“A mistake was made” during the process of completing the Brown County budget for the 2019-’20 fiscal year, and later rectified, Brown County Attorney Shane Britton announced during Monday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners Court.
Britton said a county is required by law during the budget process to provide a written notice to all elected county officials of any proposed increase or decrease in their salaries or expenses.
“That was not done,” Britton said. “There is no question about it, that was not done and that statute was not followed. When you try to figure out how to fix something like that, the first thing you do is you look to the intent of the statute as well as who’s protected by that statute.
“The whole purpose of that statute is to put the elected officials on notice so they can determine, on their own, whether or not they’re going to contest that salary (or) increase or decrease in expenses. As you know, as elected officials, you have the right to file a grievance against the county if in the budget you are not happy with the amount that’s budgeted for your salary for the coming year. The purpose of this notice is to put you on notice far enough in advance that you can file a grievance if you’re not happy with it. That was not done. Those notices were not given.”
In early September, the commissioners court voted 5-0 to approve a salary increase for county employees of $2,000 or 5 percent, whichever is greater, an amount that had been agreed on in an earlier budget workshop.
Commissioners also approved, on a 5-0 vote, a salary increase for all county elected officials in the amount of $2,000 each or 5 percent, whichever is greater. Commissioners approved larger pay raises for deputies.
“In trying to decide how to fix this mistake, District Attorney (Micheal) Murray and I have met,” Britton said. “The auditor’s office has talked to TAC (Texas Association of Counties). We’ve talked to TAC.”
It was decided the best course of action, Britton said, was for the elected officials to be given the opportunity to sign waivers of the notice.
“Each elected county official was given the option of whether or not they wanted to waive their right to written notice since they’re the protected party or the protected class,” Britton said.
“By waiving it, you say ‘I’m waiving to the written requirement and I am agreeing to the salary that was voted on. I waive my right to a grievance hearing.’
“We believe that is the best course of action and we have been advised that that’s how we should proceed. A written waiver was presented to each of the county elected officials. My understanding is that everybody has signed the waiver.”
Britton said it is believed that the signing of the waivers have corrected the mistake.
“In no way are we saying that it wasn’t a mistake … I don’t know on whose part the mistake was made,” Britton said. “We’ve tried to fix it the best we could. … This is something that everybody’s been working on for a few weeks.”
Brown County Treasurer Ann Krpoun also addressed commissioners, saying “a valid complaint has been filed with the Brown County Auditor concerning failure to follow statutory requirements in the annual budget process.
“However, I know that all salaries including those for elected officials are in the approved budget. I have waivers regarding their salary increases signed by elected officials. I have waivers regarding their salary increases signed by elected officials. The waivers were created by county attorney (Shane) Britton.”
Commissioner Joel Kelton said those working with the budget need to make sure in the next budget process that “all steps are followed” and insure no steps are missed in the process.
The complaint was made by Joe Cooksey, Britton said after the commissioners court meeting.