Category: County Employees - HR
The Board of District Judges (BODJ, made up of the 8 Collin County District Court Judges) are tasked by the Texas Constitution to fill a vacant office of District Clerk.
The BODJ chose to meet and vote on their appointment in a closed door meeting.
In a unanimous vote today, the BODJ appointed Andrea Stroh. Stroh is an attorney who practices family law in Plano.
A Collin County press release states, "Ms. Stroh’s appointment came after the board interviewed multiple candidates in the wake of the post-conviction removal of Patricia Crigger last week during her first term as the county’s District Clerk. The judges wanted to proceed quickly and deliberately in order to restore public confidence in the District Clerk’s office."
The appointment will be effective until after the November 2012 election. The District Clerk’s position will be on the March primary ballot, and the winner of the November election will take over the remainder of official term, which expires in December 2014.
Candidates for the remainder of the term can file for either party before December 19, 2011.
Ms. Stroh earned a J.D. from South Texas College of Law in 1998. In 1997, she studied at Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey, 1997 and in 1995, she earned her Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University.
Ms Stroh has been a member of the Connor Harrington Republican Women's Club, has been active in several Plano schools, has served as a member of the Board of Directors for Hope’s Door, and has served as the Chair of Plano's Cultural Affairs Commission.
Ms. Stroh told The Collin County Observer that she did not seek the position of District Clerk. She accepted the appointment after she was asked by the BODJ.
Stroh hopes she can bring to the office a "fresh perspective", with no ties to any members in that office and courthouse.
Stroh wishes to, "elevate the office of District Clerk", by being dedicated, "through time to restore the citizens' faith in their department and the elections".
Stroh will file to be a candidate for the remainder of the term of office in the Republican Party Primary. She believes that the office needs some continuity by promising to commit to the job through 2014. She state that the department, "had so many changes this year, that more changes create more chaos".
Stroh will be shutting down her Law Practice next week. She said she will be a full-time District Clerk. Although she will run for the remainder of the term, she has no desire to hold a, "lifetime career in the office".
The BODJ appointed an 'interim' District Clerk immediately after Patricia Crigger's felony conviction on December the 6th. The district courts can not function without a sworn District Clerk. The clerks in the office have no authority unless acting as a deputy to a legal District Clerk.
The Board appointed Judy Blazier, a veteran of the District Clerk's Office until the BODJ could interview, deliberate, and appoint a District Clerk that could serve until the end of 2012.
Ms. Blazier had already made plans to retire at the end of this month. She told the Collin County Observer that she had absolutely no desire to be the District Clerk, but that she would keep the office operating until the judges chose a replacement.
Blazier's first actions were to fire the two District Deputy Clerks convicted of corruption - Rebecca Littrell and Sherry Bell.
Early the next morning, Blazier had sworn-in all the employees as her deputy district clerks.
Stroh will have to once again swear-in the employees as her deputy district clerks.
By: Magna Carta
Attorney at Law
On Day Three of the District Clerk trial, John Helms Jr. for the Prosecution called Ms. Kristy Duty who worked for the District Clerk's office and remains a county employee in another division.
Kristy Littrell Duty
Duty described the Blue Book system as being a system for recording extra hours that employees worked, redeemable as PTO (Paid Time Off). Initially, when a person redeemed PTO time from the Blue Book, their supervisor would manually enter a PeopleSoft record showing that employee had actually been at work. (PeopleSoft is the software system they use in the HR department and payroll department.) Eventually, HR came to audit the DC office because of the excessive number of manual PeopleSoft entries. (Normally, entries are automatically created when a person scans his or her badge.) Once the HR audit was completed, employees and supervisors adopted the practice of employees leaving their badges with their supervisor when redeeming Blue Book time so the supervisor could "swipe" the employee in and out. This created the PeopleSoft record needed to get the employee paid without requiring a manual entry. Duty described the Blue Book system as being secret in the sense that it was not to be disclosed outside of the District Clerk’s office.
Rebecca Littrell’s attorney, Deric Walpole, cross examined Duty. During Walpole's cross, Duty admitted that the DC employees described the Blue Book system to her during her initial job interview with the DC's office, his point being that if it was so secret, why were they telling a mere prospective employee? Her response was that because her cousin (Littrell) was involved in the hiring process and everyone knew she was going to get the job. [Implicating the “Good Ole’ Boy (Girl?)” network arrogance that is so endemic in Collin County.]
