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Green defends need for county court-at-law

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PECOS, Jan 12, 1995 - People in Reeves County who have regular contact
with the county court-at-law are divided about the wisdom of abolishing
it, as was suggested recently be new County Judge Jimmy Galindo.

Galindo said the county court-at-law is a luxury Reeves County can no
longer afford. The county has been spending more than it received in
taxes since 1992, Galindo said recently. It must now do more with less,
cutting offices and consolidating services.

One target of this proposed economizing is the county court-at-law,
Galindo said. However, others argue that the court is a useful legal
facility. If it is axed now, it may well be missed later.

"They say they want to save taxes. Well, so do I, but there's also
justice. On that, I deliver," Court-at-Law Judge Lee Green said

In an interview just after taking office, Galindo pointed that both Ward
County, to our east, and Pecos County, to our south, get along with only
a county judge and a district judge.

Since both those counties are similar in economy, geography and,
population, to Reeve County, Galindo asked why the county was spending
over $85,000 for the extra services of a county court-at-law judge?

Green disputed this analysis, however.

"My jurisdiction is much broader and I have concurrent jurisdiction with
the district judge. County judges, also called constitutional judges,
have certain areas they can perform in, mostly administrative," he said.
"In addition, they can also hear Class A and B misdemeanors, traffic
accidents and D.W.I. cases, where there are only pleas of guilty. If
someone contests the charge, however, the cases must be turned over to a
district judge, or to a county court-at-law judge.

"A county judge is not required to be a lawyer. Under our statute, a
county court-at-law judge is. I hear all the kinds of cases a county
judge can hear, plus divorces, adoptions, probate hearings and
condemnation hearings. In these, it's always good to have a lawyer
representing you, and it's good to have a judge who's a lawyer, too," he

Green said Reeves County's Court-at-Law position was created in 1978
because of concern that the county would not have a well-educated person
to handle these kinds of issues. Currently, however, that's not a
problem, he said.

"Jimmy Galindo is an educated young man of good family, who can probably
do a good job. This is not a personal disagreement," he said.

Green defended himself, as well, against charges that the county
court-at-law is an economic luxury and that he, himself, keeps a very
limited schedule.

"The fees and court costs collected by my court exceed the cost of my
salary and the budget for the court," he said.

A check with the Reeves County Clerk's office seemed to contradict
Green's statement that the county court-at-law is presently paying for

According to figures obtained from the county clerk's office, criminal
fines collected by the court during 1994 totaled $77,678.70. The total
budget for the county court-at-law in 194 was $85,107.64. This includes
Judge Green's salary and the salary for a court reporter, plus supplies,
insurance, travel, a court interpreter and other expenses.

The deficit may be due to a decline in cases brought before the
court-at-law last year, as indicated by Green.

"It may be true that we've been having fewer trials, but the judge
doesn't set the trials for the court, prosecutors and attorneys do," he

"I do quite a bit of family law, juvenile law, human services and child
support cases," he added.

He is available to perform his legal duties 24-hours a day, Green said.

"I come in before 10 a.m. I usually don't schedule a case before 10 a.m.
and I go home after lunch. I'm available 24-hours a day, though. I've
had officers standing in my living room at 2 a.m. in the morning while I
signed a warrant," he said.

Other lawyers who practice before the county court-at-law, supported
Green's statements.

"There's no question in my mind that the county court-at-law should not
be abolished," said former Reeves County Attorney Scott Johnson.

"It handles matters in addition to criminal misdemeanors that a County
Judge can't handle, divorces, adoptions, probates and civil suits over
$5,000 and up to $100,000. The local bar and citizens are much better
served by a judge that is an experienced lawyer," he said.

"Smaller counties usually only have a county judge. While these judges
are usually accommodating and attempt to do the right thing, it's my
experience that a judge with a legal education is a benefit to the
lawyers trying the cases. It's an added bonus," he said.

"I've yet to talk to a lawyer from a county which doesn't have a county
court-at-law who, when he found out we have one, didn't say, `Boy, I
wish we had one,'" said Randy Reynolds.

"It's a great convenience. District Judge Bob Parks does a great job of
moving his docket along, but since he is now headquartered in Monahans,
having Judge Green here gives us another judge to go to when we need
something done.

"I'm not trying to impute the intelligence or good work of a great many
county judges who do without a county court-at-law in their counties,
but in the kind of cases I often do - collections and probate - I just
prefer going before a judge who is a lawyer. It's a case of dealing with
someone who knows the rules of the game," he added.

