OC puts constables back on streets
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
After Orange County commissioners’ court approved new rides Tuesday, Orange County constables are set to get back on the road.
For the past two weeks they had been grounded, after it was discovered that there was no county insurance that applied to elected officials using personal vehicles for work.
“The only auto insurance we have from the county covers damage I do to other cars, not damage done to mine,” David Cagle, Precinct 2 constable summed up the problem in an interview last week.
As a result of that discovery, constables had stopped performing many of their normal functions, like prisoner escorts, traffic stops, assisting sheriff’s deputies.
“It’s crippled me, it really has,” Cagle said, explaining that “I just try not to encounter anybody,” meaning avoiding situations where he might have to transport a prisoner, or engage in a high-speed pursuit.
If he wrecked his car, or a detainee damaged his interior, the constable would be on the hook for the repair.
But Lane Mooney, Precinct 4 commissioner, said that issue should be solved now that the constables are driving county-owned cars.
“I think this takes some of that burden off as well, as far as the insurance being covered,” he said.
Mooney was most excited at not having to pay for his own car, which has been a practice for as long as anyone around the courthouse can remember.
Christy Khoury, county treasurer, said all elected officials used to get a car allowance to pay for expenses such as insurance.
But that changed about a decade ago when those allowances were converted to salary, with the agreement that elected officials would use some of their new salary to handle those expenses.
The problem, Khoury said, was that elected officials have had to forgo raises for several years.
The cars transferred from the Sheriff Office inventory to the constables were not new ones, but surplus.
Mooney’s county vehicle is a 2009 Dodge Charger. He said it had 149,000 miles on the odometer.
“I’m excited about this. It takes a lot of burden off me and my family,” said Mooney, who was elected last year and sworn in January 1.
“I am really happy with the county judge and commissioners for doing this. It makes me feel a lot better.”
The vehicles transferred Tuesday included a 2010 Dodge Charger assigned to Mark Philpott, Precinct 3 constable; a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup to Cagle; and a 2007 Ford F-150 pickup to Chris Humble, Precinct 1 constable.
Humble brought up the issue of constables’ vehicles at a commissioners’ court session held a couple of weeks ago. He was concerned about paying for wear and tear on his personal ride.
That was when the issue of lacking insurance for personal vehicles came to light, too.
Stephen Brint Carlton, County Judge, has scheduled a Thursday workshop session to discuss elected official compensation.