Tensions rise during joint county commissioners, Goliad ISD board meeting
by Coy Slavik, Advance-Guard Editor
Apr 16, 2013 | 4371 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the Goliad County Commissioners Court and Goliad ISD school board meet Monday night to discuss the interlocal agreement for an school resource officer.
Members of the Goliad County Commissioners Court and Goliad ISD school board meet Monday night to discuss the interlocal agreement for an school resource officer.
GOLIAD – Emotions were high Monday night as the Goliad County Commissioners Court met with members of the Goliad ISD school board at First United Methodist Church in an attempt to find some common ground concerning their interlocal agreement providing for a school resource officer.

The county commissioners court approved the interlocal agreement on Feb. 25 by a 4-1 vote with Precinct 4's Ted Long being the only member voting against the agreement. Paul San Miguel was soon deputized by Constable Michael De La Garza to become the school district's SRO and carry a weapon on the campuses.

On the agenda for Monday's commissioners court meeting is a business item to discuss and possibly rescind the interlocal agreement effective in September. County Judge David Bowman and Precinct 3 commissioner Robert Bailey voted for the agreement on Feb. 25, but have voiced their opposition of the county being a part of providing an SRO for Goliad ISD.

Bowman opened the one-hour meeting by reading a prepared statement.

"While I am in complete agreement that law enforcement presence is necessary, there are differences of opinion on how this can best be accomplished," Bowman said before a stand-room-only crowd in the FUMC Family Building.

Bowman claimed he was misled by Goliad ISD officials while the interlocal agreement was being drawn up.

"When I was approached about the school safety and staffing of personnel to provide a law enforcement presence on campuses, I was told several options had been evaluated, including having a school PD," Bowman said. "I was told a school police department wasn't a viable option because of the proximity of the sheriff's department. I took that information at face value.

"After the commissioner's court approved the agreement, I learned there is no restriction or requirement regarding the proximity of the sheriff's office to the school campuses. Thus, the information provided had been incorrect."

Bowman also said he was told by Goliad ISD officials that creating their own police department would cost "several hundred thousand dollars."

"Again, this information is substantially incorrect," Bowman said.

Bowman handed out a one-page application provided by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) to the audience.

"I contacted a school district similar in size to Goliad that has their own police department," Bowman said. "They have a 15-page policy and procedure manual, so it isn't very complicated to put that together.

"The school district is fully capable of providing their own police department with the number of personnel and equipment they need necessary if they choose to do so. This enables the district to have a full and complete patrol of policies, personnel and facilities. Assistance from the sheriff's department will be available when needed."

Goliad ISD Superintendent Christy Paulsgrove said the TCLEOSE requirements have changed since the schools Bowman contacted began their own police departments.

"You now must fill out this form with a non-refundable fee of $1,000," Paulsgrove said. "The police for such schools as Palacios and Aransas County were grandfathered in. There are no really new police offices that we know of in this area. When you are grandfathered in, 15 pages were fine. I went over this step-by-step with Lynn Beard, who is the sergeant of the State of Texas for TCLEOSE that approves the applications. It's not like it was before."

Paulsgrove said she discussed the necessary steps and costs to create a police department with Beard under the new standards.

"A needs assessment must be completed," Paulsgrove said. "The point we were making about the sheriff's department being in close proximity means that we do have law enforcement that is nearby. You have to show the need for creating another law enforcement agency in your county and your community. Without this approval, the rest of the application is inconsequential."

Paulsgrove said creating a school police department would necessitate increasing the tax rate.

"Also, the same taxpayers who fund the county law enforcement will also have to fund the school district law enforcement. There are many things that we would be repeating over and over again if you have a police department in which we could already use just having an officer who works with our current sheriff's department."

Paulsgrove defended the school district's statement that creating its own police department would cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars."

"Physical resources available will need a memorandum of understanding," Paulsgrove said. "I know the sheriff has agreed to work with us on the police chief, but he's not always going to be there in the office. We need to know we're going to have some sort of understanding and I don't know if he can give that because I don't know if a sheriff can bind another sheriff to an agreement.

"But you have to have a memorandum of understanding in regards to evidence and chain of custody. (Beard) said this is a key factor in having a single police force and being able to prosecute. Also, we need a memorandum of understanding of access and use of the sheriff's office communications system. ... Sergeant Beard stated that without an MOU in place for this service, and I quoted him, 'It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund your own communications system.' "

Paulsgrove also said fingerprinting equipment, uniforms, firearms and the building of a new facility would also be costly.

"We would look at what it would cost as a cost option to get a surrounding county or city to commission us before we would do a police department," Paulsgrove said. "That would probably be cheaper than a police department. However, when you look at that, it looks bad for our county that we don't even provide safety for our kids."

School board trustee Dick Mollicone asked the county why the school district should create its own police department when the county is responsible for providing public safety.

"If I counted them up lately, the children, the staff, the administrators are all part of our county," Mollicone said. "I believe we need to consider that."

Paulsgrove told the county that the SRO's salary is similar to what maintenance employees in Goliad ISD make. She claimed the position won't cost the county anything.

