“On Monday, Aug. 20, during the public hearing on the proposed budget, Commissioner (Dennis) DeWitt decided it was a great opportunity for him to grandstand at the expense of the court and I mean it literally when I say expense.”
During that meeting, DeWitt called on his fellow court members to match his donation of $500 to the library.
The court, during its budget hearings, had cut the library’s funding by $13,000.
Library staff and patrons pleaded during that hearing for the commissioners to restore their funding to the $70,000 they had received a few years prior.
“I would like to challenge each commissioners court member to match my wife’s and my check to the library,” DeWitt said during the public hearing last week. “I issue that challenge to each of the members of the court.”
In all, two other commissioners, Ken Haggard and Eloy Rodriguez, and a county employee donated.
On Monday this week, Salazar continued reading his statement, saying, “The majority of the court did not approve or appreciate his actions in trying to challenge each court member to meet his donation to the public library.
“For most of us on this court, our donations to any entity are private. There is no need to make sure the public or media know.
“They come from the heart with no underlying meaning.
“I ask the commissioner in the future not to advertise his donation in the court setting...”
Salazar stressed that he had no animosity toward their making the donation to the library. It was merely the way it was done.
“It has nothing to do with the public library,” Salazar said. “It could have been the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts.
“It is just the whole idea of how it occurred.”
Prior to this meeting, commissioners held their second public hearing on the proposed budget and County Auditor Blandina Costley announced that the court was able to add an additional $10,000 to the library’s budget.
“In case you missed it,” the judge said, noting the lack of fanfare from the audience of that hearing which included library staff and board members, “the library just got $10,000 more.”
Silva, after the meeting, said that they were able to scrounge the money together because the district attorney’s office would not need as much from the general fund.
“There was a forfeiture fund that increased,” he said. The D.A.’s office would be able to utilize that to fund part of its law enforcement necessities and would need less in its taxpayer funded budget.
During last week’s public hearing, board members, staff and the public pleaded with commissioners to restore the funding which was cut due to budget constraints.
This year’s budget remains balanced and does not include a tax increase. It is actually a tax rate decrease.
That’s thanks to the unprecedented amount of sales tax coming in to the county, $1.7 million.
The commissioners are expected to adopt a tax rate of 49.8 cents per $100 property valuation – and that even includes a pay increase for county employees.
Salazar also mentioned during his speech Monday that he felt the judge should be notified of problems in the courthouse prior to the media.
This came about because of DeWitt, who would later file his objection to the tone of Salazar’s statements, commenting in a story about state silhouettes placed backwards in the rotunda of the courthouse.
“I was surprised to learn about it in the newspaper as was the judge and some of the other commissioners,” Salazar said. “I would just like to know how did that occur that the judge was not informed about it before.
“It took a 10-second fix to get it corrected.
“Yet it hit the newspapers and Channel 3 on Friday.”
Salazar said that the silhouettes were inadvertently placed backwards by maintenance crews called in to clean the glass of flying ants.
“When you are up there looking down at them they look right,” he said. However, when viewed from below, the state is backwards. “In order to prevent something like this, the judge should be informed of any activity like that and not find out from the newspaper.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.