That’s the conclusion of two county commissioners, a justice of the peace secretary and the county clerk.
“It’s a terrible system,” Precinct 2 County Commissioner Dennis DeWitt told commissioners at their regular meeting Monday morning.
“You can’t make a confidential telephone call,” he said.
DeWitt, Precinct 4 County Commissioner Kenneth Haggard, Adriana Sauceda, secretary to Justice of the Peace Raul Casarez, and County Clerk Mirella Escamilla Davis all have reported hearing other conversations when trying to use what supposedly is their private line.
According to DeWitt, Davis once picked up her phone and realized she was listening to his private conversation.
In another instance, Sauceda picked up her phone and heard DeWitt talking.
According to DeWitt, she hung up her phone and walked down the hall to his office. “I knew it was you,” she told him, “because you were still on the phone.”
“It’s got to be in the wiring,” Haggard said, who told commissioners he often finds long-distance calls he didn’t make appearing on his monthly bill.
“There’s no telling how long this has been going on,” DeWitt says, “but I first started noticing it about 18 months ago.”
He brought up the security problem during discussions following a request by Precinct 3 Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez to be assigned a larger office in the courthouse.
“Last week, I had a private conversation with three or four other people of a highly sensitive nature,” DeWitt said. “The subject got out to a town 90 miles away.”
DeWitt and others routinely now have their calls automatically forwarded to their cellphones to avoid the courthouse telephone circuitry.
“The problem isn’t building-wide,” says County Judge David Silva. “It seems to be affecting only a few phones in the system.”
Commissioners Carlos Salazar and Rodriguez say they have not encountered the problem.
Silver Communications of Corpus Christi is under contract to maintain the courthouse phone system. Authorization to track down the crosstalk problem will be on the agenda at the court’s next meeting Monday, Feb. 25.
A proposal for bids for a new phone system for the courthouse was not included in the county’s 2013 budget.
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.