"We're not even asking for money," Paulsgrove said. "We're paying for the salary, the benefits, the insurance, the uniforms, the gun, the equipment. ... We're just asking the county to carry the commission. ... The county's not paying anything."

"Why would you question the easy way, SRO, versus having to start a whole new police force with tax dollars?" Mollicone asked the county commissioners. "You're going to have to raise taxes. We would need a rollback for that because we're at the maximum right now. You would be forcing the citizens to consider paying the tax rather than y'all making the decision and keeping within the current tax rate.

"It appears to me that there is a double-standard here. We're looking at it from two different slices - one slicing it this way and one slicing it that way and it's coming out of baloney."

Long later disagreed with the school board's stating that the SRO position is not costing the county anything.

"On paper we are," Long said.

"That's the double slice," Mollicone answered Long. "The baloney."

School board member Robert De La Garza said the county is shirking its obligation to provide safety for the Goliad ISD students and staff.

"I'm on the school board and I'm also a taxpayer," De La Garza said. "I know that there are certain jobs the county is supposed to provide. One of those is law enforcement, just like the school district's job is to provide education for our children. I don't think it's much of a choice, really. I think it's an obligation. ... We shouldn't even be here discussing this."

"The commissioning of the officer is already done," Mollicone said. "The sheriff has chosen not to commission an SRO. That's the sheriff's decision. So the sheriff really has no standing in the decision. The only standing is whether the constable can provide certain services under his agreement with the sheriff. Am I correct?"

Mollicone directed the question to Goliad County Sheriff Kirby Brumby sitting nearby. Brumby did not reply.

"Yes? No? I guess no answer is forthcoming," Mallicone said.

Moments later, Long informed Bowman that he would no longer participate in discussion at the meeting.

"Judge, I'm going to make one more comment and that's it," Long said. "I'm through. I will not say another word in this meeting. Every time I have tried to express my opinion, I've been talked over. I'm through with it. I will not say another word."

During public comment, Goliad High School Principal Emilio Vargas III referred to Long's comments.

"Commissioner Long, I think this is the wrong time to be silent," Vargas said.

Vargas said there were no questions from the county commissioners about the former SRO.

"Our sheriff at that time supported the SRO position," Vargas said. "There were no questions from the commissioners court about Joseph Stevens' salary. He did an outstanding job. Joseph Stevens wasn't making $13 or $14 an hour. He was making $18 an hour and not one question came out of commissioners court at that time."

Several others spoke during the public comment portion.

"I hope when we leave here, after this meeting, we all leave together as friends and not split," Emilio Vargas II said.

Former county commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said the county's inability to draw businesses and oil and gas industries will not allow the school district to create its own police department.

"It seems to me like we're trying to re-invent the wheel," Rodriguez said. "It's impossible. How many wells are being drilled in this county? How many businesses are trying to come over? We don't have the tax money, we don't have the base for the school to re-invent the wheel. ... Making a deadline for September is not good. It just divides us more. We don't need that. ... We're a small county. We're too small to be divided. We don't have the resources to do that. We can't compare ourselves to Beeville, Victoria, Refugio or Cuero. They have industries."

Earlier in the meeting, Bailey, who was elected to commissioners court in November, said he was not completely informed when he voted for the agreement in February.

"I saw it Monday morning and was told, 'Here, vote on this,' " Bailey said. "I got a problem with that. It was a very painful learning experience for me."

"That is not our problem," Paulsgrove told Bailey. "I shared it with all my board members. They had it the week before. They had plenty of time to review it. My duty is to give Judge Bowman the information and that's between you all on how you share information."

"The commissioners weren't asked to be involved in the formation of this agreement," Bailey said. "I don't know who all was. I'm not privy to that information. I didn't ask. All I know is I showed up Monday morning and it was on the table and we had to vote on it. I think everybody here is adult enough to know you don't open up an agreement like that and look at it for five or 10 minutes and then vote on it."

"Well, I'm sorry that happened," Paulsgrove said.

"In my opinion, I voted for it when I should have voted against it," Bailey said. "We should have tabled it and been able to look at it to give an honest and not biased opinion and voted. I wasn't given that honor."

Bailey said he was in favor of the school district having an SRO.

"I want you to have five," Bailey said. "Whatever it takes to keep the kids safe, the teachers safe, whatever the case may be. I just have a problem with the liability of it. ... We have no say whatsoever."

Constable De La Garza then stood and shouted from the audience, "I have say!"

Bowman instructed Constable De La Garza to remain quiet.

"This is between these folks up here, right now," Bowman said.

Bowman brought up current litigation and possible litigation between Constable De La Garza and the county during his opening remarks.

"The issues the commissioners court has to consider are 1) that the county is currently in litigation with a former sheriff regarding the SRO position and 2) the Precinct 1 Constable has threatened a lawsuit if the county does not continue the interlocal agreement to its satisfaction," Bowman said.

"Given these facts, it doesn't appear to be viable for the county to continue in this agreement. At the next commissioners court meeting, there will be two items on the agenda regarding the interlocal agreement - first being giving notice the agreement will terminate in September 2013 and the second to consider furnishing a patrol car to the school district."
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