GOLIAD – The Goliad County Commissioners Court Monday eliminated the position of its elections administrator – in effect terminating Vicki Flores.
In the process, the five-member elections board ceases to exist.
In a move to help relieve County Clerk Mary Ellen Flores, the court last October hired Flores and established the elections board consisting of both county party chairs, the county judge, county clerk and county tax assessor.
The county planned to have the elections administrator coordinate all the elections in the county; the city and the school district declined.
Monday’s unanimous decision brings to a close a controversy that began last month when County Judge Mike Bennett tried to terminate Flores after receiving what he said were numerous complaints the he was hesitant to reveal in public.
That meeting was May 29 when he met with the elections committee at a posted meeting in the district court jury room called by the county clerk after Bennett discovered that he could not terminate the elections administrator without the approval of the elections board.
At Monday’s court session, Bennett told commissioners that County Tax Assessor Michelle Garcia had agreed to assume the elections administrator’s duties.
However, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Kenneth Edwards said that Garcia has confided in him that she was having second thoughts.
“Apparently she has changed her mind,” Bennett said. “Our goal is to have free and fair elections. When you put one person in an office by themselves, they’re not really accountable to anyone.”
Among the complaints voiced by Bennett was Flores’ not attending a budget meeting and that in the seven months she held the office she never sent a report of her activities to the county court.
Both Edwards and Precinct 4 County Commissioner David Bruns suggested tabling the issue until Garcia could be present.
Bennett scoffed at the suggestion.
“I make a deal one time,” he said. “The old system worked well for 150 years. That’s quite a track record.
“Not doing anything just because as an elected official, you don’t want to do something,” Bennett admonished the commissioners, “guess what? It comes with the job.”
Bennett also said he thought the two county chairs – Republican Kenneth Buelter and Democrat Charles Clapsaddle – had made the whole question of Vicky Flores a political issue.
“Politics should not even be part of it,” he said, “It’s just absurd. Why can’t we do things based on what is right?” he asked.
“In plain and simple terms,” Precinct 3 County Commissioner Mickey White said, “if you don’t eliminate the position of elections administrator, then you are going to have an elections board running this stuff instead of the county.”
The county clerk then suggested that she should take on the responsibilities of elections administrator and that Garcia handle voter registration with the court also hiring an extra person for the clerk’s office who would help the clerk during elections.
Forty-nine minutes after their debate began, commissioners approved the change unanimously.
Bill Clough is the Goliad editor at the Advance-Guard Press and can be reached at 361-645-2330, or at goliad@mySouTex.com.