Weatherford Democrat

Local News

October 1, 2012

Bickering commissioners deny Roth reimbursement

PARKER COUNTY — Precinct 3 Commissioner John Roth failed to gain approval from a fractious court Friday when he requested county funds to attend the Annual County Judges and Commissioners Association State Conference to be held in San Marcos Oct. 1-4.

A motion to approve the trip, made by Precinct 4 Commissioner Dusty Renfro, was seconded by Roth, but opposed by County Judge Mark Riley and commissioners Craig Peacock and George Conley, who killed the motion 3-2.

According to county policy, commissioners in the final year of their terms, like Roth, must ask the court for permission if they want to be reimbursed for expenses during the out of town conferences they attend for continued education credits.

Roth hoped to gain his eight remaining credit hours during the trip. He was supported by county attorney John Forrest, who said the commissioner had to meet the law’s requirement during the final three months of his term.

Roth said he wanted to follow the law and finish on good terms.

“There are some things I’d like to get my two cents in on [at the conference],” he said, “like oil and gas values and the effective tax rate and how that affects our roads.

“I’m not interested in wasting money. I hope the investment will be good.”

Things began to heat up when Conley read aloud from the Aug. 11, 2008, court minutes, showing Roth had voted against authorizing similar travel and reimbursement expenses for former Commissioner Danny Choate, who was approved to attend an Erosion Control Seminar and TAC conference anyway.

“You voted no,” Conley said. “He only needed the required hours. Now you want us to vote yes.”

“The real difference is he retired, and he was done,” Roth said. “I can still contribute.”

Peacock said he had learned that no Texas statute states that a county must pay for any required school.

“But it’s been the policy of the county for how many years,” asked Renfro. “If the court passed this before for somebody else, then denied it today, that would be a personal kind of vendetta.”

“There’s a lot of that going on around here,” Conley remarked. “I think the county has spent enough on commissioner Roth already.”

“I want to wrap it up, so nobody will come back and say, ‘He never finished his legal requirement,’” Roth said. “I want to find better solutions to things for our county and others.”

“That’s not what’s on the agenda here,” Peacock replied. “What’s on the agenda is whether you’re going to get reimbursed. You can still go on your own dime.”

“But if we’re going to pay for one commissioner and not another, and both are required to have the same educational hours, I don’t know what the difference is,” Roth persisted,

“All right, all right,” Riley said, as he gaveled the issue to a close. “Is there a motion?”

After the vote, Roth asked for an opinion from the attorney general and was told he would have to put it on the next agenda.

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