbers, does anyone else see a problem?
I have looked into the issue of maintaining the privacy of social security numbers for our county clerk, who did not want to have to release her public records to a private company.
Amazingly enough--to me at least--there is very little protection in the law to prevent the release of your social security number, and nothing out there prevents the release of unredacted documents.
At least that's what the Attorney General told us when they ordered the clerk to start making copies.
Perhaps folks don't want their SSN contained in the public record. I can certainly understand that. However, linking the optical scanning of records in the public domain to some evil plot of the CUC is a bit far-fetched. And what that has to do with the price of tea in China, (or the Commissioners' pay scale) is beyond me. Yes, it would be nice to have a provision that somehow denies access to private data in the records. However, I'm not sure how that would be done retroactively as far as documents already in the files of the clerks. And I see no indication in the record of how the CUC is supposed to benefit from any of that data.
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