Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Thursday, April 13, 2000
Commissioners hopeful jail can stay open
By SMOKEY BRIGGS
PECOS, April 13, 2000 - Reeves County Commissioners met in an emergency
session Wednesday afternoon to discuss the possible closure of the county
jail and how that closing might be averted.
During the meeting County Judge Jimmy Galindo and Sheriff Andy Gomez
traded differing views of the chain of events, and the relative importance
of those events, that led to the current situation.
Galindo and Gomez rehashed on the record much of what has already been
reported since the Texas Commission on Jail Standards handed down the closure
order at a hearing on Apr. 6.
Galindo also made a presentation outlining what the steps the county
had previously taken to fix the primary physical problems at the jail _
the locks and the plumbing.
According to Jack Crump, executive director of the Texas Commission
on Jail Standards, recent overcrowding and ongoing problems with inadequate
locks were the primary reasons the Commission decided to close the jail.
At the end of the meeting all parties agreed that the problems could
be overcome and that the possibility was very good that the jail would
not be closed.
Commissioners also agreed that either the sheriff or the judge should
have informed them of a letter from the Commission dated Feb. 29. Both
Gomez and Galindo received copies of the letter.
The letter states in part: "It appears that the jail is not abiding
by the remedial order issued on July 30, 1998 issued by the commission
limiting the population to 84 inmates… The report also indicates a lack
of an adequate locking system… and …four (4) currently noted deficiencies
have existed for the third consecutive inspection."
The letter then invites both the judge and the sheriff to attend the
hearing that was held last Thursday in Collin County, north of Dallas,
that resulted in the Commission ordering the jail closed.
It also states that, "Your early response to the Notice of Non-compliance
outlining any corrective action will help me in assessing my recommendation
to the Commission affecting further remedial action."
The letter was signed by Commission Executive Director Jack Crump.
"The first time I saw this letter was this last Tuesday, four days after
the hearing," Precinct 4 Commissioner Gilberto `Hivi' Rayos said. "The
judge should have shared this with us when he got it."
"If we had known, maybe we could have made the kind of presentation
that was made today (at the emergency meeting) to the Commission and avoided
this," he said.
Commissioner for Precinct 2, David Castillo agreed that better communication
might have prevented the closing order.
"The first time I saw the letter was last Friday. We should have gotten
it the day the county received it, either from the sheriff or the judge,"
"If we had known about the hearing and the problems listed in the letter,
all or some of the commissioners could have gone along and helped the sheriff
with the presentation to the Commission," he said.
Commissioner for Precinct 1, Felipe Arredondo stated that he saw the
letter for the first time at the meeting.
"We should have seen it before the hearing," he said, "But I don't think
that we would have been successful in avoiding the closing order."
"In the future the sheriff needs to keep us informed if the judge is
busy or can't," Arredondo said.
Commissioner for Precinct 3, Herman Tarin was not available for comment.
Judge Galindo stated that paperwork such as the letter was not traditionally
part of the package the commissioners receive before a meeting.
The paperwork the commissioners receive deals with the specific agenda
for that day and this was not related to any recent agenda items, he said.
"What each department submits is up to the elected official in charge
of that department," he said.
Galindo added that he had asked the architect that had been working
with the county on the Reeves County Detention Center expansion and the
jail repairs in question (specifically the locks and the plumbing) to make
a presentation at the Commission hearing last Thursday.
"I can't say how that went," he said.
Galindo said that he did meet with Crump on April 3 in Austin and outlined
the plans the county had made regarding the repairs, but that Crump's recommendation
to close the jail was already written.
Sheriff Gomez said that if a representative of the commissioners court
had been on hand at the April 6 hearing and had made a presentation outlining
the county's plans to fix the locks and plumbing as was made by Galindo
during the emergency meeting, the closure order might have been avoided.
"That is what the letter invited us to do. I was there and informed
the Commission that the overpopulation problem was fixed, but I couldn't
tell them anything about the locks or plumbing. A representative of the
commissioners court would have had to do that," Gomez said.
According to Crump, the Commission's order closing the jail would be
signed and the county would receive it within the next week.
"Once they receive it, the county will have 15 days to appeal. The Commission
can then either call a special meeting to hear the appeal or wait until
June 1, at the regularly scheduled meeting," he said.
The jail would remain open until the Commission heard the county's appeal,
Council awards $348,000 pact to close trench
By SMOKEY BRIGGS
PECOS, April 13, 2000 - The Town of Pecos City Council awarded a $348,369
bid to close a trench in city landfill to BNC Environmental Services, Inc.,
of Houston this morning at its regularly scheduled meeting at city hall.
On the recommendation of City Attorney Scott Johnson the council decided
against approving and alternate bid for further work that may be necessary
to close the trench, but that consulting engineer Frank Spencer does not
foresee as likely.