However, defense attorney Roddy Harrison disagreed with his colleagues.

"What they're talking about when they say it gives them another judge to
go to is called 'form shopping.' That's where a lawyer looks for the
judge who they think will give them the best deal," he said.

"Not having a county court-at-law would mean extra work for District
Judge Bob Parks, but not much. We don't need the court and can't afford
it," he added.

District Clerk Juana Jaquez said that Reeves County would still keep
most of the fine money currently collected by the court-at-law, if the
court were abolished.

When a case is tried in District Court, all fees and fines from the case
go into the treasury of the county under whose jurisdiction it falls,
except for a state fee, Jaquez said.

"There's an initial fee of $125. Forty dollars of that goes to the
state. The rest of that would stay in the county. In a criminal case,
the fines and court costs would stay in the county, although some would
go to the District Clerk in that county," Jaquez said.

County Attorney Bill Weinacht said his duties would not change, whether
he worked under Green or Galindo.

"In terms of the work my office does, it wouldn't change." he said.

"Back in 1978, when the court was created, I think it served a useful
purpose. But times have changed. The county has less money to support
the court and there's less money for the court to collect. There are
also fewer cases and fewer lawyers in Reeves County than formerly. It's
just a luxury we can no longer afford," Weinacht said.

County judges in Pecos and Ward Counties seemed, with some reservations,
to support Weinacht's statement, though in Pecos County's case, the
overall court situation is slightly different.

"We're doing real well," said Pecos County Judge Freddie Capers. "I have
a good-working county attorney and that helps me in case preparation and
pre-docket preparation."

"Our county attorney has an investigator, an administrative assistant
and a secretary. This staff, particularly the investigator, does a lot
of leg work that eliminates problems," he added.

However, Green said Pecos County, has two district courts, the 83rd and
112th, located there.

Capers said having two district courts in his county probably helped his
office run more smoothly. He also speculated that if Pecos County had
only one district court, it might make his court function less well.

"That could be a possibility. It would affect our estimated volume," he

Ward County Judge Sam Massey, whose county, like Reeves, is under 143rd
District Court jurisdiction, also said his office works well, although
it requires a lot of work.

"With all the types of things I handle, you have to really stay after
it. It takes lots of homework," he said.

"On the upside, it's much cheaper. On the downside, you don't have a
trained attorney, with more legal experience, making decisions," he said.

"On the whole, though, I feel confident with the education I've received
over time, through courses and short courses," Massey added. "Also, I
rely on attorneys, both the County Attorney and those who are trying the

"If I'm not familiar with a point of law they are discussing I say to
them, `Show me where that is,' I can read as well as they can. This
happened more in the early part of my tenure and happens less now, as I
know more.

"I've been appealed a few times, but I've never been overturned. I'm
confident that I'm doing a good job for the people of my county. The
bottom line is if you can't afford it, you can't afford it. In times
like these, you have to do the best you can with the least amount of
money," he said.

Weinacht said that since the Texas Legislature created the Reeves County
Court-at-Law, the Legislature would have to abolish it. This would not
require a motion by the Reeves County Commissioners Court, however.

Theoretically, under the law, any individual could appeal to the
Legislature to abolish the court, he said.

In practice, however, should there be a move to abolish the county
court-at-law, he foresees a motion being made before the Commissioners
Court. It would then be voted on and, finally, presented as a resolution
to Reeves County's Legislative representatives, Weinacht said.

"In the end, this will have to be decided by the representatives of the
people of Reeves County," Galindo said last week.

P-B-T puts off action on roof, alternate ed plan

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PECOS, Jan 13, 1995 - An alternative education plan was put on hold
until further information can be obtained, and more information was also
sought on roof repairs at the old Toyah Courthouse on Thursday night,
during the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Independent School Board's regular
monthly meeting.

"For the third sex weeks and semester we had 34 freshman who had failed,
28 tenth graders, 113 11th graders and five seniors," said Pecos High
School Principle Alice Duerksen. "We felt a need to discuss an alternate
education plan."

"There were four teachers who responded by letter and two who said they
would be interested in participating in the program if it was
implemented," said School Personnel Director Daylon Whitehurst.

"I think we need to wait on some forthcoming information, we won't be
able to implement this program at this time of year and have it take
off," said board president Linda Gholson.

