Open Letter to Hays County Commissioner Jeff Barton
by Sam Brannon
Commissioner Barton -
There are a few things on my mind that I want to share with you. I’m sharing this with some friends and neighbors, and suggest they pass it along to their own friends and neighbors, too.
I’ll be at your “High Noon” meeting on Monday, at the corner of Front Street and Center Street in Kyle, as you advertised in yesterday’s Hill Country Rambler section of the Austin American-Statesman. I’ll be happy to discuss these items with you in front of whoever chooses to join us.
1) You and I have talked about insincerity in the commissioners court meetings at least twice. When I was addressing the court about the Nicholson Ranch purchase on Tuesday, you broke into an animatedly smug grin. I called you on that. This and other comments from you while I and others were addressing our concerns over the last few months demonstrate your contempt for the people you were hired to serve. That’s undignified in any context, and is unacceptable conduct by a public official to tax-paying constituents.
2) I recall the day in court when a couple of dozen Wimberley and Dripping Springs residents drove in for the discussion on the Park Bond project funding. There was a great deal of anxiety over the lack of a process or any scoring mechanisms in the spending of about $25 million of that bond money. Its clear to anyone familiar with the ordeal that the project decisions were essentially arbitrary. And when taxpayers stated their displeasure with this, you told the people who pay your salary – and whose borrowed money you were spending - that you don’t have to allow them to speak in court. Another example of your contempt for the people of Hays County, and its completely unacceptable from a public servant.
3) At the recent Public Hearings on the property tax rate increase on the people of Hays County, and the pay raise you were trying to give yourself, one citizen asked the court a question about other recent pay raises. You and the other commissioners took a few minutes to explain the 2% raise in FY 2008. But that was all you mentioned. You refused to fully answer her question.
When I was allowed to follow that question up, asking “What other recent pay raises have you had”, you and the others on the court took 5 or 10 minutes talking about calculations and citizen councils, but you never did answer the question. I commented on that at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, I had to visit the County Auditor’s office to find the answer. In addition to the 2% raise in FY 2008, you gave yourself a 14.61% pay increase in 2009. You voted yourself a 17% in the past two years and couldn’t say it out loudin front of taxpayers (voters). You couldn’t give the honest answer… the answer two people were looking for from you. You refused. Again, unacceptable.
4) You have repeatedly claimed that you did not take the 14.61% pay raise, and that is an insincere answer at best, and I can just as easily call it an outright lie. According to the County Auditor’s office, you DID immediately accept a 3% pay increase, and just 10 weeks later began taking the other 11.61%. When you use clever wording to let people think you rejected the pay raise you gave yourself, its a lie.
5) The fact that you were – in these tough economic times - attempting to give yourself another pay raise while raising property tax rates is disgusting. But at last week’s League of Women Voters candidates debate, you claimed credit having “led the way” on keeping property tax rates constant for FY ’11. I’m pretty sure the 100 or so taxpayers who helped defeat your increases would call that another lie. I sure do.
6) On Tuesday we saw another example of the commissioners’ court’s”Slush-Fund Accounting”. Several weeks ago the court approved $2 million in “emergency spending” to fix problems at the jail. $500,000 was approved for air conditioning. In court Tuesday, we learned that it would only cost $270,000. When Judge Sumter asked why it wasn’t really $500,000, it was explained that that number was just a place holder… list price, and that the commissioners expected the real number would be less. It was clear that the court intended to find another project on which to blow the savings.
If you don’t understand why this is a problem, you’re not worthy of the trust we’ve given you. There is no justification for authorizing inflated projects in an “emergency spending” situation, only to later pass the inflated amount off to other projects that were not directly associated with the $2,000,000 you authorized.
I’ve had enough of hearing the court discuss how you’re going to “spend the savings”… its an almost weekly occurrence. That’s what we call “Slush-Fund Accounting”, and it makes your numerous public claims of the “millions you saved on projects” meaningless, because you surely inflated the budgets, and passed the spending off elsewhere. Taxpayers resent such shenanigans with OUR money.
7) Lastly, you’re very eager to pin the anonymous emails on Dr. Cobb and his campaign. You know Dr. Cobb is above such nonsense. Its much more likely to be from some ambitious and mis-educated College Republican, but I also would not be surprised if it came from one of your own supporters in an attempt to deflect the attention away from your real record and behavior in office. Your enthusiasm in blaming Dr. Cobb does look very suspicious to me.
The People of Hays County deserve much better than this from a County Commissioner with aspirations of being County Judge. Your behavior in public office is not worthy of the trust you have been given.
I’ll see you Monday in Kyle.
Best Regards -
Hays County Resident
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