Monday, May 08, 2017

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. 


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