The alternate bids included varying percentages of Bentonite, a chemical
used to treat the soil so that it is less permeable to water, engineer
Abidur Khan explained.
"We do not think that we will be required by the TNRCC to use the Bentonite
but we included it in the bidding just in case," Khan said.
TNRCC stands for Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission.
Khan explained to the council that there is no way to be absolutely
sure until the closure process is underway.
"We've done the preliminary tests and it looks like the local material
we will use to close the trench will be sufficiently impermeable. As the
local material is put in place the soil will be checked to ensure that
the state required level of impermeability is reached," he said.
If the local materials prove unsatisfactory then the bentonite will
be required, he said.
The council also voted to support the volunteer fire department in its
efforts to buy a "rescue cam."
Fire Chief Roy Pena told the council that the camera is a hand held
thermal imaging device that allows fire fighters to see through smoke.
"We can locate victims in a smoke filled room up to 90 percent faster
with the rescue cam and that means saving lives," Pena said.
Pena informed the council that the county commissioners had already
earmarked $7,750, one-half the purchase price of the device.
Rally held in support of local crime victims
By JON FULBRIGHT
PECOS, April 13, 2000 - Crime victims were reminded Wednesday they
have a place to turn to locally, during a rally at the Reeves County Courthouse
marking National Crime Victims Week.
Susie Saenz, crime victim coordinator for the 143rd District
Attorney's office, spoke to a crowd in front of the courthouse Wednesday
morning, as did family members of two crime victims about their experiences
dealing with the aftermath of a crime.
Betty Kay, who works in the emergency room at Reeves County Hospital,
talked about an incident in 1994 in which her son was stabbed repeatedly,
and had to undergo emergency surgery at the hospital.
"I ended up with $10,000 worth of medical bills, and it has left my
son with permanent damage and chronic pain," she said. The suspect was
arrested and tried in October of 1994, where he was found guilty and sentenced
to eight years in prison and ordered to pay Kay's family $8,500. "We never
received a penny of that money," she said.
However, she said the newly created crime victim's compensation fund
helped the family recoup some of their medical expenses.
"It's not going to give my son his quality of life back, but it will
defer some of the cost," she said.
The other speaker, Reeves County Sheriff's Deputy Danny Leos, talked
about how his brother was severely injured and his sister-in-law killed
by a speeding driver in 1990. "It's been almost 10 years now. I still think
about it and it still hurts," he said.
"We're here to help anybody who is a victim of crimes," said Saenz,
who urged people who have been hurt to contact her office. "I know a lot
of victims don't speak out."
T-NMP names new head of area office
PECOS, April 13, 2000 - An official with the State of New Mexico has been
selected by Texas-New Mexico Power Co. to be their new West Texas business
unit manager, the company announced this week.
Angela Romero was named to fill the position formerly held by Pauline
Moore, who was transferred to handle the same position for T-NMP's office
in Freindswood earlier this year. She is scheduled to begin work next Monday.
"We're fortunate to have Ms. Romero join the T-NMP staff in West Texas,"
said Robert Castillo, the company's Mountain Region Customer Officer. "Her
experience will make her a valuable addition to the company and to that
business unit as we move into the competitive arena."
Before joining T-NMP, Romero served as quality assurance manager for
the State of New Mexico's Construction Industries Division. She also served
in the state's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department within
the Office of Interstate Natural Gas Markets.
Romero, who has a bachelor's degree in science and business administration
from the University of New Mexico, will be in charge of T-NMP operations
in the Pecos area, which also includes Fort Stockton.
Five persons hurt in possible I-20 hit-and-run crash
PECOS, April 13, 2000 - Five persons were injured, two seriously, in a
possible hit-and-run accident on Interstate 20 east of Pecos early Wednesday
The five were in a car eastbound on I-20 between the 46- and 47-mile
markers at about 1:15 p.m. when the driver said they were struck by a truck-tractor,
causing the vehicle to rollover. The truck, which was described as a silver
truck with red lettering, reportedly continued eastbound on I-20 towards
Three Pecos ambulances and Pecos volunteer firemen were called to the
scene, and the victims were transported first to Reeves County Hospital,
with the two most seriously injured then being flown by air ambulance to
A full report from the Department of Public Safety, along with the names
and condition of the vehicle's occupants, was not available this morning.
Paper's investigation threatens 83rd DA race results
By JON FULBRIGHT
ALPINE, April 13, 2000 - An attempt by an Alpine newspaper to investigate
voter registration procedures in Brewster County may have thrown the results
of Tuesday's Democratic primary runoff election for 83rd District
Attorney into doubt.
