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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Notes on Marfa Regular City Council Meeting May 9, 2017, 6:00 PM, Marfa City Hall

Here are my notes on the City Council Meeting. I was shocked, as was everyone, to hear the revelations about the Sheriff's Office not holding up their case follow up duties in the most serious of all cases in my mind; child sex abuse and child abuse. The Sheriff was there the entire time and had no response other than being rude to council members after the contract decision was made.

Notes on Law Enforcement Public Hearing, City of Marfa, May 9, 2017 5:30 PM

Here are my notes from the well-attended public hearing regarding the law enforcement contract between the City of Marfa and Presidio County.

Notes on Presidio County Commissioners Court Meeting Tues May 9, 2017, Marfa, 9:30 AM

Here are my notes on today's County meeting, the first of three meetings I attended today.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Big Bend Now regarding City Council meeting Tues 4/25/17

Please read this article from this week's Big Bend Sentinel.

The commentary below is my own.

My relationship with Sheriff Danny Dominguez began when I was on City Council and we were having some big problems with the City of Marfa Police Department. That saga is a book in itself, but for me it seemed like the best thing to do was to try to contract law enforcement services with Presidio County and assist them in their budget while improving the accountability and predictability of law enforcement services provided by city revenues.
At the time, the Sheriff and the Police Chief were mortal enemies and I also saw it as a way to extinguish the animosity between the City and the County on the law enforcement level. Additionally, through sharing a force, efficiencies in dispatching, equipment, ticketing and the municipal and justice courts (combining them, for all practical purposes) would be achieved.
The city was also going to save a good bit of money, and I saw Sheriff Dominguez as an ally in this cause. This remained the case for about 3 years until the some misbehavior of a certain deputy got out of control (think harassment of more than a few young girls at night repeatedly) and complaints to the Sheriff's Office were made and were never to be seen or heard of. Quoting Mayor Dan Dunlap at a city council meeting addressing the lack of oversight the time, "there are no complaints, it's great!"

True. No complaints ever....

The contract the City Council and the County had agreed to did call for a committee to be convened that, although it had no power to reprimand or even make a recommendation to the council, it could receive complaints from citizens. This committee was never convened and I made a motion to require the committee in future contracts and to assemble it and meet on a quarterly basis at a council meeting over the vehement objections of both the Mayor and the Sheriff.
I did not get a second on my motion and that was the very moment that the Sheriff put me on his top ten list of enemies. Since then I have attempted to work with his office, both as a councilman and also as Justice of the Peace, and have succeeded in a limited fashion. We get the work done that must be done but I know that I cannot trust him at all, and have to be careful in every way anytime I deal with his office, which is nearly daily.

Of course, when I became a County official and was able to view financial and inventory documents through outside auditor reports, I then understood a degree to the extent that his power runs deep, through statute, longevity, favors, and intimidation. The tactic of threatening citizens with criminal charges if they file a complaint that will ONLY be reviewed INTERNALLY by his office is unreal.

Quoting the paper quoting Teresa Todd quoting the Sheriff,"people's complaints and online comments/allegations are ruining the reputation of his deputies" and that he would investigate any allegations of wrongdoing against (sic) his deputies. Should an allegation against a deputy not be proven,... the Sheriff said he would file Class A Misdemeanor charges of filing false reports, which is punishable by up to $4,000 fine and up to a year in jail."... "The Sheriff stated that complaints against his deputies have dropped 90% since the implementation of the policy."

I mean, is this real? Do we like this?

Please get involved in standing up for your rights as a taxpayer, as you are paying for this unethical behavior.

Sincerely, David Beebe

Notes on Marfa City Council meeting 4/25/17, 6 PM

Notes on Marfa City Council Meeting 4/25/17, 6 pm.

I took notes by hand on the law enforcement section of this meeting, as my Windows Surface laptop's battery was nearly out and my IPad is no longer a reliable tool for taking notes. 

Here are my scratch notes with regard to that discussion.

The law enforcement committee from the City met in person with the Sheriff the day after the last meeting. Both parties, with the Sheriff as the sole representative of Presidio County (not the County committee commissioners court had appointed, which was to include the Sheriff and others) went through the entirety of the current and proposed contracts.
City Attorney Teresa Todd relayed this information to the audience. She invited Sheriff Danny Dominguez to correct her if he disagreed with any of her accounts of the meeting. He was in attendance as well as Deputy Mitch Garcia. 

