Brown County commissioners voted 3-1 Monday to rescind a Feb. 11 resolution that created the office of county fire marshal and appointed Emergency Management Coordinator David Creed to the position.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Joel Kelton voted against the motion to rescind, while Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Worley, Precinct 3 Commissioner Wayne Shaw and Precinct 4 Commissioner Larry Traweek voted in favor.
Brown County Judge Paul Lilly, who signed the resolution naming Creed as fire marshal, as well as Creed, were away Monday training.
‘Nothing against Creed’
“It’s not a personal issue,” Shaw said. “I have nothing at all against Chief Creed. But the way it was presented on the (Feb. 11) agenda had nothing to do with what the resolution says.
“I’m not saying there was any dishonesty or veiled actions … I want everything out in public. And that’s the reason that I caught this, realized it and went to work to try to get something done about it.”
In January, commissioners acted on a request by Lilly to appoint Creed as emergency management coordinator. Lilly said then that the intent was to have Creed become county fire marshal, an office that did not exist at that time.
Commissioners voted 3-2 at that time to set Creed’s annual salary at $32,000, the amount requested by Lilly. Worley said the commissioners court had earlier set the starting salary for the job at $26,000.
Lilly cited Creed’s “more than 40 years of service, his multiple licenses and his wealth of experience that he’s going to bring to us.”
‘Keep the position’
On Feb. 11, commissioners acted on an agenda item that authorized Lilly to sign the resolution. The resolution, according to the agenda item, allowed Creed to apply for a county fire marshal’s license with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection and Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
Commissioners said later they did not read the resolution before authorizing Lilly to sign it. Commissioners went on to learn that the resolution created the office of fire marshal and appointed Creed to that position, in addition to his duties as emergency management coordinator.
“I would rather us go in there and fix it, go back and modify it to make it proper and keep the position,” Kelton said Monday.
Traweek said Brownwood Fire Marshal Buddy Preston investigated seven fires in the county in 2018, and the county was billed $4,350 by the city.
Earlier, Creed said the City of Brownwood bills Brown County $50 an hour for investigations and since joining the county he saved taxpayers approximately $750, basing those numbers on his between 15 and 16 investigation hours.
‘Let the man do his job’
Commissioners heard remarks from three citizens on the Citizen Comments portion of the agenda before voting Monday morning.
“Back when we had the second election, 8,274 people came together and voted for Dr. Paul Lilly to be our next county judge,” the first speaker, Stan McCombs, told commissioners. “I believe that we trust his judgment in whoever he decides to put in for the county fire marshal or emergency management coordinator, and it’s unfortunate that the resolution wasn’t read through.
“Things happen. Mistakes happen. And that wording wasn’t fully written out. Nobody’s perfect. I believe that we should just go ahead and make the corrections, pass it on through, let bygones be bygones, let the man do his job. He’s been doing a great job. … I’d hate to have to hire two people to do what he’s doing.”
‘It back-doored in …’
The second speaker, Joe Cooksey, spoke of the Texas Open Meetings Act. “It gives the public the right to know what you’re going to discuss, there’s nothing under the table,” Cooksey said.
Cooksey read to commissioners the Feb. 11 agenda item pertaining to the resolution. The agenda items authorized commissioners to allow Lilly to sign a resolution “allowing (Creed) to apply for a county fire marshal license with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement,” Cooksey read.
“In that notice, where is the public apprised that the commissioners court is considering and possibly approving a fire marshal office? It doesn’t exist. The creation of a fire marshal office is separate and independent from getting a license to operate as an arson investigator under (the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement).”
The public wasn’t informed, so “we didn’t have any idea to come up here” and make comments before commissioners voted, Cooksey said. “The public was never apprised of what was going down, and in the resolution, it back-doored in the creation of a county fire marshal’s office.
“ … You can’t ratify an illegal action so you have to rescind it and start from square one. This is not a personal issue. It’s not about Paul Lilly, it’s not about David Creed … add to that, as a county fire marshal, the fire marshal has to have a bond set by the commissioners court. No bond has been set. … Do it right and do it lawfully. Especially the bond issue — that’s a big issue right there.”
Lilly responded to Cooksey’s statements via email:
“(The resolution) was worded as to create the position and to approve the appointment of Chief Creed to the position, by the commissioners court and in accordance with the authority of the Commissioners Court to do so,” Lilly said.
‘I just ask that we work together’
The final speaker, George Huseman, said the court is “kind of made up of people like our founding fathers — a bunch of imperfect people trying to make an imperfect world the best they can. And a big part of that is communication. I just ask that we work together in openness and have better communication.
“A lot of stuff that’s being said out there is making the court look bad, making us all look bad. I don’t think anybody is intentionally doing it, but we need to fix it. If you’ve got to rescind the resolution to do that, then that’s what you’ve got to do. But I think it’s a good idea to have a fire marshal that’s already doing the job of emergency management coordinator because it saves us money in the long run.”
‘Doing it the right way’
Kelton, the commissioner who voted against rescinding the resolution, said, “I was of the opinion that we don’t want to do away with the position, but if we need to do it, I’m going to be in favor of doing it (again) properly.”
County Attorney Shane Britton said, “in the future, it needs to be done the right way. You’re exactly right.”
Shaw responded, “that’s what it’s all about — doing it the right way.”
‘Too much opposition’
Kelton said he believed the wording on Monday’s agenda “was left wide open. We could’ve voted to go ahead and create the position rather than starting over. We could’ve amended it. We could’ve said ‘let’s go ahead and create this position and post a bond.’ That was wide open to do whatever you wanted to do.”
The agenda item, which was on a supplemental agenda posted by Shaw, stated “reconsideration and possible recession, revision or amendment to the (resolution) passed on Feb. 11 creating the office of Brown County fire marshal.”
Kelton said he was concerned there will be “too much opposition to get the position back. I hope not.”
‘Just not needed’
After Monday’s meeting, Shaw said he does not favor having a county fire marshal. “We’re getting along fine contracting with (Preston),” Shaw said. Without a county fire marshal, Shaw said, the county doesn’t have to worry about issues including insurance and bonds.
Worley, also speaking after the meeting, said he’s “not ready to have a county fire marshal. Right now it’s just not needed, and we don’t need to grow the county infrastructure. That’s something in the future.”
Traweek said he’s in no hurry to have a county fire marshal “since we’re sharing that with Brownwood and that’s working pretty good. Would I be in favor of one next week? No. Today, no, I wouldn’t be.
“(Preston) didn’t go out but seven times for us last year.”
Traweek said he thinks the county will need to wait until budget time later this year before dealing with the county fire marshal issue. “He’s going to have to be bonded,” Traweek said. “There’s a lot of other stuff that goes into it that got bypassed.”