Duty admitted that she had been the beneficiary of the Blue Book system. When she was pregnant and on bed rest, she had to work one weekend to show Crigger and others how to change some accounting codes in the AS/400 system. She received 40 Blue Book hours for the weekend, which she redeemed. Defense attorneys pointed this out more than once. And each time she distinguished her use of the Blue Book as being related to work she did for the county vs. working on someone's election campaign. Initially, Duty testified that her only involvement in the Crigger campaign was that she and Melissa Smith held a garage sale to help raise funds to pay Crigger's filing fee. Later, under cross examination by Walpole, she remembered that she held a Saturday evening meet and greet, close to the Valentine's Day.
Duty described a meeting at Fuddruckers and recounted that Littrell encouraged the staff to campaign for Crigger and they would “get their time back.”
Hannah Kunkle’s attorney, John Harden, cross examined Duty. She admitted that Kunkle never said anything about anyone getting reimbursed for campaign time. Littrell sent a reminder email (using the county computers) regarding the Fuddrucker lunch. Walpole pointed out during his cross that if the Blue Book system was so secret, why did they talk about it openly and freely during lunch hour at a popular restaurant?
Duty testified that when Human Resources notified the District Clerk’s office that they would be conducting an audit, Littrell sent an email to the supervisors instructing them to delete their Blue Book spreadsheets prior to the audit. According to the Blue Book calendar, some employees would take several days off in a row to work on Crigger’s campaign. Sometimes so many people would be out of the office working on the campaign that there were not enough people for the office to function properly. Duty alleged that phones were not being answered, people couldn't take lunch breaks, parties couldn't get their file marked copies, etc. [I never understood what this meant, having lots of experience in getting things file marked. There has never been a delay, in my experience - MC]
On cross, Walpole asked her WHO complained about the service. She said "lots of people." He said "name one." She named two people and punctuated it with a sarcastic "how's that?" Walpole asked Duty to name a single customer who complained. Duty finally admitted she never actually heard any customer complaints--just heard people complaining about people complaining.
NON SEQUITUR: Duty never held a campaign sign for Judge Roach.
Duty testified that in February 2010, it snowed. Employees were told that they could take half a day off and record it in PeopleSoft as 4 hours of "Office Closed" time. If they wanted to take off the entire day, they needed to record an additional 4 hours of PTO time. She took the entire day off, but somehow her time was recorded in PeopleSoft? as 8 hours of PTO time. Initially Duty testified that she complained about this to Littrell who told her to call Human Resources. She called the payroll department and was told that if Littrell or Kunkle would send an email, payroll would correct the time entry. Littrell, according to Duty’s testimony, told her that Kunkle and Crigger wanted all of her PTO would go on the Blue Book, rather than a PeopleSoft correction. This upset Duty. LATER, during Hardin's cross, Duty admitted that Kunkle had never been involved in her timesheet and Kunkle's name never appeared on any of the emails comprising this transaction.
The next day, still upset about her PTO time AND all the campaign time she saw being logged into the Blue Book, she complained to Judge Roach. About two weeks later, Roach told Duty and a Lara Roberge, who made a separate complaint, that he took the issue to his father, John Roach, Sr., the District Attorney at the time, who, in turn, referred the issue to the Texas Rangers. Judge Roach told them that they should know that as supervisors in the department, they could face jail time for being part of the system they were complaining about.
[Yes, this blew up over 4 hours of PTO time for a person probably making $15/hour. $60 would have kept all this under wraps.]
Duty testified that she was contacted by Texas Ranger A.P. Davidson. She described the Blue Book system to him and thereafter kept him informed of what was occurring in the DC office. She quit her job in the DC office in November 2010 because she did not want to work under the Crigger/Littrell regime.
Duty described the falling out she had with Littrell. Twelve years ago, she and Littrell “got into it.” They were very close (cousins by marriage) when she first moved to Collin County. Littrell and Husband Adam asked her to babysit their child. She agreed. Later, she decided to spend time with her sister so she backed out. Littrell was hurt by this. She thinks this is where the relationship started to sour between her and Littrell. [There is a pungent waft of "pettiness" (this being a polite word) on all sides throughout this story. Little hurts and annoyances leading to big bangs.]
Kunkle discovered a Crigger campaign flyer in the office and was very upset about campaigning on county time. Kunkle said "they shouldn't do this." Hardin made her tell this story several times. Hardin was genteel but insistent and forced Duty to admit she had no personal knowledge of Kunkle’s involvement in anything.
