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Court-at-law pros, cons neck and neck

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Staff Writer
PECOS, 1995 - Petitions and letters for and against retaining the Reeves
County Court-at-law are running about even, said Warren Mayberry,
legislative director for State Rep. Gary Walker.

Reeves County Commissioners asked Walker to sponsor a bill in the
Legislature to abolish the court, which handles criminal complaints,
civil suits, juvenile matters, probate and sanity hearings.

One petition supporting the court-at-law is from law enforcement
personnel in Reeves County, Mayberry said.

Both Pecos Police Chief Troy Moore and Sheriff Arnulfo Gomez said they
favor keeping the court as is.

If it were abolished, county administrative judge Jimmy Galindo would
handle misdemeanor criminal matters. Divorces, civil litigation and
other matters now handled by Judge Lee Green in the court-at-law would
revert back to the district court.

"We have received letters on both sides of the issue," said Mayberry.
"We have a copy of Judge Galindo's concerns. We don't know for sure it
is going to be filed; we are trying to weigh the issue."

Mayberry said that Walker doesn't want to file the bill until he is sure
it is going to be for the best benefit of the community.

"As elected officials, that's what we are here to do," Mayberry said.
"The process we are going through now is simply weighing the pro's and
con's. We haven't started to get a bill drafted. The representative
really likes to get the constituents' feedback."

Mayberry said he has talked with the legislative council about legal
aspects of the matter and possibly drafting a bill.

"Even if we did draft it, since it is a local bill, it doesn't mean it
is going to be filed," he said.

One of the questions is whether or not the court could be abolished
immediately or if it would have to be redone in 1997.

"My understanding is that you can set the abolishing day in the
legisltion," he said. "If we set it September 1, that would be when it
goes into effect."

The fact that all four commissioners and the county judge signed the
resolution requesting the court be abolished doesn't mean the
legislature atuomatically votes for it, he said.

That premise is probably based on the fact that county commissioners are
representatives of local government, he said.

"If they send something up to us, it would be almost the will of the
people that elected those commissioners, so we are working by mandate
from the people," he said.

But Walker will certainly listen to what constituents say.

"We still are responsible to the people, just as the county
commissioners are responsible to the people that elected them," he said.

Letters and petitions may be mailed to Walker at P.O. Box 2910, Austin
TX 78768-2910, to the attention of Warren Mayberry.

Bill to abolish offices withdrawn

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Staff Writer
PECOS, 1995 - Opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment allowing
voters within a county to abolish any one of nine county offices by
popular vote caused a bill introduced in the Texas House of
Representatives to be withdrawn shortly after it was filed this week.

Rep. Tom Craddick of Midland was one of three legislators who introduced
the bill Monday, and his aide said this morning that it has already been

Warren Massey, legislative aide to District 80 representative Gary
Walker, said the bill would have put a lot of authority in the hands of
county commissioners, who would appoint someone to do the work of an
office that voters abolished.

Even if it had not been withdrawn, Massey said it had little chance of
passing both houses in the 2½ weeks left in this legislative session.

And it would have less chance of passing in the November 7 election,
said Reeves County Court-at-law Judge Lee Green.

"Most people vote against constitutional amendments," Judge Green said.

He said he knew of little interest in abolishing constitutional county

"I'm not sure what their motive is," he said. "We have talked about
consolidating justice of the peace and constable offices. Economy and
efficiency are good goals for county government, but they are not the
only aspect.

"In governing, participation of the electorate is very important, even
if it might diminish efficiency and economy," he said.

County Judge Jimmy Galindo said that participation of the electorate is
most important, and he would like to see such a bill passed.

"Just as corporate America is having to restructure and consolidate to
be more efficient, governments are going to have to do that too. It is
better to let the people decide. If they decide as a majority to abolish
a certain office, they should be allowed to do that."

The constitution already provides for individiual offices to be
abolished, but it requires action by the legislature and a
constitutional amendment to be voted on statewide.

"With this particular resolution, it would be changing the constitution
so it would be decided only in the county where it had been proposed,"
he said. "It is streamlining the local control concept, which I agree

County Attorney Bill Weinacht said he wouuld recommend the bill be

"You need to abolish any office at the local level," he said. "How
government is run should be decided by local people."

Constitutional county offices include county attorney, county clerk,
district clerk, district and county clerk, county treasurer, sheriff,
county tax assessor-collector, constable and justice of the peace.

