(Orange, Texas)


September 11, 2013

Elected officials salaries hot debate

ORANGE — The Matrix remains a hot topic in Commissioners Court as the court discusses elected officials pay compensation.

The Matrix, a chart that shows the range of salaries in the county, is used when a decision is being made about how much salaries should increase.

The Matrix, when first implemented in the county, caused every employee and elected official to be reclassified to determine where on the matrix pay scale they needed to be for their position. Articles previously in The Orange Leader reference the pay matrix upset some people as far back as 2007.

Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt asked the court for the third year in a row to address his placement on the matrix.

“I am only asking to be placed on the matrix where I should be,” Merritt said during Commissioners Court meeting on Monday. “I have been with the county for twenty years, all in law enforcement.”

Merritt is in his fifth term as sheriff and his 5th term as an elected official. He was allowed to carry his time as constable due to all of his time as an elected official is in law enforcement.

Commissioner Pct. 3 John Banken said no one was where they should be on the matrix.

“Some have not had a raise in five years according to the matrix the court approved,” Banken said. “If we do nothing now, it could be six years before someone gets compensation.”

Merritt said he had sent a letter asking to speak with the members of the court concerning his salary and when he did not hear from any of them, he approached them individually.

“All of you agreed I was not where I should be,” Merritt said. “I am not asking for anything but to be where I am suppose to be. I have three employees making more than the sheriff.”

Last year, the chief deputy made more than the sheriff but raises in the 2009-2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement between Orange County and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Employees Union provided for salary increases for the chief deputy and captains. The agreement was received by the county judge on Sept. 16, 2009.

Banken said that he would not vote for one person to have a raise.

“Everybody should be treated the same,” Banken said. “We would need to bring all elected officials to where they need to be.”

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said no one is making 4th or 5th term that deserves to be making it.

Orange County Clerk Karen Jo Vance asked the court how this happened with the sheriff.

“None of my employees make more than me,” Vance said.

Thibodeaux said he was prepared to accept a motion to move the sheriff to fourth term pay compensation.

The item died due to lack of a motion.

The court discussed the District Judges supplement salary from the county, $15,000 each. The State recently increased the judges wages by $15,000 according to the court. The court voted to decrease the supplement by $15,000 leaving the pay compensation the same as the previous year and meeting the stature that requires the County Court at Law judges at the required $1,000 below the district judges.

Assistant County Attorney Douglas E. Manning asked if anyone had contacted the judges about the supplement.

“As a courtesy, did you give notice of removal or reduction of the supplement,” Manning said. “Also, what about the district attorney? Stature says the DA cannot make more than $1,000 less than what the district judges make.”

Manning also pointed out to the court that without the $15,000 there was no way to compensate for the district judges health insurance or retirement.

“Did you think about this before you did it?,” Manning asked. “Jill [Personnel Director] needs guidance, someone is going to have to tell her how to do this.”

Thibodeaux said people could file a grievance by sending a letter to his office.

“Everyone has a right to file a grieve and for it to go before the Salary Grievance Committee,” Thibodeaux said. “The committee is made up of seven people.”

The vote was polled Commissioner Pct. 1 David Dubose, Commissioner Pct. 2 Owen Burton, Commissioner Pct. 4 Jody Crump voted to decrease the judges and district attorney supplement by $15,000. County Judge Carl Thibodeaux and Commissioner Pct. 3 John Banken voted against.

Thibodeaux said the notice of the proposed salaries for the elected officials for the fiscal year 2013/2014 would be published in the Wednesday publication.

The salaries are expected to be adopted at the 2 p.m. Sept. 23 Commissioners Court meeting.

The employees of Orange County are on a separate matrix from the elected officials.

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