Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker offers public apology for outburst

BY PATTI SELLS | News-Telegram Feature Writer

Aug 20, 2007 - Adoption of the Hopkins County proposed budget for the 2008 fiscal year passed Friday morning, Aug. 17, during a special meeting at the courthouse, but not without controversy.

Tempers flared between one Hopkins County commissioner and elected officials the day before during a workshop directed at “working out kinks and hashing out differences of opinions,” Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap said.

�As of yesterday (Thursday), Commissioner Wisenbaker�s vote was against the proposed budget,� he said Friday afternoon. �She surprised and shocked us all this morning with her motion to accept the proposed budget.��

During the public hearing portion of Friday’s meeting at which time Precinct 4 Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker stood and presented an apology to Debbie Shirley, county clerk, and Suzanne Bauer, county auditor. 

�I do this publicly because I lost my temper publicly,� said Wisenbaker.�

During commissioners court session Monday, Aug. 13, for which Wisenbaker was not present, the Court approved a request from the county clerk to give a pay raise to one of her employees. Then, the county auditor requested that she be given the same privilege, thus causing prompting Wisenbaker’s outburst Friday.

�It had been my understanding that we, the court, were allowing no pay raises except for the increase in longevity pay,� Wisenbaker explained. �In the past 11 years since I have been on the court, and I believe before that, no raises are given during the budget year regardless of the availability of funds.�

However, commissioners Danny Evans, Don Patterson and Burke Bullock felt the pay increases were justified as  employees were promoted within the two departments, where they would undertake more responsibility.

The conflict was further agitated by the hiring of another employee for the  county clerks office.

�Whatever we had in place for the past is not functioning now,� said Wisenbaker. �It�s obviously time for a change. I just want out of this argument.We should not try to micro-manage each county department. We are blessed here in Hopkins County to have the most dedicated and qualified group of elected officials, I� believe in the state of Texas. The dollar figures stay them same, they should have the ability to use their judgment as long as they adhere to salary structure and stay within the budget.�

With that said, Wisenbaker not only made a motion to accept the proposed budget, but also asked the court to consider relinquishing control of said funds to each elected official/department heads to use at their discretion.

The motion passed unanimously with the understanding that the policy be adjusted to allow elected officials/department heads to have control over their budgets with caps in place for salary structure and guidelines. 

In other business, bills were paid, there were no amendments or new line item transfers and Commissioner Evans made a motion to pay a one month contract with Sudden Link, seconded by Commissioner Bullock and passed unanimously. 

A contract for inmate phone service with AGM Telecom Corporation, tabled earlier in the week, passed unanimously, as well. 

The Court adjourned at 10:45 a.m. and reconvened at that same time to discuss the proposed tax rate for 2007. Dates were also set for two public hearings for the proposed tax rate. They are Friday, Aug. 24 at 10 a.m. and Friday, Aug. 31, at 10 a.m. at the Hopkins County Commissioners Court Room, 118 Church Street.

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