Elected officials salaries hot topic in court

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, August 9, 2017

By Larry Holt

The Orange Leader


Usual and customary county business aside, the agenda item regarding setting salaries, expenses and other allowances of all elected county officials was the topic that garnered the most diverse and prolonged discussion from court members, citizens, and elected officials alike.

Judge Stephen ‘Brint’ Carlton led the discussion and explained the pay discrepancy has been an ongoing issue each court struggled with, due mainly to overall lack of funds to make an appropriate, equitable adjustment.

Carlton said, “Now we have the funds.”

“Our efforts are to reset the benchmark to take effect October 1st, and do so in such a way no one loses money in the process,” Commissioner John Gothia said. “We are in a good position to correct the matrix. It’s a good starting point and we can adjust moving forward.”

A female citizen questioned members of the court by saying, “I looked at the documents and I don’t understand how you can vote yourselves a raise. It doesn’t seem right.”

Carlton responded with he and Commissioners Burton and Crump have waived any increase in pay, expenses or other allowances until after the next election.

“I am the only Sheriff in Texas that makes less than his Chief Deputy,” Sheriff Keith Merritt.

He challenged the court to make it right for the Orange County Sheriff position because the current pay structure is, “Not right and should be fixed, for anyone coming into office in that position.”

Another female citizen addressed the court and stated in no uncertain terms she was disappointed in members of the court as a body that is “supposed to be working for the citizens of Orange County.”

She said, “You all ran to help the citizens and not as a job to climb the ladder.”

After all parties in session today had their opportunity to say their piece and after all aspects of the issue had been thoroughly discussed, the court failed to pass the proposed elected official pay matrix but instead proposed and adopted a 3 percent cost of living increase, in addition to a $720 per year cellphone stipend for each official.

The COLA increase was what elected official County Clerk Brandy Robertson proposed to the court because she said, “When I was elected I understood I was going to get a raise over time. I haven’t seen one at all.”

Robertson said other people have gotten COLA increases but she hasn’t and that it seems only right that COLA should be applied to everyone countywide and Commissioner Burton agreed.

After discussions were concluded on all county business, Robert Rothrock, of Orange, stood and addressed the court.

“If I were to grade this court I would give you all an F,” Rothrock said. “You are supposed to be doing the business of the county and yet you can take a drive in your brand new pickup truck down Simmons Drive and see the right of way isn’t cut. Same with Chemical Row and other places.”

He closed his remarks with a polite thank you after leaving the court with, “Do your job.”