Goliad County may vote to scrap school officer position

April 15, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.
Updated April 15, 2013 at 11:16 p.m.

GOLIAD - The Goliad Commissioners Court could vote to end the school resource officer position for the Goliad school district at the April 22 meeting.

The commissioners were misled about the school's law enforcement options by the school board, said Goliad County Judge David Bowman at a special joint meeting with the commissioners and the school board Monday.

Bowman said he was told that a school police department was not viable because of the school's close proximity to another law enforcement agency and that it was cost prohibitive.

"I took that information at face value and, working with the school's administration, an interlocal agreement was drafted and approved by the school board and commissioners court. After that, the commissioners court approved the agreement. ... The information we had been provided was incorrect," he said.

The agreement, approved in February, licensed Paul San Miguel as a school resource officer and reserve deputy under Constable Michael De La Garza. It requires the school district to pay the costs, but Bowman said the county is still liable for the employee.

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers does not require schools to be far from law enforcement agencies to be created, but Goliad Superintendent Christy Paulsgrove said the "need" of a school is considered in the application.

Additionally, the nonrefundable application fee to license a police department is $1,000, and the school district would be required to provide facilities, such as an interrogation room, if they were approved.

Paulsgove did not have estimates for these costs.

"What we would probably look at as a cost option is to get a surrounding county or city to commission us before we would do a police department because that would probably be cheaper than a police department," Paulsgrove said. "However, that looks bad for our county - that we don't even provide safety for our kids."

Precinct 3 Commissioner Ron Bailey, who voted to approve the interlocal agreement, said he regrets his decision now.

"It was a very painful learning experience for me because in my opinion, I should have voted against it," said Bailey of the 4-1 vote.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ted Long said he is especially concerned for the county employees who have been under a pay freeze for four years, since the school officer is an employee of the county and is paid at a higher rate than sheriff's deputies.

"I feel that the school needs an SRO. I think they need several, actually. But I don't think county and school tax dollars should be mixed," he said.

Dick Mollicone, school board member, said it is best for the taxpayers to keep the interlocal agreement.

"We might have to raise the taxes, and we would need to do a rollback because we are at the maximum rate right now. You would be forcing the citizens to pay a tax rather than y'all making a decision," Mollicone told commissioners.

Goliad taxpayer Debra Kelley said the best way to solve the problem is to allow school staff with their concealed carry licenses to be able to carry weapons on campus. That way, she said, armed personnel would be at every campus, not just one, and it would not cost the county or the school additional money.

Justin Youngblood, of Goliad, who came to the meeting because his 5-year-old daughter starts school next year, said the school officer needs to be approved for the safety of the children and the staff.

"As long as the school is paying for it, I don't think they should start another process," he said.

About 100 people attended the meeting at the First United Methodist Church on Monday night, with multiple people speaking for and against the agreement.

If the commissioners court votes to rescind the agreement, Bowman said, that decision would take effect in September.



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