Commissioner Dennis DeWitt argued that the court should no longer appoint family members to boards that report to the court — this would be unethical.
Commissioner Carlos Salazar argued that such a policy would be discriminatory in that it would mean that a segment of the county’s population, those with relatives on commissioners court, would be excluded from serving on these boards and committees.
Ultimately, the court, with exclusion of Salazar, who voted against DeWitt’s motion to exclude family from these boards, approved the resolution. County Judge David Silva did not cast a vote.
DeWitt said, “There are a number of folks on boards and committees that are reporting to commissioners court and making recommendations on financial matters and personnel matters.”
DeWitt, in his case to the court during Monday’s meeting, said that legally there was nothing barring family members from serving on these board.
“It is my understanding that it is not illegal but a lot of people have approached me in the public sector and I agree with them that there could be some ethics involved as far as the perception that the public has whenever they see a board or committee composed of brothers, sisters or uncles making recommendations to the commissioners court.”
DeWitt also wasn’t implying that there had been any nefarious activity on the part of appointed family members.
“Not to say there is anything wrong or that anyone has done anything wrong, but the view the public has is it is just not right,” DeWitt said.
“There has to be more people in a county of 30,000 folks that we don’t need to enlist the aid of our kinfolks on the committees.”
Salazar countered by saying that exclusion of these people amounts to discrimination.
“I understand where you are coming from, Dennis, but my concern is the discrimination part...
“It is discrimination when all, under the law, are given a right and that right is taken away from a selective group.”
Salazar said that this policy would be targeting a selective group of the community.
“Why should they, due to being related to a court member, be discriminated against..?
“All county taxpaying and law-abiding citizens deserve that right and should be treated the same within what the law allows and that is the key — what the law allows.
“Not this court.”
Salazar proposed, albeit unsuccessfully, a different policy to the court.
“Water it down to make it a policy not to allow a court member to nominate a relative to any committee or board and to abstain from voting when and if a relative is nominated by another member of the court.”
In fact, this has been occurring already.
In a meeting only a month ago, Salazar requested that John Silva, the brother of the county judge, be appointed to the Expo Center board.
The judge did not vote on the appointment; however, it was approved by the court.
“Just to not muddy the water, I will abstain from voting, even though this is a non-paying position,” the judge said during that meeting.
Just over a year ago, Silva made the motion that Viola Salazar, the sister of Carlos Salazar, be appointed to that same board. Viola Salazar was then a member of the Beeville ISD board and had served on the Expo Center board in the past.
In both cases, it was stressed that a seat on the board was not a paid position.
Salazar said that limiting who could serve on boards, especially in a county the size of Bee where so many people are related, would be segregating a large chunk of the county, which is why he was proposing the diluted version.
“By adopting this policy it will leave the door open for all citizens who want to contribute to this county to be able to, but most importantly all county citizens will be treated the same when the law allows and there will be no discrimination.”
DeWitt said that this wasn’t a discussion of discrimination but of holding the county to a high ethical standard.
“We are the leaders of the county. We are the example,” DeWitt said.
“What I feel is being done is not illegal but is not ethical by putting relatives on a board that reports back to us.”
Salazar maintained that this new policy was discriminatory.
“I do care about ethics,” Salazar said. “Ethics are very important...
“When you appoint somebody to a board or committee, they are just one individual.”
It is that group that votes and the consensus of opinion is what is brought to the court, he said.
Salazar added that he would have a problem if more than one relative of a commissioner was appointed to the same board.
“If it is more than one, that is unethical,” he said.
Salazar maintained that one appointment to a board was ethical and barring someone from serving wasn’t right.
“The point I got is we can be discriminating because we are selecting a group of individuals — that being our relatives — from contributing their talents and time to serve as counsels,” Salazar said.
“The majority of times it is not an ethical issue whatsoever.
“Right after this they have an appointment to the board of the (Bee Community Action Agency) and the gentleman happens to be my uncle. At the recommendations of the Boys and Girls Club and even at the recommendation of (the BCA executive director), this gentleman is doing an outstanding job.
“We are going to lose that asset to that board simply because what you are saying is unethical.”
Commissioners did not appoint anyone to that board Monday.
Family members currently serving on boards will remain but can’t be reappointed.
DeWitt said, “Of all people we need to be ethical.”
Salazar interjected, “And we need to not discriminate.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.