Sunday, March 25, 2012

McLennan Court to cut budget to make jail payments

Lone Commissioner voted to face music

Reporting by R.S. Gates
Story by The Legendary,
Jim Parks

Waco – Come Tuesday morning, the buck stops in the first floor courtroom where McLennan County Commissioners make money decisions.

Their mission is to decide where to cut services in order to pay massive cost overruns in a contract with a private corporation they hired to build and operate an 800-some-odd bed detention center. The job, that of holding people in lieu of bond, those awaiting sentencing, or those who are slated for transfer to incarceration, is one that is constitutionally mandated as a ministerial duty.

In the arrangement so contracted, the private corporation has the stated goal of making a profit on that ministerial duty.

As of this month, McLennan County owes CEC, Inc., $385,020 for housing inmates in the Jack Harwell Detention Center next door to the county jail on Highway Six. This is in addition to nearly $846,000 paid in December of last year.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Snell asked Sheriff's Office Capt. Paul Wash if this situation “sneaked up” on the department's administrators.

If the present trend continues, by year's end, figures obtained from Commissioner Snell show the potential for over budget spending is a little over $3 million for housing prisoners in the privately operated jail, based on what has been spent so far this fiscal year.

Actual for CEC
3/13/2012 $232,960.00
2/17/2012 $277,504.50
1/30/2012 $270,907.00
12/28/2012 $242,151.00
12/28/2012 $281,190.00
12/28/2012 $322,458.50
10/1/2012 -$242,151.00 Reverse
Total $1,385,020.00

The payment noted for October 1 was made before the current fiscal year began, and was paid back from funds from this year's budget, and thus "reversed," according to County Auditor Stan Chambers.

Some members of the Court expressed surprise at the figures, though the Court had earlier approved the expenditures in a contract with Public Finance Corporation - an entity created at the time they issued nearly $50 million in revenue bonds - and entered into the contract, which calls for payments of so many dollars for each inmate so housed.

After completion of the new structure, when agreements to house federal inmates were not forthcoming, the Court voted to close its downtown jail, which houses about 320 prisoners, in favor of transferring all federal prisoners to the new Jack Harwell facility. The sheriff's department later transferred inmates in detention by McLennan County to the new jail.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons transferred about 100 female inmates held for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the Department of Homeland Security to a privately operated lockup in Williamson County.

Inspectors from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards determined that the women were denied proper health care services and were forced to endure unsanitary conditions caused by raw sewage backing up in the cells where they were housed, according to reports and a statement made by a former Adult Probation Officer, Robert Aguilar.

What was billed at its inception as a revenue enhancement project that would wind up costing taxpayers nothing is now a liability that will drain public coffers exponentially. The taxpayers are ultimately responsible for the public debt created by the Commissioners' Court and Public Finance Corporation, in spite of the fact that voters were not given a chance to approve of the arrangements in a bond issue election.

As of last Tuesday, the Court rejected the alternative of taking the money from a $1.3 million contingency fund held in reserve for rainy day emergencies and unforeseen disasters.

Only one member of the Court, Precinct 3 Commissioner Joe Mashek, voted against the one week deferral.

“This is going to wind up costing us a million dollars,” he said at the time. Then he proceeded to vote against the motion to defer the Court's action for one week.


  1. Recently, it came to light that Randy Plemons incurred a debt and refused to pay it. It appears the majority of the court is practicing Plemons financial management when they voted, on 3/20/2012 to defer approval to pay a bill incurred in February. If the electric company send you a utility bill, you can't call them up and tell them you are going to defer it because next week you might hit the lottery. Kelly Snell campaigned on running the county more like a business. I hope voters become educated and see this is one more campaign promise that was forgotten as soon as he took his oath of office.

    1. In reference to Plemons incurring a debt and refusing to pay it, why didn't you mention his response. It was a credit card account and they raised the interest rates, he disputed it and hired an attorney to help resolve the problem. It seems some people just like to twist the facts.

