GOLIAD – Goliad County commissioners unanimously reinstated two deputies’ salaries Tuesday after receiving an outcry from constituents on and offline.
“I didn’t get phone calls, but some of the other commissioners did,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner David Bruns, who supported cutting about $80,000 in salaries the previous day.
After Goliad County voters protested the proposal on Facebook, on the phone and at public meetings, at least three commissioners reversed direction during discussion for a vote to approve the 2019 budget, which begins Oct. 1. During the two preceding weeks, Sheriff Kirby Brumby took to Facebook to decry a cut to his office that he argued would endanger deputies by limiting their ability to call for backup.
“We find ourselves in an unfortunate and unnecessary circumstance during this budget session,” said Brumby on his office’s official Facebook page, adding, “To the men and women of the Goliad County Sheriff’s Office who go out and enter into harm’s way to enforce the laws in the remote areas of Goliad, backup is a necessity.”
With eight deputies serving a county of about 860 square miles, Brumby said he had no one to spare. Nevertheless, the sheriff was pleased with commissioners by the end of their Tuesday meeting.
“Thank you,” he said.
The day before, commissioners Bruns and Kenneth Edwards along with County Judge Pat Calhoun argued for the cuts, claiming Brumby had mismanaged his budget. They pointed to a sheriff’s office policy that allowed deputies to take patrol cars home as far as Orange Grove and Palacios as evidence.
In an address to commissioners, Brumby answered those accusations, claiming his budget has increased only 2.4 percent a year on average as calls for service have increased by 900 percent. He also said his office has made do with limited resources, including fuel and employees. The sheriff also fired back, claiming the cuts to his budget were personal.
“Privately, members of the court have accused me of being a ‘fence sitter’ because I refused to get involved in the political courthouse squabbles that did not concern me,” he said.
Some on the commissioners’ dais disagreed.
Calhoun said he calculated the county lost about $60,000 a year on three deputies taking patrol cars to their out-of-county homes. Commissioners also said the cut was intended to make Brumby better manage the deputies performing office and non-patrol duties.
“The perception was that we were going to put less deputies on the street,” Edwards said. “That was never our intention.”
Edwards said although the discussion on Facebook prompted by Brumby did not sway him, a few developments since Monday did influence his decision to bring the deputies’ salaries back.
Commissioners plan to introduce a policy to limit the use of county vehicles by employees in coming meetings, Edwards said. And County Auditor Larry Zermeno announced at the start of Tuesday’s meeting that officials had discovered an estimated $75,000 boon resulting from lower fees from the county’s appraisal district.
“That helped me decide to put that money back,” Edwards said.