Democrats cite lack of budget oversight
by PHILLIP WILLIAMS
Jun 04, 2013 | 914 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a blistering attack on the all-Republican Upshur County Commissoners Court, County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Miles Jr. told his party’s monthly meeting Tuesday night that taxpayers deserve an explanation for the county’s recent $995,000 budget shortfall crisis, and he urged Democrats to complain to commissioners about county road conditions.

The court reduced the road and bridge budget by well over $700,000 to help remedy the shortfall, “and you (commissioners) won’t even tell the people who did it (caused the problem),” Miles charged.

He also said the county now lacks money to patch roadways, and he urged those present, “Get on the commissioners. Let them know we don’t appreciate the way our roads are.”

Addressing 11 persons at the Disabled American Veterans headquarters, Miles blamed citizen apathy for what he believes is a lack of officeholders’ responsiveness.

“You’ve (commissioners) got to answer to 35,000 people (in Upshur County), but since we don’t participate, they don’t have to answer to nobody,” the Democratic chairman asserted. “It’s sad (that) the only time you see their names is on election day. Make them accountable.”

“Come forward. You’re a taxpayer. Just because you voted Democratic and they got elected as a Republican, they’re still your representative,” Miles said.

County Judge Dean Fowler recently revealed that County Auditor Janice Tucker had notified him of the impending shortfall, and the court subsequently held a May 13 special meeting in which it cut the current budget by nearly $1 million. Fowler and Ms. Tucker have essentially blamed each other for the situation, while some county commissioners have criticized Ms. Tucker and County Treasurer Myra Harris, who have defended themselves.

Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner also recently issued a lengthy written statement to The Mirror about the budget crisis, details of which have yet to be published while this reporter reviews it.

Miles told fellow Democrats Monday night there has been “no clear explanation” of how the shortfall occurred. And he said that when he asked an unnamed commissioner what had been done to prevent it from recurring, he was told nothing had.

“No one has said ‘it’s my fault,’” the Democratic chairman charged. “The auditor and the treasurer—that’s where they’re pointing their finger.”

He called on Fowler, who he described as the county’s chief financial officer, to detail what he has put “in place so it won’t happen a second time.”

Miles conceded the shortfall could have resulted from an “innocent” error, and “I’ve been assured that no hanky-panky’s taken place. . .(and told) it was a mistake. But who made it, God only knows.”

(Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka recently said nobody stole funds, but that county officials did not do a good job of managing money.)

In elaborating on what his fellow Democrats could do concerning the county’s situation, Miles said they could go to a website for the party and “somebody will direct you to somebody that will help you.”

Gladewater City Councilman Delbert Burlison, a Democrat, said citizens can call the Texas Attorney General’s Office if they have a question about the way the Commissioners Court is operating. He said that office can give callers “the knowledge to use.”

Burlison also said it is effective to attend court meetings.

“You don’t have to say anything. All you have to do is be there,” he added.

But another Democrat, Jimmy Caughron, complained that he had obtained more than 2,000 signatures on a petition asking all commissioners to give a “detailed report” on their activities between court meetings—and that he couldn’t get the matter placed on a meeting agenda.

He said 99 percent of those who signed did so because of the county’s road conditions. He also said that years ago, he went to his neighbors, handed out forms for them to complain about road conditions, and turned the documents in to the county, but “nothing has ever been done.”

Miles also complained there was “favoritism” in the county government, and that some who should be prosecuted are not. He did not elaborate.

He also reviewed the Texas Legislature’s recent performance, sprinkling in some criticism for some Republican state officials. He charged that “our beloved governor,” Rick Perry, is so “focused on big business” that he wants a tax cut of more than $2 billion for businesses, and “he’s not for poor people.”

Miles also assailed Perry and Republican State Attorney General Greg Abbott for “freely” spending tax money.

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