The board opted to wait before deciding on the program and gather more

The school district had attempted to sell the former courthouse in Toyah
to the city, but Superintendent Mario Sotelo said complications ensued.

"Toyah Courthouse is in need of roof repairs and basically they would
like to have the roof replaced," Sotelo said. "We sold the building to
them for $1 and they did pay the $1, but the Commission on Education
didn't allow the sale.

"We have to sell it for the amount it is appraised," he added.

Individuals in Toyah currently use the building for Meals on Wheels

Sotelo said the roof had been fixed before, but added, "We didn't
receive the insurance money, since we didn't replace it, we just
repaired it."

"The real thing here is that they want $6,500 for the (new) roof
repair," he said.

"Is there any way we can re-open the case with the insurance?" asked
board member Earl Bates.

"I bet we wouldn't get all the money and that's probably why we just
repaired it the last time," said Sotelo.

On a suggestion by Gholson, the board decided to try and get more
information from the insurance company before deciding on selling the
building or replacing the roof.

School business manager Cookie Canon presented the board with a budget
calendar for 1995-96.

"I have established a calender, tentatively," said Canon. "It's not
written in stone, so that we can make changes where needed."

"The first thing is, do we want to form a budget committee or set the
entire board as the committee and set up workshops?" she asked.

The board voted to represent the budget committee and have each campus
bring their proposals to workshops which will be set up.

"We can have several campuses at one workshop and limit the time to 20
or 30 minutes," said Canon.

"We can have the administration participate also, so that everyone can
be happy," Gholson added.

Canon also said she separated the schools' discretionary fund from the
activity fund. "I separated this two items, because the discretionary
fund in funded by the school and thee activity fund is money raised by
the students themselves or the parents," she explained.

"The students at each campus will decide what to do with those
(activity) funds," she added.

Canon also discussed the new insurance regulations that went into effect
Oct. 31 and Canon sent out form letters to all employees. Deductible,
co-pay and insurance cards went up, according to the insurance contract.

"Modifying date of health insurance deductible was a concern to some
individuals who thought they had already met their deductible," said
Canon. "I had each employee sign (their card), just to show that they
did receive it." She said about 18 individuals would be affected by the
new deductible rates. "That doesn't include people who had claims in
December or the reminder of this year," said Canon.

"The deductible went up to $500 and there's about 18 people this would
effect, since they have already paid what they thought was the
deductible of $400," she said. "Now, they want to know if they still
have to come up with the extra $100."

"I think we need to take it to the insurance) committee and get some
answers from them," said board member Oscar Saenz, and the group voted
to refer that to the insurance committee with recommendations being
brought back to the board.

The board met in closed session to discuss purchase, exchange, lease or
value of real property. In open session they voted to accept an offer
made by the tax attorney for American Motor Inn.

New personnel appointments included: Debra Lou Armstrong, B.S. Home
Economics, South Dakota State University, no experience. Assignment:
pregnancy, education, and parenting liaison.

Kandace Jo Belew, B.S. Elementary Education, Tarleton State, no
experience. Assignment: third grade, Pecos Elementary.

Alicia LaShawn Montgomery, B.A. Interdisciplinary Studies, no
experience. Assignment: fifth grade, Bessie Haynes Elementary.

The board also accepted the resignation of Penny Smith, a school
pregnancy, education and parenting liaison.

In other business the board:
-Accepted the tax report.
-Accepted depository securities report.
-Voted to pay current bills and approved financial report.

Kids get northern exposure

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PECOS, Jan 16, 1995 - Alaskan geography and life were the themes for Eva
Garcia's second grade students at Austin Elementary on Friday afternoon,
when a special visitor spoke to the class.

David Howard, who had been stationed by the U.S. Army in Alaska, spoke
to the children and showed videos of the snowy country.

"The weather there is cold most of the time," Howard said. "Their
biggest attraction is fishing. Most people make their living out of
fishing and the most popular fist are salmon."

"We had a great time fishing when we were off," he said.

The King Salmon is the biggest of the salmon group. Howard said the
smallest weighs about 40 pounds.

"There aren't any dangerous sharks, but they do have the salmon shark,"
he said. It grows to weigh 15 to 20 pounds and they look for other
schools of salmon to eat, according to Howard.

He also showed the students video of the bald eagle, which is an
endangered species.

The children asked questions during a session following the video.