The city has requested designated deputies for a City patrol. The Sheriff says no, all deputies need to be available for County work.
With regard to city ordinances not covered by State law, the Sheriff says he will only enforce the curfew ordinance, the engine (Jake) brake ordinance for semi trucks, and the noise ordinance. 
On the financial side, the city and Sheriff agree that two deputies instead of three would be ok. The Sheriff also says that he will not charge either the City of Marfa or the City of Presidio for county dispatch service. In the past, the County has always billed each city and also Jeff a Davis County for the use of dispatch service. Jeff Davis County has already severed their agreement with Presidio County for dispatch and jail services following a dispute between Dominguez and the new Jeff Davis County Sheriff Kitts.
The Sheriff says that all citizen complaints must and can only come to the Sheriff himself. Each complaint will trigger and internal investigative audit and if anything in the complaint is false, the Sheriff will file criminal Class A Misdemeanor charges on the complainant for filing of a false report. 
The Sheriff wants the City to return to the Sheriff the exclusive use of the old Police Dept side of the City Hall building. Sheriff needs it for meeting room space 2-3 times per year. 
With regard to citations, the Sheriff says he will not agree to file in-city Class C MiS tickets in the City of Marfa Municipal Court. Wants the freedom to file tickets in any JP court or the municipal court, depending on the case. 
Vehicles: the Sheriff's Office will provide an unspecified number of vehicles for patrol for officers. 
Teresa Todd said that since the commissioners court appointed negotiations group had not met with them, she was unsure of the County's financials either way on this issue. 
Mayor Dan Dunlap asked for any citizen questions or comments. I asked whether anyone thought it was fair to have the police be able to choose which court to file tickets in while the defendant has no say. Any reasonable person would expect a ticket received in Marfa to be filed in Marfa and not down in Presidio (that has been occurring) or vice versa. The fair way to operate is to file any ticket in the court whose jurisdiction it is received in. Deputy Garcia disagrees and says that my statement is merely an opinion; that the statute does not explicitly prohibit tickets from being filed in courts out of jurisdiction. Teresa Todd says this has been an issue and the law is subject to interpretation. (an aside, the law states that the defendant may not be inconvenienced by the filing of a case in another jurisdiction. I think most reasonable people would agree that having to drive to Presidio to fight a ticket one received in a City of Marfa school zone is unreasonable- yes this has occurred)
Meghan Geraty asks about conflicts of interest, re: Sheriff and pipeline security, the city's policy on external conflicts of interest. Teresa Todd says there is not a policy for non-employees. Several other comments from other citizens...

Councilman Stanley asks about an alternate liaison with regard to handling complaints. Says that current Sheriffs policy has Sheriff as primary and Chief Deputy Joel Nunez as alternate. Says that means there is no check. 
Councilman Scott says that the City is tourism driven and that uncheckable law enforcement is a risk to good business practices as well as to the community. Says he can't see how they can agree to these terms when it's like this.
City Admin Mustard says that the City has already begun investigating setting up its own force or City Marshall and there are application fees, equipment expenses, TCOLE requirements and a number of other complex steps that would need to be taken. It would be difficult and more expensive, but it can be done. 
Public hearing on law enforcement contract scheduled for Tues May 9 5:30 pm before council meeting at 6 pm where contract will be decided on. 


Notes: Marfa City Council Meeting 4/11/17

Attached are my notes from the Marfa City Council meeting from April 11 2017

Presidio County Commissioners Court notes 4/25/17

Notes on Presidio County Commissioners Court meeting, March 10, 2017

Here are my notes from most of this meeting. The county provided IPad is no longer functioning properly and is erasing things as I write from time to time. I am hoping to transcribe the rest of the law enforcement conversation in the near future as I turned on an Android voice recorder.

Presidio County Commissioners Court Regular Meeting Friday March 10, 2017, Marfa

Convene at 9:38 AM

All commissioners in attendance other than Commissioner Loretto Vasquez.
Also present County Attorney Rod Ponton.

Citizen comments:
Eddie Pallarez
Update on golf advisory board. Been in limbo for quite a while. David Walker, co-chair, has resigned. Manny Baeza is new co-chair. David Wilbourn is new member at-large.
Membership drive coming up to increase participation.
Possible that memberships may not need to be twelve month. Present option for membership from April through Sept. new membership rate would be $70/month instead of $52/month.
Hernandez asks  what the group can do to involve membership from Presidio. 
Eddie says advertising the membership option would help. Hernandez offers to help. Pallarez says he will work with that in any way possible. 
Tournament for scholarships planned under name of Ernest Chavez. Golf scholarship for seniors in high school. Wants to know how advertising for events can be paid for? No need for answer now, asks county to investigate and answer at some point. Judge says that that can be discussed.
Ernest Villarreal says that he will be needing a new mower. $60,000-$70,000 expense coming up.
Hernandez wants to know if the city of Marfa is helping. Pallarez says that the previous  judge told city that county did not need help. New mayor is coming in, things could change in the future.