The county court-at-law, which Reeves County Commissioners seek to
abolish, is not a constitutional office, but was created by the state

It can be abolished by a vote of both the House and Senate and the
governor's signature. Sen. Frank Madla has introduced a bill to abolish
it in the Senate, but Rep. Gary Walker has declined to file one in the
House, citing local opposition.

Galindo said he proposed to Walker that a provision be added to Madla's
bill that would allow Reeves County Commissioners to order a special
election in August, giving local voters the final say.

"Representatives talk about local control; cutting the size of
government, reducing government spending. That's what we are trying to
do here with the county court-at-law, and Walker is standing in our
way," Galindo said.

BOP pleased with detention center

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Staff Writer
PECOS, 1995 - Reeves County needs to hire an assistant warden and a
nurse for the detention center, but otherwise operations are going well,
said Warden Joe Trujillo.

U.S. Bureau of Prisons inspectors spent a week checking the entire
operation, and "they were very pleased," Trujillo said. "They encouraged
us to go ahead and fill those positions so they can increase our

Since Sheriff Arnulfo Gomez fired Trujillo and commissioners re-instated
him, the BOP has moved out 200 of their inmates to force compliance with
their statement of work.

Trujillo said the census dropped to 349 at one point, but is back up to
444 today.

"They said they want us to correct the problem areas first, so we are
doing it gradually," Trujillo said.

Seven inspectors went over documentation of procedures in security,
medical, food service, recreation, education, sanitation and
administration, he said. "Each one concentrates on that area in
accordance with the statement of work. They check documentation on
everything. We did tremendous. They were very pleased with sanitation
and food service. They were concerned about medical because we don't
have a nurse director."

They are pleased that Trujillo is negotiating with Dale Brewer to serve
as assistant warden. Brewer is retiring from the state prison system and
is interested in coming to Pecos, he said.

Tommy Duncan, BOP site monitor, said during the inspection that
inspectors met with Trujillo and department heads as they found
violations of the statement of work. They were cooperative in rectifying
the problem areas, he said.

The detention center, which commissioners removed from the sheriff's
authority, has beds for about 525 inmates, with additional dormitory and
segretation cells under construction.

Loving court seeks to replace ousted


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Staff Writer
MENTONE, 1995 - In the wake of missing funds and two resignations,
Loving County Commissioners will interview three and possibly more
applicants for county treasurer in their regular meeting Thursday.

Jamie Jones submitted her resignation last week after an audit revealed
county funds were misappropriated. The discrepancies were uncovered
after Auditor Clay Patrick Huelster resigned in March and District Judge
Bob Parks appointed Janie Parker of Kermit as auditor.

Judge Parks ordered an outside audit by Dan Painter, Pecos CPA. Painter
reported on May 26 that funds were misppropriated during 1993 and 1994
by both the auditor and treasurer.

"During this period the Loving County auditor and the Loving County
treasurer abused their check signing authority to write checks to
themselves in excess of amounts authorized by the budget established by
the Loving County Commissioners Court," Painter reported to the court.

During 1993, Heulster was paid $2,223.94 more than was budgeted, and in
1994 she received $22,705.60 more than her budgeted salary, Painter said.

In 1994, Jones received $3,050.07 more than her budgeted salary. Both
the auditor and the treasurer wrote and cashed paychecks before the 15th
and first day of the month as prescribed by the court, he said.

"These checks were written as far as three weeks in advance. It was also
noted that the bank cashed the checks before the date on the face of the
check," Painter said.

Dual signatures of the auditor and the treasurer were on the salary
checks as is required on all checks.

County Judge Don Creager said today that most of the money has been
repaid, and he expects that the remainder will be paid, as well.

Huelster's mother, Tudie Patrick of Balmorhea, repaid $6,000 of the
restitution, and Huelster signed over her retirement checks in the
amount of $14,316.85, Painter said in the audit report.

A paycheck for $811.68 made out to Huelster was voided, making total
restitution of $21,128.53, with $3,801.01 still owed.

At the time of the report, Jones still owed $2,044.43.

Creager said that a few items not found previously are all that is
outstanding from both the women. He said that he knows of no criminal
investigation into the matter and has not talked with District Attorney
John Stickels.

Stickels is prosecuting a murder defendant in a Monahans trial and was
not available for comment this morning.

Loving County Sheriff Dickie Putnam said this morning he is not

Painter said the general fund checking account was not reconciled from
December 1993 until the new auditor took office in April 1995.

"The result of this was while Loving County had monies in financial
institutions, the correct amount was never known," Painter reported.

