By LeaAnne Klentzman
Protecting the taxpayer’s money is the job of Commissioner’s Court, and this week they appear to have stepped up to the plate. That being said, it will take close monitoring to make sure they really do hold Lame Ducks accountable.
In 1991 the Texas Legislature created what is commonly known as the Lame Duck Expenditures statute; it has been modified several times, the last in 2003. What it does is protect the taxpayers from Lame Duck politicians being able to throw away their agency assets after losing and election.
Hence, as one of this week’s Commissioner’s Court agenda items, proffered by County Judge Bob Herbert, is the enactment of Texas Government Code 130.908 which is the Court’s approval of Spending by Certain County and Precinct Officers once they have spent over the prescribed amount. That prescribed amount will be identified during Commissioner’s Court and is expected to be $5,000 cumulative.
The item summary on the Court’s agenda identifies it as, “Take all appropriate action to set the amount for any expenditures made without advance approval of Commissioners Court by incumbent county or precinct officers who are not renominated or reelected to the county or precinct office, pursuant to Section 130.908 of the Texas Local Government Code.”
Lame Duck Expenditures statute applies in this instance because Sheriff Milton Wright did not seek re-election and his chief deputy lost after a hotly contested primary race and also to Precinct 4 Constable Troy Nehls, who did not seek re-election for Constable but sought and won the Republican primary race for Sheriff.
With the Lame Duck statute in affect, neither office will be allowed to spend over that cumulative amount until the new elected official takes office in January of 2013. This statute does not apply to routine line item spending for utilities, payroll and functions that keep the office running. Interestingly, it also applies to the asset forfeiture funds that have in the past used rather loosely over at the Sheriff’s Office.
When contacted about this issue, Constable Nehls’ chief deputy said they were glad to see the Commissioner’s watching out for the county’s assets. The Sheriff could not be reached for comment.