Lunch with the Minchews….In a previous column I reported that I was having lunch with sheriff candidate John Minchew and his wife in order to know him better and to ferret out his real reason for running.
Actually I have known John Minchew from when we both lived in Missouri City. However, I have never spent any up close and personal time with him.
I found out that he was motivated to run for sheriff as a result of his service on the municipal utility district board in Pecan Grove. The MUD board hires either the sheriff’s department or the constable’s office to provide extra security to the subdivision. In fact the contract for the extra security has been a contentious issue in the past which I will discuss later.
In any event, Mr. Minchew had previous law enforcement experience and had climbed the corporate ladder with a national security company. In other words, he knew what was going on.
And what was going on was that the sheriff’s department was receiving over $300,000 a year plus a vehicle to provide security but was not spending the requisite amount of time in the subdivision that the contract called for.
Mr. Minchew did a casual audit of the records and discovered many times when the deputy was supposed to be in the subdivision and turned in time sheets that he was in the subdivision, yet was strangely missing.
When Mr. Minchew called it to the sheriff’s department and the county auditor’s attention, he found the books closed to him unless he went through the Texas Attorney General’s office to force the release of those records.
Remember, during the time and even now, he is a member of the board that hires the extra security. When the Attorney General made the sheriff’s department release the information, many times it was in such a bad shape he had to spend hours organizing it.
Eventually, the county had to return monies to Pecan Grove. To save face, they claimed they returned money to all the contracts because the cost of gas went down.
Pecan Grove changed their security contract to a constable’s office and have been happy ever since, mainly because the constable has someone stationed in the subdivision when he is supposed to be there, not running up and down FM 359 on other county business.
John Minchew says he is running for sheriff because he doesn’t think the current sheriff has any idea how to run the department and because he doesn’t think the sheriff’s heir apparent, who has actually been running (or not) the department almost since Milton Wright was sworn in as sheriff, knows how to do it any better. Minchew thinks he can do a much better job.
In our hour and half lunch he outlined some steps to me that sure makes sense to me and would seem to save the department a lot of money.
The sheriff’s department is responsible for 23 percent of the budget for the whole county which translates to $55 million, yes MILLION. The current sheriff is clueless and his heir apparent has never had a job except as a sheriff’s deputy and now chief deputy.
Fort Bend County must elect a sheriff that knows how to manage money and men (or women).
I’m pretty convinced that John Minchew, a man with an even temper, married to his first wife with no girlfriends on the side, owning his own business, and experience in law enforcement is the sheriff to lead Fort Bend County without politics or polemics.
About those subdivision security contracts…….For many years, the subdivision security contracts were handled by various constables in Fort Bend. This was a good thing for the subdivisions because they got a patrol that was licensed and had received law enforcement training.
The subdivisions usually paid for the contract through dues to their HOA (homeowners’s associations) who then hired the constable who hired the deputies. The contract monies didn’t go to the constables, although deputies were paid out of it. Any extra money flowed into the county’s general fund.
Then one day the sheriff looked around (or some sheriff from some other jurisdiction at a sheriff convention alerted Sheriff Wright) and saw that he could hire more deputies with subdivision money and get more cars to hand out to his pet deputies.
The sheriff went after the subdivision contracts with a vengeance. He would claim that the subdivision got the finest in law enforcement and if the deputy got a call from somewhere close by, why then he would be gone for just a little while to tend to county business. The sheriff assured the HOAs that for their money and the vehicle they buy, they were getting the patrolman most of the time.
Now I have a problem with the sheriff’s department getting paid for doing something they are supposed to do anyway. What about those subdivisions who can’t afford extra protection? Isn’t that what our tax money is supposed to be for anyway?
I’m not as troubled by the constable’s office handling the extra security. That’s not actually their taxpayer paid job–to patrol subdivisions. Their actual paid-for job is to serve papers and any constables that have security contracts with subdivisions usually hire extra help to do the patrol job.
It is as plain as the nose on your face that if you hire the sheriff’s department to patrol your subdivision, you are paying twice–once in taxes and once with your HOA dues.
But the sheriff went on a PR campaign and cozied up to the board of directors of various sub-divisions. Then he made sure that the board members stayed happy.
But even before that, constable contracts to patrol subdivisions took a turn when then-Constable Hal Werlein had the contract for Pecan Grove. One of his deputy constables wrote a “running stop sign” or “not having proper license plate” or some other piddling little offense ticket to home builder Frank Marsters who lived in Pecan
Grove and was married to the local popular elementary school principal. Werlein reportedly tore up the ticket and told the deputy constable, Troy Nehls, that Marsters was a supporter and resident and didn’t need that ticket.
Unbeknownst to Werlein, Nehls fished the ticket out of the trash, taped it back together and when Werlein fired him for mouthing it around, Nehls eventually made it a matter of his campaign to unseat Werlein when he ran against him.
Other county politics……I’m sure you noticed that Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole resigned as commissioner. Eversole and a pal were indicted for various misuse of campaign money and suspected bribery. His pal was Michael Surface who has been busily developing parts of Fort Bend, particularly in the Fulshear area. I’ve poured through campaign contribution reports of our own commissioners and haven’t been able to find any connection with Surface.
Being a county commissioner is a license to steal, mostly by hiding campaign contributions. And actually, we just have to take their word for it that they received X amount of dollars and spent them such and such. County commissioners have no bosses except the voter and most get paid enough to keep them from stealing too much. Besides if they did, we might notice the big money they were stealing.
They make over $100,000 and while they are not going to get rich on that salary, they will be able to live in a nice home and send their kids to college. What more do you need?
However, I keep my eyes on them..