Questions raised about a February reimbursement to a county employee for a clothing purchase led to a sharp exchange of words between Precinct 2 Commissioner Johnny Gee, Sheriff Kenny Lemons and courthouse Maintenance Supervisor Kinneth Sluder on Monday.
The reimbursement was to Sluder for a $297 purchase from Cavender’s Western Wear store in Wichita Falls for seven pairs of jeans ranging in price from $32.96 to $69.99. One of the seven pairs was free due to a “buy two, get one free” sale. Lemons approved reimbursement of the purchase because Sluder is a certified jailer, a requirement of any county employee that oversees work done on county properties by jail trustees.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office budgets each year for a $300 uniform reimbursement to 24 CCSO employees. Sluder is an employee of the county, and not the sheriff’s office.
The reimbursement was on a bill list approved by commissioners in February.
Gee asked that the reimbursement be returned to the county, and that the item be placed on a commissioners’ April agenda.
“I don’t agree that that is the right thing to do, because he is not a sheriff’s department employee,” said Gee of the reimbursement. “I’m sorry I didn’t catch it before. He says we paid this once before, but I didn’t catch it.”
In 2011, Sluder was reimbursed almost $300 for athletic-type polo shirts with the CCSO seal and for jeans.
“Now I didn’t make that decision myself. I talked to a (now) former commissioner and it was in agreement when the trustee status first came up early in my first term — of using trustees and free labor — the detention officer has to wear a distinctive uniform,” said Lemons.
“It doesn’t matter what it said, Johnny. It’s not about that piece of paper, it’s not about $300. It’s about a battle between you and the sheriff that has been going on, and that’s all it is. And I’m stuck in the middle,” said Sluder.
“That’s not what it is all about, no sir. It is about right and wrong as far as what we do in this court,” said Gee. The commissioner later stated, “I think it needs to be reimbursed, it’s taxpayers’ money.”
Precinct 4 Commissioner A.J. Peak and Precinct 1 Commissioner Lindy Choate discussed ways to revamp the uniform reimbursement program to cover the position of maintenance supervisor. Choate said one possibility would be to set aside money in the position’s budget to cover the cost.
“I think if the overall picture is looked at, commissioner, I think the county is way ahead on this deal. You’re after 300 bucks, and the county has made lots more than that,” said Lemons to Gee. “I would say the big picture is what you need to look at, not the little things. But you do whatever you want.”
“This is still taxpayer money that is set aside for employees of the sheriff’s department. That’s the way I see it,” said Gee.
At that point, the sheriff left the meeting before it was adjourned.