This is a clarification and response to the letter that was published in the July 17, 2013 edition of The Karnes Countywide.
In his letter George Hyde of the firm Denton, Navarro, Rocha, Bernal, P.C. (DNRB) incorrectly alleges that false and malicious statements were made by Maurice Yarter. Hyde states in his letter, “…this is our Firm’s ninth year proudly defending the county in legal claims and litigation matters and our fifth year proudly providing nonpartisan special legal counsel to the county and all its officials…”
We contend there is no valid contractual agreement between Karnes County and DNRB. Hyde correctly states that “since 2004, DNRB has been assigned (not hired by Karnes County) to defend Karnes County by the Texas Association of Counties in multiple lawsuits.” According to Hyde, “by formal action at a duly posted and conducted Commissioners Court meeting” DNRB was “retained to further act as Special Legal Counsel.” To correct Mr. Hyde, at the March 16, 2009 Commissioners Court meeting, we contend the court acted illegally, by voting to hire DNRB as special counsel to Karnes County and its Commissioners Court; an action which is prohibited by AG Opinion No. MW-157. This opinion prohibits the expenditure of county funds for reimbursement (to an official) for attorney’s fees incurred in defending an “ouster” (removal) suit.
According to the official minutes of the Commissioners Court, of the April 9, 2009 meeting, the agenda does not contain any reference to a budget amendment, we contend is a necessary requirement, if DNRB is to be paid for legal work. At this April meeting, they allege they were hired as special counsel, but in reality, the resolutions reflect that they were hired solely for a specific case, Cause No. 09-04-0049CBK, a lawsuit for which the Commissioners’ Court was never served. AG Opinion No. JC-0294 reflects that “A city council member (or in this case, a county commissioner) is disqualified from voting on a resolution to pay his or her legal fees, or the legal fees of another city council member (county commissioner)...The resolutions were invalid.
Referring to the mineral lease of 193 acres near the Connally Prison Unit. Hyde’s letter would have the public believe that DNRB was directly responsible for bringing the error to the Court’s attention and the subsequent termination of that lease. After the public bid, in May of 2010, the new lease was executed for almost twice the amount of money.
The correct facts are printed in the May 5th, 2010 issue of The Karnes Countywide in an article entitled, “County thanks citizen for input on oil, gas lease bid.“ The Countywide article accurately reflects, “Local attorney Betty Yarter received a round of applause at Karnes County Commissioners Court Friday [April 30, 2010] for noting an oversight that could have lost the county quite a bit of cash.” The same article quotes George Hyde as stating, “My firm was not consulted by the county.” In his July 12, 2013 letter, Hyde states, “This single instance of assistance, used an example of the value of our [DNRB’s] services, actually saved the County and its taxpayers more than one-third of a million dollars.”
In response to Hyde’s description of events involving our attempt to stop the county from entering into contract to build the annex. The facts regarding the lawsuit are as follows: We sought and received an injunction that prohibited Commissioners Court from signing a contract with the builder; the injunction was overturned several days later; that ruling, overturning the injunction, was unsuccessfully appealed to the Fourth Court of Appeals. When the contracts were signed the lawsuit became moot. The lawsuit was dismissed. It was not prosecuted at the trial court nor was the lawsuit appealed to the Fourth Court of Appeals.
Another example of services provided by DNRB, to Karnes County taxpayers, makes one wonder who’s interest is being served when DNRB publically appears on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Karnes County, during the same meeting. This public appearance occurred during ETP’s tax abatement application process and would appear to be a conflict of interest. Were it not for the opposition of a few vocal citizens and commissioners, the county could have lost millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Since County Judge Barbara Shaw took office she has personally authorized the expenditure of over $100,000 dollars to DNRB. The promise of “open and transparent government” she made during her campaign, has not occurred. We contend that Karnes County does not have a valid contract or agreement for legal services.
For those of you who don’t have access to the phone numbers for the members of the Commissioners Court, they are printed below. Voice your thoughts and opinions to your representatives. It’s your tax dollars that they are spending.
Precinct 1 – Commissioner Shelby Dupnik 830-299-1524
Precinct 2 – Commissioner Pete Jauer 830-623-6610
Precinct 3 – Commissioner James Rosales 830-583-6696
Precinct 4 – Commissioner Tracey Schendel 830-534-1895
County Judge Barbara Shaw 830-623-0232
Maurice and Betty Yarter