The comment came about as part of a discussion about allowing employees of the county road and bridge department to use county equipment to dig a burn pit at the citizens collection station.
Rosales, who placed the item on the agenda for consideration, said the idea of digging a burn pit at the site of the collection station, was to save the county a lot of money through burning of trash.
Rosales said that before he asked the road and bridge administrator to dig the pit, he checked with the county auditor to see if a private contractor could be hired for the job. As funds to pay the contractor weren’t readily available, Rosales said he asked Road and Bridge Administrator Jeff Wiatrek to direct employees of the county road and bridge department to dig the pit.
Wiatrek described the job as something that would take about three hours to do. He agreed to direct his employees to dig the pit the next Monday morning.
Rosales made arrangements with Jesse Jonas to separate the trash and organize a way to burn the trash in the burn pit.
Two weeks later, Rosales noticed the pit had not been dug, so he called Wiatrek to find out why.
“What did you tell me?” Rosales asked Wiatrek in Commissioners Court.
“I said I talked to the judge and the judge told me not to do it, that I should stay on the roads, so that’s what I did,” Wiatrek said.
“We assigned each other these jobs,” Rosales, referring to the fact that he had been appointed by the court to oversee operations at the collection station.
“I’m not throwing you under the boat but I am asking you this in Commissioners Court, under what authority did you have to stop what I had already started?” Rosales asked Judge Shaw.
“Because when Jeff asked me – he said, well I am going to dig that pit,” Shaw responded. “And... everybody has been pulling Jeff off the road and bridge administrator’s duties... So I asked (County Attorney) Bob (Busselman) and then I called TAC (Texas Association of Counties) and I asked them, I said, is one commissioner supposed to be able to do that? Or is it supposed to be the commissioners as a whole. And they said, when he has road and bridge duties, and his job is defined by statute, and any time you take him out of statute, you need Commissioners Court action or it is illegal. And that is the only reason.”
Rosales asked Shaw why he wasn’t notified that the road and bridge employees had been instructed not to dig the pit.
“When you knew that, and you stopped him, I would have been okay with that,” Rosales said. “Why didn’t you call me and let me know what you were doing.”
“If you guys talk. I am not going to do that whole thing with that quorum thing. It needs to be done openly,” Shaw said.
“I don’t come over here to your office and stop the progress of something in your office,” Rosales said. “I would never do that. Who’s next?”
Commissioner Carl Hummel mentioned the fact that the judge had directed road and bridge employees to move the office furniture from her office to the juvenile probation building without approval from Commissioners Court. He mentioned other times that road and bridge employees had been directed to do other jobs.
“That’s why I asked TAC,” Shaw said. “Just because historically it has been done, doesn’t make it right.
“What do we need commissioners for if you want to call TAC every time we need to do something,” Hummel said. “TAC is not running this county.”
Shaw mentioned the number of road and bridge complaints the county was getting and the fact that the collection station had been out of compliance with TCEQ.
“I think you overstepped your boundaries,” Rosales said to Judge Shaw. “We are all up here and we sit as equals. Five equal votes. I don’t see none of y’all as my boss. Nor the judge. I am not y’all’s boss. We sit up here as equals. I would not do that to y’all. I would not go try to squash y’all. I am telling you right now, judge. Y’all are not going to squash me. I am not here to get squashed by nobody.”
Rosales asked the county attorney if the county judge can supercede directions given by a county commissioner.
County Attorney Robert Busselman said that the law assigns certain duties to the road and bridge department and these duties can’t be changed by any one member of the court.
“You can’t pull him off and have him do something that would be illegal for him to do without somebody saying, ‘Hey, you can’t do that,’” Busselman explained.
“I could have been called, judge,” Rosales said. “Out of respect and equality – because we are equal up here – out of that, you should have called me and said, ‘James, you are making a mistake.”
The county attorney asked if there was a problem with burning trash inside the city limits.
“There is,” Shaw said. “Historically we burn all the time, but we just got in trouble with TCEQ so I guess we don’t follow the rules.”
The court discussed how to go about separating items that can’t be legally burned such as tires or computers.
“This is ridiculous to talk about this because you can’t burn anyway,” Busselman said.
Rosales explained that all the confusion and stress over the situation at the county collection station caused the county to lose a valuable employee – Jesse Jonas.
Karnes City City Administrator Larry Pippen, who was at the meeting, stepped forward to shed some light on the topic.
“You are saying that the city does not allow y’all to burn, and that’s not true,” Pippen explained. “I had that worked out a long time ago that the city would allow the county to burn at this collection station as long as it had the authorization and permission of TCEQ.”
“With no tires in it” Judge Shaw said.
“Tires, you can not burn,” Pippen said, ‘but everything else you can burn.”
“That’s what we kept getting in trouble for,” Shaw said. “Repeatedly we have got violations from TCEQ for burning tires.”
Commissioner Rosales asked the road and bridge administrator if he would be willing to dig the pit.
“This is a problem,” Wiatrek said. “This is a Karnes County problem. I work for the county. We’ve got a dozer running – but I can pull it off for half a day and we can get this job done.”
Rosales made a motion to allow road and bridge employees to dig a burn pit at the collection station.
Commissioner Hummel seconded the motion which passed with all voting in favor.
During consideration of advertising to hire a replacement for the position at the collection station which was vacated when Jesse Jonas resigned, Commissioner Rosales asked Jonas if he would reconsider and come back to work for the county at the collection station.
“Yeah, if we can all cooperate together and get things going,” Jonas said, agreeing to withdraw his resignation.