Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Judge, Clerk beseech Commissioners on court security

The need to sequester jurors, provide safe trials is of paramount importance to justice, law, order

Six Shooter Junction – In this poker game, no one is showing their hole cards, while the people who make the gears mesh, the wheels go round - sweat it out.

Two key players in the hand called budget makers' bluff today in McLennan County Commissioners Court. The Commissioners Court followed suit. They imposed a spending cap on incumbent officials who were not renominated by their party primary - including the Sheriff. It's in the state law. More about that later.

District Judge Ralph Strother and District Clerk Karen Matkin admonished the Commissioners and responsible parties at the Sheriff's Office to get on the stick and fund adequate security forces to guard the Courthouse's entry doors - as quickly as possible.

One may click here to hear an audio file of their remarks. (http://countyofmclennan.us/McLennanWeb/Files/CC%20061912.pdfhttp://countyofmclennan.us/McLennanWeb/Files/CC%20061912.pdf

Their  comments begin  at 9:00:29 on the audio tape.

The judge merely stated the obvious.

He can't hold court unless the issue of someone trying to interfere with jury selection or to suborn a witness, disrupt a trial with a firearm or a knife, or otherwise wreak havoc with the process of criminal law through violent means is handled by officers who screen purses and cases, and perform metal detection for objects as small as a handcuff key.

In Marin County, the people who came to court in 1970 to aid in the escape of San Quentin inmates standing trial for subsequent offenses committed in prison just walked in with revolvers and shotguns – and then they took over. They left a judge dead, a shotgun taped to his neck, a prosecutor paralyzed for life, taking the bench in a wheelchair when he was elected judge.

The world hasn't been quite the same since then. It happens all over. Every day. The bad folks don't stop being bad the the Courthouse door, it seems.

District Clerk Karen Matkin told them that until this past Monday morning, she has been able to sequester prospective jurors in the Courthouse Annex Building's Visiting Judge Courtoom, a ground floor area where jurors may be checked in, examined and allowed to wait in peace rather than standing in long lines outside the front door to the Courthouse, then milling around in the rotunda until they are called into the Courtrooms.

The problem?

On Monday, there was no money available to pay part time officers to man the security station “across the alley” at the visiting judges' courtroom.

Said Ms. Matkin, herself a veteran prosecutor, “Since the issue over the buddget, we have not had part time officers to staff the security station at the Courthouse Annex...It creates issues...Everyone would feel awful if something happened...but it would be too late.”

None of this made much of an impression on Commissioners. They deferred the question – once again – until they can get some kind of idea from the Sheriff's Department as to where they are headed with the problem.

What will their budget be? How much? How will it be paid? No answers are as yet forthcoming.

They have been asked only to approve a budget increase to the item, gleaned from forfeiture funds.

As such, it is some $16,000 in the hole, money spent before it was ever raised, and owing for the month of May.

There is as yet no budget for June.

No one has any idea what the Sheriff's Department wants to do about the matter. The ball is in their court and the people who have to depend on the executives of that operation for security services are sweating the issues out – big time.

At this juncture, “Pd.” seems to stand for “payment deferred.”

In other matters, the Court approved a budget increase of $207,136 to handle outside care of McLennan County Jail prisoners at the Jack Harwell Detention Center, a county lockup operated by CEC, Inc., of New Jersey.

The Court also approved a spending limit to be imposed on the Sheriff's Department, Constables for Precincts 1 and 4, the County Tax Assessor-Collector, and Commissioner of Precinct 3, all of whom were not renominated in the recent primary elections. 

This action was taken under the authority of a Texas Local Government Code section which allows that “the commissioners court must approve any expenditure by the incumbent county or precinct officer who was not renominated or reelected that is over an amount set by the commissioners court.”


  1. Why can they not bring in the DARE Officers like they used to during the summer? They need three people to work the security station in the Annex and there are 3 DARE Officers. Why not bring over a couple of deputies from the jail? I know I go by the Sheriff's building twice a day every week day, and there are usually 5 to 6 marked cars sitting in the parking lot every time, not including the DARE mobile. I mean several had time to work Plemons campaign during the election during work hours, why can't they work actual Sheriff business during work hours?