    2. They did print Plemons' response, he entered into an Agreed Judgement with the credit card company to pay the original interest rate of 23.3% that Plemons says was raised. The question you should be asking is that if the whole reason he didn't pay, like he stated, then why did he go to all the trouble of hiring an attorney only to agree that the company's 23.3% interest was correct? So in "fighting" the insurance company, we find from the filed documents, he didn't fight it in court but instead agreed to pay their stated amount under their terms plus court and attorney fees totally another $3,110 plus interest.

      He did answer that, according to records by him once again stopping his payment of his debt. When he did that, the credit card company filed paperwork to foreclose and seize assets to pay his debt that he once again refused to pay. The deputy who served the orders, illegally returned the order exceeding his authority. That deputy, has since been promoted from deputy, past corporal, past sergeant, past lieutenant, and is now a captain. That's the rank just under Plemons. Not bad for a guy who managed to shot himself while sitting his car. Certainly a career that fits the keystone cop administration currently running the Sheriff's Office.

  2. Plemons,Lynch and the good old boys need to be out of there,Bell county can run a sheriffs dept with 20 million but Mclennan county has to have 26 million, why? no management in Mclennan county plus a CPA named Wash turned law enforcement officer,another joke.

  3. Sounds like the Commissioners are wanting to take a closer look at why this budget crisis occurred, since master administrator and Chief Liar Randy Plemons can't explain it. Perhaps if he took a break from filing police reports on phantom vandal, the weather, he would have the time to keep these things from happening. On second thought, having zero investigative experience, he can't figure out that 70mph wind and rain that can blow down trees will damage cheap signs in open fields, so he probably won't.

    Glad I'm not voting for such a whiny idiot.

    1. Mr Parnell said his signs were also cut and stomped on. Maybe Mr. Parnell can't figure out 70 mph wind and rains stomped on his signs.

    2. Actually, most of the signs Mr. McNamara is talking about came up missing or destroyed before the 70 mph wind and rain. They do know of the mysterious white van from back in February operated by CEC. Other have been taken up by Sheriff's Deputies that have told people that they were illegal. Funny thing is, the Sheriff's Department is not authorized to take up signs by TxDot or any other lawful authority.

      Out of the multitude of McNamara signs I've seen put out, very few were placed in the right-of-way. Out of the Plemons signs, I've watched as 2 different ones have been removed by TxDot, and know of many other placed in the right-of-way that were among the "stolen" signs. Here's a clue guys, learn to read, because the law about placing them in the right-of-way is supposed to be printed on every road sign. Of course it wouldn't surprise me is Plemons didn't put it on there, since as evidenced by the "express permission" to place the signs where he had them placed was against the law, and only cost taxpayers to clean up his "littering" Doesn't the Sheriff's Department have a couple litter deputies? I wonder why they didn't retrieve his signs and cite him for littering.

  4. I also am would like to know what policeman took the report,he must be from the school of Plemons,the comment above is right,been there seeing signs with no backing rip into.Wonder where is the trib,showing us the reports.

  5. In regards to Plemons paying his $9,000.00 credit card bill. There is no evidence anywhere that he actually ever paid it. The SOL ran out on it. Also, the credit card company filed suit against Plemons TWICE. Plemons had to hire a lawyer. If he really wanted to pay his bills, he wouldn't have let that go on for several years. Also, when he completes a credit card application, maybe he should read what he is agreeing 19 year old son knows that, and he's not an "experienced administrator". What a pathetic joke!

  6. McNamara never said anything about his being stomped. The signs he refers to that have come up missing and being destroyed have been happening since he's been putting them up, not right after a big storm. I know my sign was ripped up after I took up the 2 Plemons signs that sandwiched it in my yard the day after I refused to be intimidated by members of the Sheriff's Law Enforcement Association of McLennan County. And I'm talking shedded, not "cut" by the wind. Curiously enough the Plemons sign left in it's place was in mint condition.

    For further evidence, read the story about the mysterious van caught during an attempt back in February.