A complete set of books for 1993 was maintained on the computer by the
auditor while the treasurer maintained hand posted set of ledgers. The
two sets of books did not agree, and this was compounded with no bank

A computer generated set of books was maintained for 1994 by the
auditor, but after the discovery of misappropriated funds, Painter
re-posted both 1993 and 1994 accounts on his computer system to produce
a complete set of accounts for Loving County.

From those accounts, Painter produced financial statements for 1993 and

Painter recommended that reconciled bank statements be presented to the
court monthly, with quarterly audits presented by the auditor.

He said that the offices of auditor and treasurer had been placed in the
same room, and he recommended they be separated.

In Thursday's 9:30 a.m. meeting, the court will consider applications by
----- in executive session, and then, "hopefully" appoint a treasurer to
serve until the next election, Creager said.

They will also consider a bond for the new treasurer.

As of mid-morning today, written applications had been submitted by
Melody Wilkinson, Selma Carrell and Ann Blair. Melba Ritter had also
verbally applied, Creager said.

More than 18,000 new inmates will enter Texas state prisons in June and
July as completion of Texas' $1.5 billion prison expansion program hits
full stride.

The prisoners will be moved from county jails to 13 new state facilities
operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, ending years of
overcrowding in county lockups which has cost the state more than $650
million in fines and pyaments to counties for housing state prisoners.

Reeves County Jail has eight inmates who are awaiting transfer to state

These units plus another facility opening in August will give TDCJ a
total of 104 units with capacity to house 133,000 regular prison inmates
and state jail confinees, by far the largest prison system in the free

More than 4,900 personnel, including 3,400 security officers, must be
put in place to staff the units opening in June and July. Then 500 bus
loads of inmates will be moved by the prison system's 100 "chain buses."

The inmates will be mrshaled by county sheriffs at strategic sites
around the state, from which they will be bused to one of five prison
units equipped to do intensive diagnostic testing and classification of
each prisoner.

Diagnostic units are located in Abilene, Tennessee Colony, Beeville and
Huntsville (two).

Opening of another 14 units us being delayed because they are not needed
at this time.

Carrell named Loving treasurer

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Staff Writer
MENTONE, 1995 - Loving County Commissioners on Monday appointed Selma
Carrell treasurer to serve until the next general election.

Carrell, an 11-year employee of the tax office, was among eight
applicants for the position vacated earlier this month by Jamie Jones.

Other applicants were Ann Blair, Beverly Hanson, Beverly Sue Creager,
Melody Wilkinson, Debra Kay McGoldrich, Melba J. Ritter and Tracy Butler.

County Judge Don Creager said that Butler withdrew her application
Monday. A non-resident also had sought the position, but only Loving
County residents were qualified, Creager said.

Carrell will take office as soon as her bond is approved and bank
signatures are in place so she can sign checks.

The court also adopted a policy requiring employees to get approval of
commissioners before they obtain loans on their life insurance policy.
Creager said the county pays for the insurance and receives 20 percent
of any claims paid.

Former auditor Clay Patrick had borrowed the maximum value of $601.09
from her insurance policy. Auditor Dan Painter said he could find no
formal policy addressing the issued and recommended the court adopt one
to protect the county's interest in the future.

Insurance policies on Patrick and Jones were cancelled, since they no
longer are employed by the county. Patrick's resignation in March
triggered the audit that uncovered more than $30,000 in misappropriated
funds over a two-year period.

Creager said that Painter assured him the audit uncovered all missing

"He told us there was no problem with anything except the auditor and
treasurer," he said. "You can put it to rest, because I know of nothing
else - unless you find something later on."

Texas Ranger Jerry Villalobos of Fort Stockton is doing a follow-up
investigation on the audit, said District Attorney John Stickels.

Creager said that Villalobos has not contacted him regarding the matter.

Auditor says civic center pact OK

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Staff Writer
PECOS, 1995 - Reeves County Auditor Lynn Owens said he believes an
agreement worked out Wednesday between county and Pecos Chamber of
Commerce officials meets the requirements of Texas law regarding use of
the civic center.

Owens had earlier notified county attorney Bill Weinacht by letter that
the chamber's use of the county-owned civic center without paying the
scheduled fee is in violation of a statute prohibiting use of tax funds
for the benefit of a non-profit organization.

Copies of the letter were distributed to chamber directors in their
Tuesday meeting. President Fred Dominguez appointed a
committee to meet with County Judge Jimmy Galindo, Precinct 1
Commissioner Lupe Garcia, Owens and road and bridge administrator Russ

Dominguez, executive director Tom Rivera and director Gerald Tellez Jr.
attended the meeting in Galindo's office.