Announcements from county judge:
Judge says she was invited to a meeting with TXDOT re FM unable to attend. Ruben Carrasco went instead. Will speak of during his report.
Commissioners received a notice of mandatory vehicle policy training. Training took place at 1:30 yesterday. Additional training today after meeting. Commissioner Bentley attended.
Candelari a water system grant is accepted by TExas Water Development Board. Good news.
March 21 10 AM change of command ceremony for new port director in Presidio.
Austin trip- Presidio County day. Went very well. At least twelve attendees. 
Strong numbers.
Updated on bridge project, went well.
DPS explained additional border funding allocations. Not much money left for infrastructure, mostly salaries and already spent on existing staffing.
We were asking about building TXDPS facilities in Presidio County.
Presidential Permit: TXDOT. Permit is in DC. Fine tuning language. Public comment period. Funding secured on US side and Mexico is committed. Bulk of the project is on US side.
South Orient RR rehabilitation discussed. Talked about trade and new administration in DC. Mayor Dunlap gave update on 20% import tax. Good discussion. Very informative.
Presidio County Appraisal District meeting. Pipeline going fast. Talked about revenue. Unknown as to when and how much tax revenue.
Office of Governor compliance team removed vendor hold for grants. County now eligible for State administered law enforcement and emergency management grants.
Corrective action plan complete and accepted. Review is closed.
End of judge presentation.

Hernandez thanks financial departments.

Commissioners: no announcements.
County Attorney: says meetings were very productive. Great support from Sen Rodriguez.
Senator Lucio is coming to Presidio for a meeting in Presidio next Saturday. Very excited about port expansion. Rod spoke with Tryon Lewis from TXDOT about funding for rail improvements. Committed to helping with funding even if funding has to come from federal instead of state funds. 

Hernandez says that he thanks judge for helping with people in Presidio. Indigent death, judge offered to assist in efforts to help with situation.

Approve Minutes from previous meetings.

Item 7: budget amendment procedure.
Judge received email from commissioner Vasquez until he is present that item be postponed. Hernandez would like to discuss it before it is postponed. 
Judge says yes, motion for postponement. Discussion. Hernandez wants to know what this is about. 
Judge says that it would change the steps for amending budget.
Hernandez wants more info. Judge says right now budget amendments com straight to commissioners court. New process would have requests go to auditor first to certify if funds are in budget and if they are then items would be submitted. Ponton says that this gives the auditor the power to not submit items to commissioners court for any reason. Language can be added to clarify that the availability of funds would determine whether items were presented to commissioners court.
Patty Roach says that she would like to comment. Judge would trainer postpone now and discuss at a later date. 
Judge gives Patty two minutes. Patty says this is about functionality. Not about veto power. Purpose is to run an efficient process. She has cross referenced this with other counties. 
Hernandez says that he respects wishes of Vasquez to postpone but if someone else is missing next time the what?
Hernandez asks Patty what is purpose. Patty says that she is trying to prevent items coming to court that do not qualify for funding. Saving time, also making everything more clear as far as funding process goes.
If there is language in this motion that seems to usurp court authority, then we can change language.
Judge wants to be sure that dept heads are not to be restricted from bringing items before commissioners.
Patty says this is not at all the intent of this.
More discussion about intent and clarification of current and proposed process. 
Ponton says language says auditor would present to commissioners court, preventing dept heads from doing so. Patty says this does not even need to be approved, we can do it whichever way, she is just trying to make the whole budget amendment process easier and less confusion during court meetings.
Judge advocates for efficiency, agrees that nobody would be prohibited from coming to court.
Aranda says that he sees the point of getting everything done and ready beforehand. Thanks Patty for doing a good job and trying to help. Thinks that things are better when everything is clarified in advance.
Judge agrees, and says that's why she would like to have this considered by the court. Respects Vasquez's wishes to postpone. Vote on postponement:

Item 8: Property bid, Millington St in Presidio. Assessed at $9,750. Offered at $6,000.00. Sheriff says he would like to use this property.
Dominguez says yes, we need a storage facility for equipment in Presidio. Would like to use this lot.
Right now it is sitting in sun. Aranda wants to know exactly where it is. Near high school. Sheriff would like to have a separate area from current county yard. 
Judge wants to now if there is a cover there. Hernandez wants to know how much property we already have.
Judge asks Ruben about property. Ruben does not yet have info.
PISD nearby can keep an eye on things. Ruben says that road and bridge will assist in helping sheriff use it.
Ponton says that bidding process for sale of property has to be followed, so if county wants to sell it that will have to be done. Commissioners cannot act on this. Judge says that Perdue has brought this to us, that process has already been made and taken. 
She says she is never anxious to dispose of land. 
Ruben says that his opinion is that sheriff using this land is better for county.
Right now only thing on agenda is to accept or reject bid.
Two lots.
Hernandez makes motion to reject bid.

