State wastes county time, money, paper
Douglas Manning, assistant county attorney, requested action from Orange County Commissioners’ Court for the submission of a report on eminent domain authority. The report has to be filed by Dec. 31 to the state comptroller to retain rights to secure property by eminent domain. Manning said it was a requirement that came out of the last state legislative session.
“I’m still quite puzzled as to why the legislature did this, but they required every political subdivision of the State of Texas, from counties, all the way down to municipal utility districts to submit a report to the comptroller by Dec. 31, detailing every statute in existence in the State of Texas that gives that entity eminent domain authority. If we don’t submit this report, we lose our ability to acquire property by eminent domain as a matter of statute,” said Manning.
“The long and the short of it is this report is completely a waste of paper. We are required to submit it anyway.” Manning said he had already discussed the report with Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux. He said the report was already prepared and just needed to be printed and signed by Thibodeaux. It would be mailed that afternoon.
“When they came out with this requirement, the Texas Association of Counties did the research for us and prepared a copious document that contains every possible revision that you will find in the Vernon’s Codes or statutes giving the county eminent domain authority.”
Manning said in the past, the county hasn’t exercised its imminent domain authority on its own behalf, but they did condemn some property on behalf of the state around 1998-2000 for the Farm Road 105 project. “We do need to retain our ability to attain property by imminent domain, even though this court has been very judicious in exercising that right.”
“This is just a compilation of all the statutes put together in a document and sent to them?” asked Commissioner Precinct 4 Jody Crump.
Manning stated that was correct.
“Honestly, I was trying to figure out why they would do this and the only thing I could think of was that some of the legislators have a concern and maybe want to regulate eminent domain in response to the Supreme Court decision we had several years back,” said Manning.
He feels when they started to do the research and realized how intensive it was going to be they decided to put it on the individual entities.
“So, we have this large document, that is attached to this form and sent to the comptroller’s office via certified mail, must be via certified mail, and it will promptly be filed somewhere, up there, and that will be the end of it,” said Manning.
“They won’t even read it,” said Thibodeaux.
Manning agreed, but said, “It is correct and accurate.” Manning said other attorneys he consulted with also agreed it was accurate.
“Completely a waste of time and money, but we still have to do it. Citizens, contact your legislature,” said Manning.
In a short discussion of utilizing eminent domain, the entire court expressed reluctance in using that authority and has always been very conservative on the matter. “You’ve exercised it the way the law was intended; to justify a legitimate public purpose,” said Manning, siting an instance in 2000, when a road was straightened that was prone to accidents. “Those accidents have decreased,” he said.
In a matter concerning audits of state and federal forfeiture funds, Manning informed commissioners no money has been spent out of the federal forfeiture account, which totals approximately $29,000. “Unlike the state forfeiture account, the Federal Equitable Sharing Program says that we have to spend that on extra things that we don’t normally spend our money on.”
He said state forfeiture money has been used for office computers when needed, plus training and equipment for other law enforcement agencies that can’t afford it. Several years back they purchased portable intoxilizers for DPS troopers and sent homicide detectives from other agencies to school.
In other matters, commissioners authorized the purchase of an executive chair and two club chairs for $1,630 for Judge Mandy White-Rogers’ office. The furniture that existed in that office was personal property of Judge Pat Clark or was over 30 years old and was moved to surplus. Judge White-Rogers is using her personal desk from home.
It was also voted to lease a new postage machine from Pitney Bowes for the county rather than renew a maintenance contract for the one they currently have. A representative from Pitney Bowes told commissioners they no longer make the equipment currently used by the county and the maintenance contracts will continue to go up as the equipment gets older and parts become harder to acquire. They can lease a new machine for $308 a month locked in for five years. It would save the county $676.60 versus a new maintenance agreement.