"How big are eagle?" asked second-grader Adam Ybarra.

"They stand really tall and are gold brown when they are first born,"
said Howard.

"When do the salmon die?" asked second-grader Jack Bradley.

"They only live three or four weeks after they lay eggs," said Howard,
who added they lay about 5,000 eggs at one time.

"Do the salmon sharks lay egg?" asked second grader Noel Garcia.

"No, the little ones are born alive, because they are mammals," said

"How old do salmon get?" asked Steven Grayson. "They live to be about 1
or 2 years depending on what kind of salmon it is," said Howard.

"There are different kinds of salmon, king salmon, pink, sockeye," said
Howard. "There are about 10 or 15 different types in this part of
Alaska," he said.

"Do bald eagles have red faces?" asked Alain Guerrero.

"No, they have brown faces when they are first born," said Howard.

Howard spent three years in Alaska while in the Army. He is the son of
Calvin and Elfida Howard of Pecos.

County planning little advertising

for road and bridge administrator

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PECOS, Jan 17, 1995 - Reeves County placed its first advertisements for
a new County Roads and Bridges Engineer/Administrator today, a computer
printed 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper pinned on the bulletin board of the
Reeves County Courthouse.

County Judge Jimmy Galindo is in Austin this week and, therefore, was
unavailable for comment on the posting, but County Attorney Bill
Weinacht said the county has, at present, no plans to advertise further
for the job.

County Auditor Lynn Owens told a meeting of the Reeves County
Commissioner's Court Jan. 10 that the court is required by state law to
advertise for an engineer for the Roads and Bridges job, but Weinacht
said today that is not the case.

"Lynn came back to me later and said he couldn't find a state law about
the advertisement of public job," Weinacht said.

"The new Reeves County Personnel Policy, adopted October 1994, says,
'Public announcements of position openings at the county, for which
there will be competitive by the respective elected official or
department head in the manner most appropriate for the particular
position being filled,'" he said.

"I think what make Lynn think there was a state law is that the old
Reeves County Personnel Policy required public posting in the
courthouse, advertisement in the local newspaper or listing in the local
Texas Employment Office for county jobs," he added.

Weinacht said neither he nor Owens had been able to find any record of a
legal ad placed in May, when Interim Roads and Bridges Administrator
Russ Salcido was hired. Salcido was hired 10 days after the May 13 death
of administrator Mack Ham, from injuries Ham suffered in an April
automobile accident.

"I think most of the people who applied for the position at that time
either read about Mack Ham's death or heard about the interim position
by word of mouth," he said.

"He added, however, that when Ham was hired in 1992 legal ads were
placed in cities other than Pecos.

Former County Judge Mike Harrison said, to the best of his recollection,
legal ads were placed extensively in 1991, when former Roads and Bridges
Engineer Buddy Wilson was hired. But Harrison said he could not recall
if advertising was so extensive at the time Mack Ham was hired, after
Wilson resigned the post.

"There may have been some advertising, because we had several
candidates. Wilson brought us Mack Ham," Harrison added.

Weinacht said today that contrary to Owens' statement Jan. 10, where and
how the county advertises and whether or not a county must hire an
engineer are really two separate issues.

Advertising requirements for the job are covered by the County Personnel
Policy, while qualifications for the job are covered by the Local
Government Code, Weinacht said.

Under "Appointment of County Road Engineer," the Texas Local Government
Code says, "The county road engineer shall be appointed by the
commissioners court. He must be a licensed professional engineer
experienced in road construction and maintenance and must meet the
qualifications required by the State Department of Highways and Public
Transportation for its county engineers. If the commissioners court is
not able to employ a licensed professional engineer for any reason, the
commissioners court may employ a qualified road administrative officer,
who is to be known as the county road administrator, to perform the
duties of the county road engineer.

"The county road administrator must have had experience in road building
or maintenance or other types of construction work in road building or
maintenance or other types of construction work qualifying him to
perform the duties imposed on him, but it is not necessary that he have
had any fixed amount of professional training."

"Mack Ham wasn't an engineer, for example, and the reason we hired him
is because we couldn't find any engineer who would do the job for what
we were willing to pay," Weinacht said.

Wilson was the first person hired for the position, after it was created
by Reeves County in 1990. Each commissioner previously used their own
road crews to work on projects in their precinct.
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324 S. Cedar, Box 2057, Pecos TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321