After an in-person discussion with the Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace, the Parker County commissioners re-approved the judge’s furniture funding and will hold a meeting as soon as possible to address flooring issues.
The commissioners court received an email from JP 1 Judge Kelvin Miles’ office on Sept. 4 saying his office has a continuing problem with the laminate flooring in the office and have requested several times for it to be addressed as it is a safety hazard. The email went on to say Miles’ would be closing his office until the repairs were made, which Precinct 1 Commissioner George Conley said was offending.
Miles came to Wednesday morning’s budget workshop to discuss the issue in person with the commissioners court.
“We’re all elected public servants and are voted to take care of county business and I feel it’s my responsibility to make sure my employees have a safe working environment. Trying to get the floor replaced has been going on since 2015. I’ve personally asked and have been denied since my first month in office,” Miles said. “You never know when accidents may happen. I feel the commissioners court should be fair, we should do the job we were voted to do and the way this was handled is wrong.
"To vote to give JP 1 $1,500 in non-capital towards chairs, furniture and then take it away to repair the floor that should have been done five years ago is just a way to discipline me for saying that I’m going to shut the courthouse down until it’s safe. You gave the money to the county court at law and JP 3 and I feel I’m being singled out — you did not take away anyone else’s budget to repair their buildings. The money you took away was for my clerks, my court and for the public. Bottom line is I want the clerks to be safe and I want to be treated fairly.”
At the Sept. 8 budget workshop, the commissioners unanimously voted to rescind their approval of JP 1’s $1,500 request for furniture and instead put it toward the floor repairs.
“Whenever y’all made the motion to take my $1,500 from my budget away to fix that floor, Judge [Pat] Deen you stated that you had never seen this before. I have copies of the text message from Jan. 22, 2019, where I sent this to you and showed it to you and I said this has become a safety issue — I’ve been saying this since January of 2019. Your response was ‘OK, I will get on it,’” Miles said. “I’m an elected official just like y’all are and from what I’m seeing, taking that money away is a punishment toward me for saying I’m going to try to make a safe environment for my employees.”
Parker County Judge Pat Deen said after Miles’ text in 2019, he had not heard anything about it not being fixed.
“I got with building and grounds to go look at that and I didn’t hear anything after that. I didn’t hear anything after that, that [it] was not taken care of,” Deen said. “In March with COVID, some of these things kind of took a back [seat]. I think we all understand what that did to us shutting down, it kind of was a little bit of a disruption and we’re sorry for that. We certainly don’t want to give you the impression that we’re not listening to you and we’re not trying to address your issues, especially when it comes to a public safety standpoint.
"I don’t think it was intended for punishment, I think it was to address your need immediately because you weren’t comfortable with your court being open with the safety issues involved and before we put new furniture anywhere, we wanted to make sure it’s a safe environment for people coming in as well as your employees and yourself.”
Miles said he obtained estimates on the floor in February of 2019, which was $884 to replace or $350 to repair, which he was told wasn’t a guaranteed permanent solution. But he said nothing was done and he doesn’t know how else to say it.
Conley and Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Dugan said the first time they heard of the floor issues was the email.
“Communication would have been great — a phone call or something — a year ago that it wasn’t being addressed,” Dugan said.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden said he was glad to help until they received the email about Miles shutting down his court.
“I received a message with the picture of the flooring on it and was asked if I would help and I said, ‘Sure, I’d be glad to.’ And then immediately following that, I got one saying ‘Well, I’m going to be shutting my court down.’ I said I’m out because if I had had that issue I wouldn’t have waited the amount of time that you had," Walden said. "I would have been here at this court to say 'I’ve got a problem, can you help me?' I think in the future that communication I’m talking about would be a good way to address issues that are a health or safety issue that you have in your courtroom.
“I recognize it is difficult to come here and I do recognize that you did attempt to follow the correct protocol in getting this done and it didn’t. That threat of shutting down becomes an issue for me because I was more than willing to help get the work done. We recognize what the issue is, but I guess the timing of it and the hint of a threat there was a little bit of a concern for all of us.”
Miles said he was probably wrong in doing it through email.
“I am man enough to say that was probably wrong for me doing that. But I will say this, until I did that, I was being ignored and nobody was doing anything,” Miles said. “When I did that, I got immediate attention. I do apologize for the way I handled this. I tried to reach out the best I could and nothing was done.”
Deen said the best thing is to learn from this situation, both the commissioners court and Miles.
“What I would like to do is sit down with you and [building and grounds] and let’s set a plan," Deen said. "That money should be there in that budget. We will get working on this, things don’t happen quickly. I don’t mean to throw this on COVID, but we will move on this and get this taken care of. Going forward I think that’s probably the best way and learn from what we didn’t do right or something we can do better next time and that’s probably the take away of the whole thing.”
Miles asked that the $1,500 be put back in his budget and the commissioners unanimously approved putting the funding back.