The nearly 2-hour meeting, perhaps the most heated in Pct. 1 Comm. James Crittenden’s nearly 5-month tenure as the court’s presiding officer, featured several tense moments before and after the vote on the depository. They included:
• Crittenden accusing Pct. 3 Comm. Lloyd Crabtree of receiving and concealing information on county matters that should come to Crittenden’s office, and Crabtree defending himself from the charge.
• A motion by Crabtree —which was seconded by Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer but never voted on—to remove a woman from the courtroom for interrupting the meeting from the audience during the Crittenden-Crabtree exchange.
• Spencer successfully moving for a brief recess, and leaving the room for about six minutes, after attempting to stop the exchange between Crittenden and Crabtree on the grounds that the matter wasn’t on the meeting agenda. Upon returning, he said he had cooled off and told Crittenden to stay on the agenda item that was being discussed.
• Later in the meeting, a discussion arose concerning Wendell Duke, a contractor who performs septic tank inspections for the county, and whether he should take an oath of office. Crittenden defended himself against allegations by Duke’s attorney, David Griffith, that the presiding officer had put the item onto the agenda in “an attempt to sneak it by Mr. Duke”; that Crittenden should have invited Duke to the meeting, and that “you (Crittenden) try to do things underhanded.”
During the discussion on the depository, Crittenden said “I don’t see how we can consider the bid for First National Bank” because the county had asked for $10 million collateral, and FNB “plainly” stated it could come up with only $6 million.
He also said FNB proposed to charge the county $23,436.36 more than Austin Bank for several accounts. “They (Austin Bank) are considerably cheaper,” he said.
“Not near as cheap as (the county would have received) if we had renegotiated” with First National rather than seeking proposals on the depository, Crabtree replied.
But Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner maintained “it didn’t hurt a thing to take a bid.”
Crabtree said that was true, but that taking proposals will “cost us more money.”
County Treasurer Myra Harris reminded the court she had suggested staying with First National earlier this year “due to the factors of the economy.” The court had initially authorized her to renegotiate with FNB, but she said that bank withdrew “their renegotiated rates” upon learning the court would advertise for potential proposals from other financial institutions.
Hefner said he had a different figure from Crittenden on the amount of difference in FNB’s and Austin Bank’s bids, and that he found FNB’s was $10,500 higher on the accounts. Hefner also again defended seeking proposals, saying institutions other than FNB had expressed interest in being the depository, and “I don’t understand why going out for bids would drive the cost of business up.”
Like Crittenden, he expressed concern over the fact FNB had not provided the $10 million collateral. Austin Bank did, Hefner noted.
But “it’s not just that that’s involved in this,” Mrs. Harris said. She also noted FNB had negotiated the level down to $6 million in the past, which she said was probably why the bank cited that amount this time.
“It’s going to cost us some. . . to change (banks),” the treasurer added.
But Hefner said the county would pay $23,000 more in fees over two years by staying with FNB rather than switching. Nonetheless, he said, “(I) got great rapport with First National.”
When Spencer asked Mrs. Harris her recommendation, she said the proposals’ figures “speak for themselves.” After the vote, Crittenden and Hefner thanked her for her office’s work on breaking down the proposals, and Mrs. Harris in turn praised her staff.
The exchange between Crittenden and Crabtree arose over a discussion of accepting a line of credit letter from Spade Ranches, Ltd., which has the cattle lease on Upshur County’s “school land” in Baylor and Throckmorton Counties. The letter verifies that the check Spade paid the county is good, said Mrs. Harris, and the court accepted it.
Crittenden said he didn’t get the letter and “I fully believe that Mr. Crittenden here is fully circumventing” information that should come to him as presiding officer. “I publicly accuse you. . .,” said Crittenden, who has long had an adversarial relationship with Crabtree.
“Get the DA to indict me,” shot back Crabtree, who is already under two misdemeanor indictments stemming from a man’s removal from the Nov. 30 meeting of the court.
At that point, Spencer said, “Enough. Let’s get back on the letter of credit.” Spencer then had words with Crittenden before the outburst from the audience, which was followed by the recess.