Item 9: 
Ramon Carrasco, Kleinman engineering. 
Block grant for Redford Water system contract.
Vicki from Kleinman is here.
Katie Sanchez says this has already been approved but now TDA has signed off on it, this is recertification by court. Formality.
Aranda motions to approve.

Item 10: 
Law enforcement contract with City of Marfa. Judge says that last commissioners court contract was approved with some changes requested by Sheriff and County Atty. Include that all citations written in City go to City municipal court. Says that she has not had a chance to really go through this. $180,000 of funding to county on the line. Municipal court costs also incurred by city. Hopes that county can work with City and come to an agreement. Would like to hear from Sheriff. One suggestion by city Atty Teresa Todd is that county have a committee to negotiate gaps between two proposed contracts. Says city is willing to work with its county on this. City has already advocated for county airport at legislature. County budget already includes this $180,000 from city for law enforcement. We really need this money, would like to hear from Sheriff.
Sheriff presents.
Says he looked at it. Says this is City Atty contract, not councils contact.
Ponton says that city of presidio spends six hundred thousand dollars on police. Judge wants to know if City must have police. Sheriff says yes, actually city is not paying enough. 
Keyboard quit working, moved to voice recorder, will transcribe.

Agenda: 5/9/17 Presidio County Commissioners Court Meeting Tues May 9, 2017

Here's the agenda for the meeting tomorrow in Marfa.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sheriff: off-duty deputies guarding pipeline are independent « Big Bend Now

Sheriff: off-duty deputies guarding pipeline are independent « Big Bend Now

Here's an article from last week's Sentinel where Sheriff Dominguez states that his private security firm does not handle pipeline security.

In a conversation I had last week with the Texas Rangers office, it was acknowledged, as it is by everyone I have spoken to in the past six months who would have knowledge of this, including multiple employees of Big Bend Security, that Big Bend Security does the security for the pipeline in Presidio County.

The Sheriff lies about that in this article and then obfuscates the relationship of independent contractor deputies to his company by alluding to them working directly for ETP or Pumpco on contract.

Of course this behavior is not illegal. My experience with the Sheriff is that ethics mean nothing.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Notes from Presidio County Commissioners Court Special meeting 1/31/17 10:00 AM, Marfa

Here are my notes from this meeting. Once again, the IPad (County issued) I use to take these notes shut down unexpectedly during notation and I lost 20-30 minutes of notes on Atty Jim Allison's explanation to the Court regarding recommendations for golf course contract proposals. Fortunately, Mr. Allison provided a detailed handout after his talk which relays that information in writing. See two posts down for that document.


Presidio County Commissioners Court special meeting 1/31/2017 10 AM, Marfa

Commissioners present: Brenda Bentley, Loretta Vasquez, Judge Cinderela Guevara, Eloy Aranda, Lorenzo Hernandez. (All)

County Attorney Rod Ponton also present. Attorney Jim Allison (county outside legal counsel) also present.

Item 4: citizens comments on items not on agenda.

Three people signed up so far.
Eddie Pallarez: 
On behalf of Global Golf. Knows that specs of contract proposal were not all met. Asks for commissioners to meet with them anyway to make this work out for the golf course. 
Please consider. Golf association now has only 40 members. Lowest number ever. Please consider global golf.

Hester Ann White: 
Advocates for a good golf course. In order to have a good golf course water must be available. Would like for Global Golf to build a new golf course where there is an abundance of gray water. Says that their proposal would require too much water in addition to finances. Infrastructure needed would be a major consideration. Please consider this in addition to the long term financial situations. 

Jane Walker: passionately advocates for golf group. Reads from 2014 Sentinel article on golf course future. Net loss in 2014 was $70,000 including Vizcaino Park costs. 
Recounts conversations from the past including City of Marfa contribution, lack of Presidio resident access and interest. Needed improvements. Still needs improvements, none done since 2014. Something has to be done, please do not let this golf course die. Has a handout for commissioners, passes it out to them.

Judge closes comment period. She says that she agrees that commissioners do want to preserve the golf course and comments will be taken into consideration. Thanks commenters.

