Uniform reimbursement meant to stir controversy

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Dear Editor:

We have a crisis in the Clay County Commissioners’ Court. Commissioner Gee has requested an agenda item for the meeting scheduled for Monday, April 8, 2013 to demand a refund from Kinneth Sluder of his already paid uniform allowance. The March 11, 2013 minutes reflect the following:

“Discussion among Gee, Sheriff Lemons, Kinneth Sluder: Commissioner Gee questioned reimbursement to Kinneth Sluder from sheriff’s dept. uniform line (bill was approved and paid approx. $300.00 for Sluder’s jeans), since Sluder is not employee of sheriff. Gee requested item be placed on future agenda to discuss ordering Sluder to reimburse funds to county.”

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What stirred this up? We know that before the March 11, 2013 meeting, Commissioner Gee and the County Auditor Ramona Seward had a conversation about this subject and that the auditor provided commissioner Gee with some information and documentation.

The order adopted Oct. 26, 2009 provided for reimbursement to the sheriff employees for uniform expense not to exceed $300 per year.

On April 7, 2011, Sheriff Lemons requested that Sluder be reimbursed $300.00 (maximum reimbursement) for a bill for uniform clothing of $319.98. That was approved by the Clay County Commissioners’ Court and paid to Sluder by check dated April 11, 2011. On Feb. 11, 2013, Sheriff Lemons requested that Sluder be reimbursed $297.06 for a bill for uniform clothing in that amount. That was approved by the Clay County Commissioners’ Court Order No. 3 dated Feb. 25, 2013 and paid to Sluder by check dated Feb. 25, 2013. Both reimbursements were allocated to “Sheriff Expenses.”

After all this time and the proper approval and payment twice, it was discovered that Sluder, the County Maintenance Supervisor, is a county employee and not an employee of the sheriff. Did no member of the Clay County Commissioners’ Court know who the county’s employee worked for? Did the auditor not know? By the way, all are county employees. So we have Commissioner Gee’s proposal to demand that Sluder pay this back – why? Who made the apparent bookkeeping error of paying an expense of a county employee from the sheriff’s budget? Could it have been the auditor? Could it have been the Clay County Commissioners’ Court? Bet it wasn’t Sluder.

For several years, through the efforts of Kinneth Sluder, maintenance supervisor, and Sheriff Kenny Lemons, and the use of jail trustees, huge amounts of labor has provided to help in keeping up county property and assisting with public events. For example, The maintenance supervisor, with no other paid help, using the sheriff’s trustee program, does the following:

  • Maintain and clean county buildings and grounds
    • courthouse
    • courthouse annex
    • sheriff’s office and jail
    • USDA building and grounds
    • equipment building
    • radio tower building and property
    • library
    • museum storage and overflow building (old fire hall)
  • Upkeep of Cambridge Cemetery
  • Set up and take down chairs, equipment, etc. for following public events
    • Pioneer Reunion
    • Car show
    • Turkey Fest
    • Clay County Christmas
  • Assist Clay County Outreach as much a two days a week

All this with one county employee (Sluder) and the use of volunteer jail inmates known as trustees. A trustee is an inmate determined to be non-violent and no danger to the public, but required to serve time. Volunteer inmates must be supervised by a uniformed certified jailer. Sheriff Lemons put this beneficial program together to benefit Clay County. While technically, the maintenance supervisor may not be a sheriff’s employee, when he’s supervising the trustees, he works at the direction of the sheriff who must approve which inmates are suitable to be trustees and what projects the trustees can work on.

Why didn’t someone, a commissioner, the judge, the auditor, suggest a bookkeeping entry or budget adjustment to put this very legitimate expense in the “proper place?” Of course, that would not further the controversies some commissioner(s) and the auditor have with the sheriff. This insane controversy could endanger the outstanding volunteer inmate program and its significant help to the county and our public events.

If you are concerned about our Clay County Commissioners’ Court and others creating controversy, perhaps endangering this program, and wasting time on this trivia, come to the meeting on Monday, April 8, 2013. I’ll be there with questions; join me.

Frank J. Douthitt
Interested Citizen
Henrietta
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Pioneer Sentinel

The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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