ESD resolution fails to gain support, yet again
The third time was not the charm for County Judge Roger Harmon.
Commissioners again denied his request Monday to give court members the opportunity, provided by state law, to remove an appointed member of the Emergency Services District's board of directors.
The resolution failed Monday by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Kenny Howell, Jerry Stringer and Larry Woolley opposing the measure. It had failed to garner support of the court two previous times.
"It was considered to be politics," Harmon said.
Stringer's appointment to the ESD had been asked to resign in unity, by a 9-0 vote, by ESD-member fire chiefs during the final days of Stringer's primary election.
"We're not having those problems now," Harmon said.
An ESD commissioner could still only be removed for incompetency, gross misconduct or misconduct, as defined by state law, had the resolution passed.
"If something gets out of control or out of hand, we [would] have the power to remove that person," Harmon said.
Commissioner Rick Bailey, who supported Harmon in pursuing passage, pleaded with the majority court members to reconsider.
"I feel strongly we should assist if the situation arises," Bailey said. "It's a good statute passed to allow us the ability to do this."
Stringer led opposition to the resolution.
"All my sources tell me we don't want this unless we need it," he said. "We can institute this at any time in the future if it is needed."
But when it was needed, it was deemed to be political, Bailey said.
"We needed it before," he said.
"No we did not need it before, because it did not meet the requirements of removing someone," Stringer said. "That right there tells me why we don't want it, because you made it political."
"It's not political," Bailey said.
"It is political," Stringer countered.
That's also what Stringer's prior ESD appointment said in his March resignation, citing unnamed "outside media and political influences."
There's no politics that could be involved now, Harmon said, adding "I've never voted on anything in this courtroom that was for political reasons."
There would never be a time where raising the resolution because it was needed would not be deemed by someone as being political, Bailey said.
Woolley cautioned the court to tread lightly in ever adopting the resolution. Howell told a story that the resolution is available to counties because of one ESD board that could not get a quorum and could not get members removed, but other state law provides for that case.
Adoption wouldn't necessarily have resulted in removal of a ESD commissioner in the past, County Attorney Bill Moore inferred.
"It's a high burden," he said. "[A commissioner can't be removed] just because someone is disagreeable."
The reason for adoption, Harmon said, is to rectify a problem.
"If there's not a problem on the ESD board, it concerns me the signal we're sending from the commissioner's court," Woolley said. "We're hanging a noose over the ESD commissioners' heads."
Bailey returned to the original argument that it has been political.
"It's not a witch hunt," he said. "That was referred to the last time. It protects the citizens. This is not political. It's simple."
Harmon agreed: "It is simple to me."
"It is simple," Woolley said. "If someone has committed a criminal act, they're going to get drug through the mud, rain or shine."
"It's not slander or smearing somebody," Bailey said. "They know they messed up, or they wouldn't be on the way out."
That led to the vote for the resolution, which failed again by another identical 3-2 vote.
"That's what I thought," Harmon said.