Item 5: comments from Judge and commissioners.
Judge went to Redford and saw water system and saw that water tank is corroded and leaking. Lifespan of that type of tank is twenty years, it has been seventeen years. Would like to replace next go around with a steel tank which would last longer. 
On Friday Judge attended RGCOG meeting. Had a presentation from Dr Baeza from Presidio. Did a great job and will come to a future commissioners court meeting to present about poison hotline. 800 number to call for snakebites, spider bites, medication accidents to speak with a pharmacist about potential dangers, treatment. 
Judge will go to Presidio tomorrow to meet with residents and city administrator of City. 
No announcements from commissioners.

Item 6: No action on minutes 

Judge allows Eddie Pallarez to make another point. With regard to water usage issues, Global Golf says that state of the art irrigation system will use less water than current nine hole system does and will serve 18 holes. 

Item 7: executive session convened. Commissioners go to jury room to meet at 10:22 to consult with attorney. Meeting recessed.

Meeting reconvened at 11:20 AM

Presentation by attorney Jim Allison.

Computer froze. Lost entire summary of legal situation. Summary included in handout by Atty Allison. 
Luckily, Atty Allison provides Court and public with a written legal summary of his findings. I will post that summary as part of this post.

Aranda moves to not approve either bid. 
Seconded by Bentley. Unanimous

Break at 11:40 AM
 Reconvene at 11:59 AM.


Grantworks submission for Texas community development block grant. TDA. Up to $275,000 with up to $13,750 of matching funds from the County and in kind labor donations to service and improve Redford water system. Authorizes County Judge to be chief officer representing County.
This is an item already discussed in previous meetings. 
Aranda says we have discussed it and we want to go ahead with it, so he motions to approve.
Seconded by Hernandez.

Item 2: OMB requested.
Katie Sanchez of OMB presents:
Asks that funds for block grant monies be disbursed as soon as available. Payments must be made within five days of receiving bills for this grant. 

Item 3: also presented by Sanchez: name engineering firm. Two firms presented. Sanchez recommends McKinstree (spelling?). Sam Cobos involved in tax committee which met on this. Sheriff has seen this information, agrees with recommendation. 

Aranda motions to accept recommendation to approve TXCDBG funds from TDA. Unanimous.
Hernandez moves to select a professional engineer and take recommendation of committee. Unanimous.

Hernandez asks if County Atty will be used for drafting agreements. Yes, for review at least. Ponton says he will look at what they present and if it needs to be rewritten they can revisit this.
Next meeting of Court is Feb 10. Hopefully review this by that meeting.

Item number four: City of Marfa legislative item to use hotel motel tax monies for airport improvements. Dunlap not here until after lunch, Ponton presents 

Says City of Marfa wants to contribute to airport renovations, have to propose legislation to contribute funds. Chase Snodgrass has an issue about potential city of Marfa influence. TXDOT grants say that county must control all grant monies. Ponton worked with Nevarez's office to update language taking the control issue out of the wording but still allowing for a contribution.
Hernandez asks if State Rep wants county support for this bill. Yes, says Ponton.
Judge says that city control over airport language will be taken out as long as revenue from the airport goes back into airport. Ponton says this is discussion only, will bring this back to Commissioners when ready.
Judge says update from Texas hotel and lodging association is here in a document. Will get it to Commissioners. 
Chase Snodgrass, airports manager, says that the City of Marfa has not had a mechanism to contribute, this is it. He fully supports the concept. We just need to be sure that wording does not disqualify us from receiving grants.
Judge would like commissioners to write the Mayor a thank you letter since Dunlap initiated this process himself. She will write it. Commissioners agree.

Authorizing Treasurer to pay for repairs to GMC Terrain. Same item has been addressed in part in previous meetings.
Aranda motions to approve. $6573.74 to Freedom Buick GMC

No line item transfers

Bills: treasurer submitted bills. In packet.
Mostly utility bills. 
Judge motions to approve.
Vasquez seconds, unanimous

Adjourn. Ponton says he would like to bring up that Presidio folks would like more markings for road crossings at night and early in the morning on TXDOT highways. Requesting letter from commissioners to send a letter to TXDOT to do traffic study to allow them to possibly build this.
Judge Beebe raises hand, says he would like to see this on a future agenda since it is not on this agenda. Judge nods. Silence. Judge motions to adjourn.

Adjourn at 12:23 PM

Jane Walker's documents submitted to Commissioners Court 1/31/17 re: golf course comments

Jane Walker, as part of her citizen's comments to Presidio County Commissioners Court, submitted excerpts from 2014- present Big Bend Sentinal/ Big Bend Now coverage and letters to the editor.