  2. Since they can't figure out where to get extra money, instead of sitting in their office debating on whos hind end to pull it out of, why don't the ones that are already being paid a salary head on over to the courthouse and do their duty. Yes, I am talking about the Sheriff & his Chief Deputy. I know the S.O. would fall apart without them...oh wait, already has with them. Never mind. ;-)

  3. Maybe they shouldn't have spent up all their part-time security budget buying Plemons the endorsement of Hewitt PD for all those hours they spent working a $30/hr job that involved a lot of standing around doing nothing. Great work if you can find it.

  4. I wouldn't characterize what those officers are doing as nothing. I have several times seen them calmly and courteously tell people to take what could be used as deadly weapons back outside to their cars and put them up while they are at the courthouse. When you stop and remember that the 9/11 attacks began with nothing more than knives and escalated to the proportions that they did, it's kind of staggering to realize that these men are standing there - nearly alone - in tight quarters, and calmly protecting people from who knows what. What if an infected person bites them? How would they deal with a gun-wielding attacker bent on hurting someone? You got it. Like a Secret Service Agent, they are paid to stand there and take a bullet, if it comes to that. It's definitely no picnic, and someone has to do it - no matter what their day job may be. - The Legendary

  5. Why is security needed in the courthouse,do we think all citizens are criminals,we got no security at the annex where all the money is,but no security,I want our citizens to have free excess to the courthouse,if someone got through security,I would want someone with a concealed license to protect me and the other employees of the courthouse,let the deputies work the courts not the door.

  6. They need security because there has already been a man who shot himself on the courthouse lawn, a break-in, and a shot person who turned up at the courthosue. Over the years there have been numerous threats agaisnt judges and witnesses, and it's jsut a matter of time before someone tries to carry one out.

    IMO, this isn't about if we need security at the courthouse, it's a matter of the Sheriff's Office mismanaging their budget. No other department spends money they don't have and then tries to cover it. The Sheriff's Office has established a well documented history of doing this under Lynch and Plemons. Just this year alone they have spent $1,000,000 over the budget, so far, and then asked to cover it. This is a big reason why the voters wisely decided against electing Plemons as Sheriff, because the voters are tired of being milked by poor planning.

    And as a side note, the outside jail population didn't balloon last fall, it started ballooning last March. It tripled the usual population in March and April. It increased to 5 times the usual population in May, just before the submitted their budget projections. And had increased to almost 10 times the usual population in June when they submitted their budget, but months before the final budget review and approval. So they had plenty of time to bring it to the attention to Commissioners. By the time Paul Wash claims to have brought it to Commissioners' attention in November, the population had increased from 10 times to almost 15 times the usual population. This information blindsided Commissioners and taxpayers, but Lynch, Plemons, and Wash all knew what the real score was and they chose to hide it.

    It's the same passive-aggressive tactics they are still using with security. Instead of moving deputies from other areas like DARE who has no schools to visit in the summer, they just close done a needed station to try to force the Commissioners to make up for their poor management skills.

  7. Welcome to the world the Sheriff's Office has lived in for the past 12 years. You disagree with Lynch, you pay the price. This past primary election for Sheriff wasn't about 2 men running for the same job on their records, and it should have been. This election became a battlefield because of one man who wasn't even running in the election, took it personal when someone stepped up to run against his chosen golden boy. I have spent countless hours listening to the made up stories Larry Lynch spread to people. I've come across several group that had been personally told by Larry Lynch that if Marshal McNamara was elected, he was going to fire everyone and replace them with solely with either retired Texas Rangers, retired US Marshals, Waco PD, Pinkerton Detectives, Secret Service, or his rodeo friends.

    But I am glad that the people of McLennan County finally are getting to see the true face of Larry Lynch, and he's not the man he has pretended to be the past 12 years.