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Karnes City leaders seeking answers from county judge
by Joe Baker
Jan 16, 2014 | 88 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Karnes City Council Members Jimmy Loya, Mary Kruciak, Sherry Sommer, Lillian Lyssy and Interim Mayor Leroy Skloss discuss agenda items during the Jan. 9 meeting.
From left, Karnes City Council Members Jimmy Loya, Mary Kruciak, Sherry Sommer, Lillian Lyssy and Interim Mayor Leroy Skloss discuss agenda items during the Jan. 9 meeting.
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KARNES CITY – The Karnes City Council sent a written request to Karnes County Judge Barbara Shaw to appear before the council at their Jan. 9 meeting to discuss recent comments she made about Karnes City in a San Antonio Express-News article.

The comments were included in an article titled “Eagle Ford impact on Karnes: Great gains and big needs” which was published Dec. 29, 2013.

The article quoted Shaw as saying that she is afraid elected officials and others will bungle a rare opportunity to create lasting improvements across Karnes County.

“We’ve had oil plays before, and we had uranium, but we never did the right thing with the money,” Shaw said in the article. “We should make this a welcoming place to be in 30 years, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Drive through downtown Karnes City. Would you want to live there?”

The article paraphrased Shaw as saying that the sudden wealth is leading to greed and selfishness, from the landlord now charging five times the former rent, to shortsighted public officials eager to stuff their budgets.

“I’d like to see some common sense come back. Everyone sees the money coming in and they want to spend it as fast as possible,” Shaw said.

The written request was delivered to Judge Shaw’s office on Jan. 6 by Karnes City Police Chief Eddie Salas at the request of Karnes City Manager Don Tymrak so that there would be verification that it had been received in time for the meeting.

Shaw responded in writing with a note saying it was in response to “Summons by Chief of Police.”

In her response, Shaw said, “First of all, I am stunned to have been summoned by law enforcement for the City Council to be placed on the agenda for something that does not require a vote by the council in accordance with the Local Government Code (LGC).”

“Secondly,” the response continued, “I do not understand your position. If anyone on the city council would like to speak with me they are more than welcome to come by my office. I am sure that if anyone actually had concerns about what I said they would come see me versus staging a circus.”

“In the future, please refrain from having me summoned by law-enforcement as I am not a criminal. There is no conspiracy here; therefore, freedom of speech should not be censored or dictated by the Karnes City, City Council,” the letter concluded.

According to the city manager, there have been conflicts between himself and Shaw in his position as city manager, and prior to that when he was mayor. There have also been conflicts between Shaw and the city council, itself, Tymrak explained.

Tymrak said that most recently, there was a dispute involving damage to the driveway in front of Shaw’s home in Karnes City. Shaw appeared before the city council Nov. 26 requesting $14,000 to pay for damages to her driveway that she claimed were caused by the city as the result of water leaks in city water lines under the driveway. The city council denied Shaw’s request based on the fact that the city’s insurance policy had denied the claim.

On Jan. 10, an attorney representing Kyle Shaw and Barbara Shaw filed a civil lawsuit in district court against the City of Karnes City on Jan. 10 seeking not less than $14,438 in damages related to damaged to the driveway.

The city manager said he didn’t think there was a direct connection between any of these conflicts and the comments made by Shaw in the article.

The council listened to public comments related to the agenda item about the newspaper article when it was up for discussion during the Jan. 9 meeting.

Kenedy resident Maurice Yarter said Shaw’s comments show a lack of leadership and characterized the comments as slurs to the people of Karnes City and Karnes County.

City Council Member Sherry Sommer made a comment in response to what Yarter had to say.

“I too felt like to all the cities and the county – it was directed at Karnes City, but it was a very negative statement,” Sommer said. “I am very proud of the county that we live in and I am very proud of each city. I feel like we are on an upswing. I think this is our season. It is the most exciting time that I can remember – ever. I was just a little bit taken aback and I appreciate that the council wanted to address this.”

Sommer added that she was interested in finding out if Shaw might have been misquoted.

City Manager Don Tymrak said the item was not placed on the agenda as a way to “bash” the county judge.

“The article that came out presented a number of unanswered questions that could only be answered by her,” Tymrak said, adding that he was concerned that the article, which was picked up by several statewide daily newspapers, could harm the reputation of Karnes City.

Mayor Pro Tem Leroy Skloss said he didn’t understand the comment about “short sighted” public officials eager to “stuff budgets.”

Skloss said he would like to know specifically which officials the judge was referring to.

Tymrak emphasized that the letter was an invitation, and not a “summons” as Shaw referred to it in her response.

Karnes City Resident Robert Busselman told the council that the city has a legitimate complaint in regard to the judge’s comments.

Council Member Raymond Robinson said that he would like to see the issue placed on the agenda for Commissioners Court. Tymrak said at one county commissioner indicated that he would place the item on an upcoming agenda.

The Karnes Countywide reached out to Shaw for comment on Jan. 10 and during a telephone interview Shaw said that her comments were reported accurately by John MacCormack, the reporter who wrote the story.

“I told John a lot of stuff during that interview,” Shaw said. “I’m sure that is probably pretty accurate.”

Karnes City needs a facelift, Shaw said, emphasizing that the city council should work toward improving the appearance of the city from the perspective of visitors from other places.

“If you come in at any angle, it doesn’t look like this little town is booming,” Shaw said.

Reports about Karnes County and the oil and gas boom happening here typically raise the expectations of those who come here from other places, Shaw explained.

“We need to start making it pretty,” Shaw said. “I am not ashamed to live here at all.”

In regard to the comment about “stuffed” budgets, Shaw said that particular comment was not directed specifically at the Karnes City Council, but at all the local entities that are benefiting from new tax revenue brought as a result of the boom, Commissioners Court included.

“Everybody says that they are working to do better,” Shaw said. “I don’t see a lot of things changing.”
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