Shaw’s resignation became official after the vote and county officials said her paychecks would be discontinued after an interim county judge was appointed by the court.
Before the court voted, County Commissioner James Rosales, presiding over the meeting as county judge pro tem, read Shaw’s letter of resignation aloud.
Rosales read from another letter written by County Attorney Herb Hancock regarding the court’s intention to go into closed session to deliberate the appointment of an interim county judge who would fill that role until Jan. 1, 2015, at which time the new county judge would be sworn in, depending on which candidate was elected in the November general election.
“It is my opinion after reading section 551.074 of the Texas Government Code that you, as a commissioners court, can go into executive session for the limited deliberation of the interim county judge for Karnes County, Texas,” the letter read.
Commissioner Tracey Schendel made a motion to go into executive session and Commissioner Pete Jauer seconded the motion. Schendel, Jauer, and Commissioners Dupnik and Rosales all voted in favor.
“Why do you feel the need to do it in secret?” asked Scott Hall who was seated in the audience at the meeting. “Why don’t we do it here where the public can hear what you have to say?”
“We’re going to have executive session on this item,” Rosales responded. “We will come back and discuss it.”
“I understand what you are going to do, but I am asking you why you feel the need to do that?” Hall asked again.
“We will come back and discuss it, sir, but I understand your concern,” Rosales said.
In a phone interview with The Karnes Countywide after the meeting, County Attorney Herb Hancock explained that the reason the deliberation was done in closed session was so that the commissioners could candidly ask him – their legal counsel – questions about the specifics of state law that apply in situations such as this. The law allows for such closed sessions when members of the court need to consult privately with their legal counsel.
The court went into closed session where they deliberated privately the appointment of an interim county judge.
After about 30 minutes in closed session, the court reconvened and each of the commissioners were given the opportunity to comment.
Commissioner Schendel said he didn’t have much to say about it.
Commissioner Dupnik said that several candidates were considered for the position, and had identified five important qualifications.
“I wanted someone that could bring unity to the county, to provide some leadership, to continue the court process to move forward with the caseload – at one time we had a backlog, and I feel that the citizens of Karnes County deserve for the justice system to move forward.”
“Another issue that I looked at is where the upcoming budget will be coming along,” Dupnik added. “We need to start that soon. I want this person to be available to help guide us through this process and lead us into some uncharted territories... Also I wanted this person to prepare – to set the groundbreaking for the next election we are going to have and who will be our new county judge.”
Commissioner Rosales said he hopes the public will respect and honor the decision the court makes in regard to the appointment.
“We put a lot of time and effort into this,” Rosales said. “Ever since Barbara Shaw resigned on Friday, we immediately starting working on it and we have been in contact with TAC (Texas Association of Counties) and I have been working with other elected officials.”
Rosales said his criteria included judicial capabilities, administrative capabilities, the ability to be a “full time” county judge, and someone who can work well with other people.
Commissioner Jauer said he had listened to citizens’ concerns over the past week and then visited with several candidates who he considered to be eligible candidates.
“All of these candidates that I talked to expressed a need for Karnes County to make a beneficial impact at this time with our financial stimulation that we are experiencing,” Jauer said. “We need to do something good for Karnes County.”
After further discussion, Commissioner Jauer made a motion to appoint Richard Butler as interim county judge, Commissioner Shelby Dupnik seconded Jauer’s motion and the motioned carried unanimously.
Shanna Hall told the court that it was her understanding that a person could not take a place on the court as county judge unless that person had completed judge school. Hall asked if the issue had been vetted out.
Rosales said he thought it was important to him to find someone who was an attorney.
“Those are things that we are going to work out afterward,” Rosales said.
After his appointment, Interim Karnes County Judge Richard Butler spoke to the court and others gathered in the audience.
“I want to thank you, commissioners,” Butler said. “It is a great honor to be given a chance to serve Karnes County.”
“My number one objective is to bring some unity to the county,” Butler said. “We have all been witness to, and it is no secret, that Karnes County has had a lot of disunity in the last few years... We have got such great opportunities and we have such big challenges, and we have got to meet them. I think we can only do that if we get unified and go together. We can disagree – we will disagree – all of us will, at times, but we can be civil to each other.”
“We can go forward with a constructive discussion and make this county the kind of place that we always wanted it to be,” Butler said. “It has been a great place. It is a good place.”
“We can do it,” Butler emphasized, “if we all work together and put our differences behind us and try to go forward, and I want to to talk to anybody who wants to speak about the county government. You are welcome to come see me.”
Butler’s legal career began in Cuero, where he practiced with the firm of Dietze and Butler from 1977 to 1989. Following his time in Cuero, he moved to San Antonio and assumed a position with the firm of Soules and Wallace. In 2003, he became a shareholder of the Langley and Banack firm, headquartered in San Antonio. He moved back to Karnes County in 2010 and started the law firm of Butler Attorneys at Law, P. C. with his son, Clinton Butler. In 2012, the Butlers joined Langley and Banack and have practiced since that time as Langley, Banack and Butler in their Karnes City offices. Richard Butler will continue to practice law with the firm on an of counsel basis while serving as the interim county judge.
Richard Butler is the son of the late Judge Ted Butler, who served as Karnes County Judge himself from 1959-1963, when he moved to San Antonio and went on to a career of public service highlighted by a decade as the Bexar County District Attorney and another ten years as Judge of the 226th Judicial District Court.