Orange County Commissioners’ Court was buzzing Tuesday morning with one major topic: money. Precinct 1 Commissoner David Dubose proposed raising the salaries for County Judge and Sheriff.

“I feel our sheriff is going to need some type of pay scale adjustment, along with our County Judge, to keep everything in line,” David Dubose said. “The chief deputy this year, the pay scale is going to be $79,601 and our sheriff is going to be at $75,310. I didn’t add into that the chief deputy gets certificate pay of $4,100 which brings his to $83,601. Our sheriff also has the same certificates the deputy has but he’s not allowed to get pay for certificate pay,”he said. The chief deputy gets S.W.A.T. pay. while the sheriff does not. Sheriff Keith Merritt added “I get certificate pay for master peace officer.”

David Dubose provided a list of comparable costal counties with size and population to Orange and the salaries for County Judge and Sheriff. “You can kind of see that we’re not at the bottom but we’re sure not close to the top,” he said. David Dubose felt that there is a real injustice the head of the department makes less than the highest paid deputy. “Not that our deputies aren’t worth it,” he said.” I assure you that our sheriff is worth more than my chief deputy.”

David Dubose asked the court to add $20,000. Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose felt more comfortable offering $10,000 while Precinct 4 Commissioner Beamon Minton was not comfortable with the proposition at all. “When we mess with the pay matrix, we are destroying the whole integrity of the pay matrix,” he said. “I have never approved and will never support a pay raise for an elected official in their term of office. I don’t have nothing against the sheriff, the sheriff’s office or the judge. I just don’t think it’s the time to be tampering with the pay matrix.”

Minton went on to explain that when the sheriff ran for the job two years ago, the sheriff’s pay scale was at $65,000. There was actually a pay increase between the time Merritt ran and the time he was hired. His yearly salary is $75,310, which is at the top of the scale.

Many were under the impression that the sheriff would be recieving a raise this year, but his salary is, in fact, frozen. District Clerk Vickie Edgerly, who also was on the Salary Committee explained that freezing Sheriff Merritt’s pay was not part of the original plan. “That was changed around by the courts so that the plan would be accepted,” she said. When Sheriff Merritt was elected, his time accumulated as constable were not carried over due to the way the pay matrix is structured.

The commissioners agreed to rectify the situation by paying the sheriff appropriately for his years for service as sheriff. This keeps the current pay matrix intact and allows the sheriff to receive a raise of approximately $13,000.

The county judge’s salary was not effected like the sheriff’s salary was and that issue will be discussed and voted on next year. Next year the commissioners will reevaluate the pay matrix and try to fix the errors brought to light at this meeting. This gives the commissioners time to fix these errors without causing damage to pay matrix.

Douglas Manning, Assistant County Attorney explained that the state of Texas has recently passed a law that says district judges are to receive longevity pay. It was assumed that if the judges receive the maximum pay, which is roughly $139,000, then they would not receive the longevity pay. The state “amended the longevity statute to specially state that the longevity pay is not to be included in the salary cap,” Manning said. Not only are the judges entitled to this pay, but it is required to them.

Personnel Director Jill Frillou explained to the court that an employee can get paid for sick leave hours accrued upon leaving employment. When the employee becomes salaried or an elected official, the sick leave hours freeze, stay on the books and the employee gets paid for those hours upon leaving. Frillou asked for this to be paid out now because salaries for elected official for the next fiscal year have to be posted in the newspaper. The court decided to pass on this until next year.

The commissioners agreed to pay $2,300 to Dorman Funeral home and $1,150 to Claybar Funeral home for indigent funeral expenses and they agreed to pay other expenses.

AgriLife and Socia Media Website Use

The commissioners were also in agreement to allow AgriLife Extension Office access and use social media sites to reach the public. Previously, the commissioners restricted the use of such websites to prevent workers from “playing” on the internet while at work.

Property Swap

Reconvening after a closed session, Manning explained “Property swap with the Heritage House…The county would acquire the property previously occupied by the Woodsman building and Heritage House would acquire a few simple interest on the property the museum is currently located.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux was absent due to a meeting Galveston and Precinct 2 Commissioner Owen Burton was absent due to an illness.-

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