Opening the meeting with this reporter present, Galindo said, "I didn't
know it was going to be done with the curtains wide open."

Garcia said he has had complaints about administration of the civic
center from non-profit organizations, such as the Pecos Little League,
Optimists and Comitee 88, who must pay a fee for fund raisers held in
the center.

"They feel they should have free use of the facility," Garcia said.
"They ask why they have to pay when the chamber doesn't have to pay."

Those fund raisers are to raise money for the community, "and the first
overhead is $150 for the facility," he said.

At that point, Galindo said he felt free discussion would be hampered
with the press in attendance. Rivera said he agreed, and Dominguez
nodded assent.

Owens said he left as well after the civic center discussion, which
lasted about two hours. The group planned to also discuss rodeo arena
booking, he said.

Rodeo performances are considered exempt from the restriction on use of
county funds under the provision for agricultural and livestock exhibits
and youth recreation, Owens said.

In the civic center building, the group agreed to exempt the fall fair,
the Pecos Cantaloupe Festival and the Reeves-Loving Junior Livestock
Show, Owens said. "Everything else that is a chamber-sponsored activity
will pay the fees."

The chamber will apply to the advertising committee for use of bed tax
funds to pay those fees, Owens said.

Wednesday's agreement is subject to approval by the chamber board of
directors and county commissioners.

Owens said that chamber president Fred Dominguez and executive director
Tom Rivera agreed to continue handling civic center booking for the
county without charging the $25 administrative fee once collected from

That fee was removed from the contract in 1990 when user complaints was
giving the chamber a poor public image.

"I am not saying the chamber is getting a free ride at all," Owens said.
"Tom asked if we could trade out services for fees, and I said I think
we have to pay them for services and they pay us for fees."

He said the chamber functions such as the Pecos Army Airbase reunion are
a great benefit to Pecos. "I'm not saying we don't want it. I'm just
saying the county tax money can't pay that."

Property taxes may be expended only for a public purpose as defined by
law, he said.

That law defines public purpose as "a public service or use shall affect
the inhabitants as a community, and not merely as individuals. A public
purpose or public business has for its objective the promotion of the
public health, safety, morals, general welfare, security, prosperity and
contentment of all the inhabitants or residents within a given political

Exploding lithium batteries scatter

shrapnel during R&R fire

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Staff Writer
PECOS, 1995 - Exploding lithium batteries half a finger long shot out
the roof and windows of Recovery and Reclamation's L2 building Wednesday
as they exploded during a fire, said Jack Brookshire, fire marshal.

Cinder block walls stopped the projectiles, which Brookshire said were
more dangerous to firemen and spectators than smoke emitted from the

Firemen stayed back from the fire, because pouring water on a lithium
fire will just make it worse, Brookshire said.

Remnants of wooden cartons that contained the small batteries indicate
the fire started in the center of the building where four boxes of used
batteries were stored.

"It started in those boxes," he said. "I don't know why it started. We
took some samples and sent them to the lab."

"We" is Brookshire and a private investigator, Ron Kellough of Midland.
R&R hired Kellough to investigate, said Joe Basham, vice president for
environmental affairs.

Brookshire said he was unable to get a state fire investigator here
because they were all occupied elsewhere. Kellough will send him a copy
of the lab results, he said.

Several theories were advanced as to how the fire started. Brookshire
said one is that the positive and negative terminals on the batteries
could have gotten together and shorted out the batteries.

"They said when they noticed the fire, it had already burned through the
wooden boxes, so it had probably been going an hour or so before anyone
noticed it," Brookshire said.

The shift working in the building ended at 3:30 p.m., and the fire was
discovered at 4:50 p.m., he said.

"Someone saw smoke from outside the building," he said.

Bob Curry, R&R president, tried to put out the fire with a multi-purpose
fire extinguisher, but "wasn't able to do much to it," Brookshire said.
"He said the boards had already burned through, and that will take
awhile. It could have started from 30 minutes to an hour before then."

Additional batteries were stored in the southeast corner of the
building, and some in the northwest corner. Some were in plastic boxes,
while others were in 55-gallon drums.

Some vats along the west wall, used to dip batteries in to de-energize
them, were empty at the time, Brookshire said.

Brookshire said he recommended R&R put smoke alarms in the buildings so
they can detect a fire earlier. "It doesn't take a lot of smoke to set
one of those off," he said.

He also suggested they get fire extinguishers that will work on lithium
- such as graphite. Soda and sand are supposed to work against lithium,
but "We don't have a way to get soda and sand to the fire," he said.