A recount of the race was already expected, after Marfa attorney Steve
Spurgin defeated Alpine lawyer Frank Brown by one vote for the 83rd
District Attorney nomination. Spurgin won with 2,448 votes to 2,447 for
Brown after votes in the six counties that make up the 83rd
District were tallied.
But within a day after the final results were in, Brewster County Attorney
Steve Houston said he would launch an investigation into reports that three
employees of the Alpine Avalanche had voted illegally in the election.
"Starting today my investigator has started his investigation," Houston
said early this afternoon. "He's going to interview everybody we know of
who is involved with what's going on."
Retired FBI agent John Newsome will conduct the investigation for Houston's
office, according to a story in today's Big Bend Sentinel.
"Right now, we're just trying to collect all the information we can
from disinterested witnesses, people within the district clerk's office
and those standing in line who might have heard the conversations," Houston
said, referring to when the alleged illegal votes were cast.
In a front page story today, the Avalanche said election judge Gerald
Raun allowed employees Ian Talley, Bill Adler and Kerry Laird to vote in
Tuesday's election, despite the fact all three had failed to register to
vote prior to 30 days before the runoff, as required by state law.
Two of the three registered to vote on Tuesday and a third signed up
on March 30, according to the Sentinel's story. The first of the three,
managing editor Ian Talley, said he filled out a voter registration card,
took it to Raun and was allowed to vote before going back to the office,
where he was told by publisher Mindy Nelson-Combs it was against the law.
"I just didn't know the law," Talley said.
Nelson-Combs then sent staff members Bill Adler and Kerry Laird to see
if they could register to vote as well.
"I sent two others to test the integrity of the process. It was pretty
much a test," she told the Sentinel.
After they voted, Nelson-Combs and Talley informed Brewster County Judge
Val Beard of the situation.
Raun admitted he had made a mistake in allowing the three to vote. "I
should have made them sign an affidavit," he said.
Houston said he has not seen the Avalanche's story yet, but added, "If
what I am told is in the Avalanche, they have admitted to what would be
a Third Degree Felony."
Jane Dees of the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's office
in Austin said voting illegally can be prosecuted as a third degree felony,
while registering to vote with intent to fraud and allowing someone to
vote who should not be eligible to do so are both Class B misdemeanors.
Spurgin and Brown are seeking to replace retiring 83rd District
Attorney Albert Valadez. This morning, Valadez said his office has not
been contacted by Houston about becoming involved in the investigation.
"There have to be at least two affidavits filed before I can get involved,"
he said. "At this time, nobody's asked me to look into it."
"All I have is allegations right now," Houston said. "If I get the facts
in from interviews and statements and it appears to be a felony charge,
I will contact Mr. Valadez."
Dees said the Secretary of State's office is also not involved in the
election investigation as of now.
"I'm sure the facts of the case will have to be considered to determine
if someone voted illegally or unknowingly," she said.
"I can't say it's never happened before, but in recent memory I've not
heard of anything of this nature," Dees added.
Valadez said if any violations found turn out to only be misdemeanors,
they would be handled through the Brewster County Attorney's office.
Dees added that even without Houston or Valadez beginning court action,
Brown could instigate a hearing into the final vote results.
"Should the candidate who lost file an election contest to show the
candidate would have won were it not for illegal voting, the reporters
could be subpoenaed and forced to state under oath who they voted for,"
On Wednesday, Dees told the Alpine Observer, "This doesn't sound like
investigative reporting (but) premeditated abuse of our democracy. If this
scenario were to be proven true, the Secretary of State's office would
not look favorably on this activity."
However, she added this morning, "I have both news articles from the
Avalanche and the Observer, but I don't have any facts that have been confirmed."
Aside from the votes in question in Brewster County, Brown said there
might be questions about ballots requested by mail in Pecos County by supporters
of Spurgin, according to the Sentinel.
The 83rd District is made up of parts of six counties in
the Big Bend and Trans-Pecos region. Along with Brewster and Pecos counties,
the others are Presidio, Jeff Davis, Reagan and Upton counties.
AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Lotto Texas drawing Wednesday night: Winning
numbers drawn: 18-28-34-38-40-44. Estimated jackpot: $23 million. Number
matching six of six: 1. Winning ticket sold in: Texarkana. Matching five
of six: 185. Prize: $1,271. Matching four of six: 8,254. Prize: $102.
AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Wednesday by the Texas
Lottery, in order: 7-2-6 (seven, two, six)
PECOS, April 13, 2000 - High Wednesday 73. Low this morning 46. Forecast
for tonight: Clear. Low 45-50. South wind 5-10 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny:
Breezy: And warm. High near 90. South wind 15-25 mph and gusty. Friday
night: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower 50s. Saturday: Partly cloudy. Low
in the lower to mid 50s. High from the upper 80s to the lower 90s.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.
Copyright 2000 by Pecos Enterprise