Judge, Commissioners Still Going After Constables, Griffin

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Commissioners Court, Take Action, Election 2008, The Budget, 2008 Primary, Williamson County at 12:04 pm by wcnews

It’s A long story, goes all the way back to the Blogspot version of EOW, Why does Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley want to abolish the constable’ office? Mr. Griffin, not wanting to “play ball” with the commissioners, but mainly Lisa Birkman, back then decided to accept the inevitable defunding of his office.

Today the AusChron has an article, Constables: The Rodney Dangerfields of Police Work, about how sparse the funding for all commissioners was in the current budget process until they decided to speak up. They’ve since remedied the situation a bit, except for Precinct 1, Gary Griffin’s precinct.

At first blush, it seemed that all Williamson Co. constables would end up as empty-handed casualties in the annual county budget war. But as the meat-grinding process has played out over the past two weeks, only one constable, Precinct 1’s Gary Griffin — long a political thorn in the side of the Commissioners Court — was left with the emptiest pockets. The commissioners’ tightfisted fiscal strike against Griffin likely stems from his ongoing legal battle against the court for cutting his budget by 70% in mid-2005. The lawsuit is pending in Austin’s 3rd Court of Appeals.

I guess that’s what the people of precinct 1 deserve for electing Griffin as their Constable. It continues:

For a while it looked as though all the constables would end up in the same boat as Griffin. County Judge Dan Gattis’ initial recommendations, discussed at a July 24 budget hearing, would have denied the constables any increases in personnel or operational funds.

The constables each told the court they desperately needed increases in resources because a “tsunami” in their workload, as Precinct 3 Constable Bobby Gutierrez put it, will hit once a monetary cap on lawsuits handled by justice courts doubles from $5,000 to $10,000, effective next month.

As in previous budget battles, each of the four constables again appeared before the court to define and defend their elected positions. “I’m proud to be a constable. If not for us … victims would go without justice,” Precinct 2 Constable Dale Vannoy told the court. (Commissioners might also wish to consult the Texas Constitution, the Texas Statutes Code of Criminal Procedure, and their own website, www.wilco.org/constables, for further understanding of the office.)

In justifying his proposed cuts in surveillance equipment, Gattis seemed to question the legal powers given constables, when sheriff’s deputies are equipped to handle law-enforcement matters. “The court needs to decide — do you want to equip the constables to do traffic?” But then he added, “I haven’t any argument you are a full-fledged police officer.”

Constable Gutierrez testified next, saying: “It’s unreasonable to assume Sheriff James Wilson can handle everything in the entire county. … If we can catch it, we need to be able to clean it.” Commissioner Lisa Birkman responded, “I’ve never, ever seen a constable write a ticket in my neighborhood.” But Griffin quickly corrected that assumption. “We do write tickets in Precinct 1,” he told Birkman. “In fact, I think your husband was stopped, Lisa, as was Judge [John] Doerfler, by a deputy constable.” Birkman brushed off his response, noting that the traffic stop was “only a warning.”

Griffin continued, “I don’t come to your office and talk about the landfill … or the dog pound,” he said of the county’s current trouble spots. “I don’t tell the judge how to judge. You’ve gotta give us some trust. The voters did,” Griffin said. “Why are constables perceived as second-class?”

Nice shot Constable. From what Judge Gattis says and by the actions of the previous court there’s little understanding of what constables do and that Constables are elected by the people and are a mandated by the Texas Constitution. From what I understand in Harris County the Constables Office is the main “law enforcement” agency, the Sheriff’s department only runs the jail.

For all we know this could just be some internal WCGOP political or personality struggle that’s being played in our county government. Ignorance, incompetence and pettiness is no way to run a government. If the current Bush administration has taught us anything it’s that. It’s not clear yet if Constable Griffin will run again, or if he’ll have a primary challenger. That should not dissuade anyone from joining this race on the Democratic side.

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