Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chief Deputy gets comeuppance over 'scary' security

Searches to be paid out of salary funds

The judge glanced up from his paperwork, lamped the back row where deputies of the McLennan County Sheriff's Department usually sit, and asked, “Are Randy or Paul here?”

Told no, he said, “Then let's defer that until next week and go on to the next item.”

“That” is a budget amendment request to move more than $40,000 from the General Fund to the columns for paying part time security officers to guard the Courthouse and check visitors for contraband and weapons.

Randy and Paul are Chief Deputy Randy Plemons and Records and Budget chief Paul Wash, both of whom are on the hot seat over security matters.

Deputy Plemons, a candidate for the Republican nomination to replace Sheriff Larry Lynch in the elections of 2012, effectively spent $40,000 he didn't have budgeted on part time help to search and supervise courthouse visitors – hiring Waco P.D. Patrolmen at $30 per hour, plus benefits – because two of his staff are out with long-term illness and the newly elected DA, Abel Reyna, has persuaded criminal district judges to hold two Grand Jury sessions per month and return indictments weekly.

To cover the bill, he needs to move enough money to pay 1,500 man hours of work already performed.

Paul Wash and his staff allowed a convicted felon waiting to be transferred to the penitentiary to walk out of jail scott free, even though he owed the Governor a possible 12 years behind state bars.

The reason is given only as a “paperwork mix-up.”

It's a long story, but the punch line is short and sweet.

Alerted that Deputy Plemons had arrived late, Judge Lewis called him to the podium and said, bluntly, “You're talking about digging the hole deeper – for lack of a better term.”

He deadpanned the man of the hour, expectantly, waiting for an answer.

Deputy Plemons said, “The courts have been exceedingly busy – We've never had this situation before; I'm not saying we won't have it again...”

His voice trailed off.

The judge, who is an ex-corrections officer and jail administrator, said, “Fifteen hundred hours is, that's a lot of hours, Randy...”

“Did y'all see this crisis coming?” asked Commissioner Ben Perry, an ex-Woodway police officer.

His words hung in the air like wet, limp laundry someone failed to bring in before the thunder storm.

“I think that's where the question is,” added Judge Lewis. “I'm saying 1,500 hours is a lot of hours.”

More silent time ensued before Deputy Plemons said, “This is what we project will get us through this particular budget year.”

Commissioner Perry made a motion to approve his budget request, a motion that was slapped down for lack of a second.

The matter is again, for the second week in a row, deferred until next week to give County Auditor Stan Chambers a chance to rummage around in the Sheriff's Department personnel pay accounts and get the money from there, while leaving the McLennan County General Fund alone.

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