Profits on prison hard to spend

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Staff Writer
PECOS, 1995 - Reeves County made a $924,785 profit on its 526-bed prison
last year, but transferring those profits to the county's operating
budget is hard to do, independent auditor Dan Painter told commissioners

Painter said the detention center (formerly law enforcement center)
brought in $6.1 million in prisoner revenues and spent $5.2 million in
operating expenses.

Meanwhile, the county's general fund revenues continue to decline, and
deficit spending shrank general fund reserves to $558,720 by year's end.

General fund revenues of $4.1 million included $2.5 million in property
taxes. Expenditures of $4.79 million were $675,633 over revenues in that

An additional $363,857 was transferred into the general fund from other
funds, including $120,000 administrative fee from the LEC.

Special funds, including road and bridge and attorney's fund, took in
$655,744 and spent $643,027, for a gain of $12,717.

Grants totaled $515,693.

County Judge Jimmy Galindo said that department heads have cooperated in
cutting expenses, and as revenues continue to decline, further cuts will
be required.

He projects a $400,000 deficit for 1995.

The only deficiencies in internal controls noted by Painter were that
only those persons not allowed to leave their positions during a regular
eight hour shift should be allowed to eat at either the county jail or
the LEC (RCDC).

"Present conditions allow other personnel to eat when time has been
allotted for off premise time during a regular eight hour shift," he

As reported in prior periods, all payments made to Reeves County should
be mailed directly to the county auditor's office, Painter said.

"This would include all checks received, whether coming from the federal
government for the housing of prioners at the LEC or county jail or for
the transportation of prisoners," he said.

Galindo said that he and auditor Lynn Owens have sent a letter to all
paying entities that they should mail the checks directly to the auditor.

Also reported in the prior period, the county attorney's office did not
have ledgers posted in a timely manner, with several caccounts out of
balanace. Monies were not remitted to the county treasurer's office
within the prescribed 30-day period.

"This has been corrected, ledgers have been posted and monies remitted
to the county treasurer's office in a timely manner," Painmter said.

He said that none of the reportable conditions described above is a
material weakness in the internal control structure.

Painter reported that the revolving loan fund had $300,895.45 in
outstanding loans and administration fee at the close of 1994.

The Pecos Industrial Foundation was paid $20,605.50 to administer the
loans, which had outstanding balances of: Orpaya Farms, $59,540; Pecos
River Livestock, $131,000; Ismael Dutchover, $22,883.28; and Ben & Betty
Greear, $66,866.67.

"The county had requested the return of the funds from the Pecos
Industrial Foudnation and thus the monies are included in the amount
carried as a note receivable," Painter said.

Galindo said that he asked Dick Alligood, PIF president, for all the
records concerning the loans, but has not received it.

Painter recommended the county require at least a quarterly - if not a
monthly - financial statement from borrowers showing effects of their

"A provision in the contract allows you to go out and audit their
numbers; count the items collateralized into the loan. You can make a
surprise inspection any time you want to to inspect collateral," Painter

"You need some type of agreement that gives you recourse if they aren't
meeting their obligations.

Painter reported on the status of four suits filed against the county
that remain active and said the county has complied with regulations on
federal financial assistance funds.

Asked for advice on how to improve operations, Painter said, "You have
to run a real tight ship; make a budget and stick to it; one you can
live with."

He said the county has been fortunate to collect 96 to 97 percent of
taxes assessed. "You may not be able to continue that," he said. "The
LEC can make some money, but it's sure tough to transfer."

Dr. W.J. Bang asked if the county can find a way to transfer funds from
the LEC.

"That's something that would have to be discussed with BOP (U.S. Bureau
of Prisons)," Galindo said. "It would have to be appropriately

Lupe Garcia said that perhaps some expenditures could be taken from the
general fund and funneled into the LEC.

"Restructuring certain areas is something we should consider," Galindo
said. "There are options there. It is just up to us to decide to go in
that direction. The time to do it is now."

He said the county has consistently spent more than it took in over the
past four years. "If we continue the current spending trend, we are
looking at a spread of $600,000. We would be starting the year with
$200,000. So there is no fluff to fall back on in 96."

Herman Tarin said that when the LEC was built, it was with the
understanding the profits would relieve the tax burden.

Now the LEC houses only BOP prisoners, and they do have a restriction.

"The intent was not to mislead taxpayers," Owens said.

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Copyright 1996 Pecos Enterprise
324 S. Cedar, Box 2057, Pecos TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321