Some Goliad officials want treasurer to resign

Jon Wilcox By Jon Wilcox

Sept. 13, 2017 at 10:30 p.m.

   Picasa for The Victoria Advocate

Goliad County officials are divided over whether to blame their treasurer for her absence at emergency management meetings scheduled immediately after Hurricane Harvey.

"She took an oath to faithfully execute the duties of her office, and she didn't do that," said County Judge Pat Calhoun.

At a public Monday commissioners court meeting, Calhoun cast a tie-breaking vote to draft a resolution demanding the resignation of Daphne Buelter, who has served as county treasurer for about seven years. That resolution, if passed at the upcoming Sept. 25 commissioners court meeting, would act as a symbolic condemnation for Buelter, who was elected by Goliad voters.

"I do not work for the county judge. I do not work for the commissioners court. I was put here by the people," Buelter said.

But not everyone on the dais agreed Buelter has been lax in her duties.

"It's a sham," said Precinct 3 Commissioner Mickey White, who voted against drafting the resolution. White added Buelter has performed her job with excellence, something he cannot say about Calhoun and some commissioners.

"She did her job," he said.

Precinct 4 Commissioner David Bruns condemned Buelter's conduct at Monday's meeting because she failed to show at numerous emergency management meetings. Emergency Management Coordinator Christy Bear said the treasurer missed at least 10 meetings where her expertise was critically needed, requiring her to appoint a volunteer to take over Buelter's duties.

Calhoun agreed.

"If we don't have all the right documentation and all the right numbers, then we might not get reimbursed from Federal Emergency Management Agency, which means our taxpayers (would) have to pay," the county judge said.

Additionally, Bruns said, Buelter should have been on hand for discussion and brainstorming to solve numerous hurricane-related problems such as the replacement of water-pump generators.

But Buelter said she fulfilled her duties the day before Harvey's landfall by completing payroll tasks and emailing necessary FEMA spreadsheets for documenting the usage of resources. A loss of FEMA funding, she said, would only result from decisions or inaction from Bear and Calhoun.

She also said she would have attended the meetings if other officials had notified her.

Buelter said she learned about the meetings and her desired presence in passing through a Sept. 1 phone call from Bruns - about five days after the meetings began.

But Bear said during a phone call Aug. 24, she advised Buelter she should attend meetings starting Aug. 27. Buelter acknowledged that request, she said.

More importantly, Buelter should have known better, Bear, Calhoun and Bruns said. Attending meetings is a requirement outlined by the county's emergency management plan, which the treasurer was trained on, Bear said.

"Every one of us who are defined in this plan ... knows we are essential," Bear said.

And with the violence and scope of Harvey's destruction, Bear said she and other emergency officials did not have the time to request Buelter's presence.

"When you are in the 24- to 48-hour window before and after the storm, it is so integral that we all know our jobs and get it done," Bear said. "We cannot babysit. We should not chase down our personnel."

However, Buelter said she had no way of guessing when meetings would occur.

"That makes no sense," Buelter said.

The county treasurer said she saw the controversy from a different perspective. She said her history as a whistleblower for transparency has motivated Calhoun and other commissioners' to push her out of office.

After discovering payroll discrepancies that totaled about $25,000 in additional payments to the county's EMS department in July 2016, Buelter reported her findings. Bringing that issue and others to light, she said, has soured her relationship with Calhoun and some commissioners.

Bruns and Calhoun dismissed that theory.

"I'm not political, and I don't care about politics," Bruns said. "That's not why I'm here."

But White said he saw things differently.

"They are using ... all this as a ploy to harass her, and I am against it 100 percent," he said.



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