Attorney at Law
Today, the Commissioners court appointed the members of the Civil Service Commission.
The Sheriff's Department employees Civil Service Commission is made up of three commissioners.
The Commissioners Court nominates one commissioner, one by the Sheriff, and the District Attorney.
The Commissioners Court appointed:
Sheriff Terry Box has named James McCarley as the chairman of the Civil Service Commission. McCarley spent 23 years in law enforcement, including serving nearly 11 years as the Chief of Police for the City of Plano. Later, he was a former Assistant City Manager-Director of Public Safety for Plano. McCarley has served as the Chairman of ViewPoint Bank, and also as Executive Director of the Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition from 1996 until his retirement in 2007, including the interim Executive Director of the North Texas Tollway Authority.
The Commissioners Court named Pat Gallagher unanimously in a nomination by Cheryl Williams. Gallagher is a Plano city councilman and the former chairman of Plano's Civil Service Commission until 2011. For most of his career, Gallagher has been a business executive. After he retired, he joined the Addison Police Department, where he now serves as police officer/supervisor.
District Attorney Greg Willis named Joy Flavill to the commission. Flavill is an office manager at a doctor's office. Flavill is also Collin County GOP activist and a contributor to Willis's campaign.
The Civil Service Commission will be chaired by Chief McCarley, "and the members will draw lots to determine and serve two year terms on a staggered basis (Two members appointment will expire one year and the other member the following year)."
The previous post below details the duties and scope of the Civil Service Commission.
On September 20th, the employees of the Collin County Sheriff's Department voted to establish a Civil Service Commission. The vote was 296 for, and 35 against.
The Civil Service Commission will be made up three commissioners. The County Commissioners' Court will appoint three commissioners. County Administrator, Bill Bilyeu has send the county commissioners the details of the process: "The Commissioners Court will appoint the three members of the Commission with the District Attorney, Sheriff, and Commissioners Court each nominating one of the members. The Sheriff will select the Chair and the members will draw lots to determine and serve two year terms on a staggered basis (Two members appointment will expire one year and the other member the following year)."
2007, the Collin County Deputies Association was had a series of conflicts with County Judge, Keith Self. The budget hearing last year ignited a conflagration over Judge Self's proposal to cut the county employees' retirement benefits.
Three days before the deputies Civil Service election, Judge Self voted against the 2012 budget - he was opposed to the 2 tier salary approved; 3% for sworn officers, and 2% for the remainder of the county employees. In a large part of the Deputies Association pushed for the Civil Service system to try to protect themselves from Keith Self.
Sheriff Terry Box did not actively oppose the Civil Service system.
The Texas Local Government Code gives the Civil Service Commission:
"Sec. 158.035. POWERS OF COMMISSION. (a) The commission shall adopt, publish, and enforce rules regarding:
(1) selection and classification of employees;
(2) competitive examinations;
(3) promotions, seniority, and tenure;
(4) layoffs and dismissals;
(5) disciplinary actions;
(6) grievance procedures;
(7) the rights of employees during an internal investigation; and
(8) other matters relating to the selection of employees and the procedural and substantive rights, advancement, benefits, and working conditions of employees.
(b) The commission may adopt or use as a guide any civil service law or rule of the United States, this state, or a political subdivision in this state to the extent that the law or rule promotes the purposes of this subchapter and is consistent with the needs and circumstances of the department.
(c) In a county with a population of 2.8 million or more, a panel of three commissioners shall preside at the hearing and vote on the commission's final decision in any case involving termination, demotion, or recovery of back pay. A panel's decision is the final decision of the commission for purposes of Sections 158.0351 and 158.037. The commission shall adopt rules prescribing the commission's procedures for assigning members to a panel. A panel may not include more than one member who was appointed to the commission by the same individual appointing authority.
(d) In rendering a final decision regarding a disciplinary action by the department, the commission may only sustain, overturn, or reduce the disciplinary action. The commission may not enhance a disciplinary action by the department."
Bilyeu also explained that, "As a reminder, the Commission’s duties are only related to the direct employees of the Sheriff. Court officers, DA investigators, deputy constables, etc. are not covered by the Commission."
The Commissioners Court is expected to start the process of appointing Civil Service commissioners tomorrow, Monday, October 3.