Parker County Today – Special Saturday Newsblast
Letter to the Editor:
November 1, 2018
To the Editor,
I served 35 years in law enforcement, retiring honorably from the Parker County Sheriffs Office in January of 2015 at the rank of Captain. My service includes nine years as Chief Investigator of the Parker County Attorneys Office and five years as its Chief Deputy.
I was responsible during most of the last 15 years of my tenure to the Sheriff(s) I served, for the assessment and development of the Sheriff’s Annual Jail and Operations Budgets, among other duties.
I was professionally acquainted with former Commissioner Mack Dobbs during his tenure. I’m here to say without hesitation that Mr. Dobbs was not a supporter of Law Enforcement, at any level.
Despite rising inmate populations, he dismissed numerous staffing requests for more personnel and refuted the Texas Jail Commission s minimum staffing regulations for jailer to inmate ratios.
Jailers atrophied as jail unrest culminated into rioting by spring of 2000 and the Jail Commission again cited the Jail for Non-Compliance. On March 21, 2000, County Judge Mark Riley issued an unprecedented Emergency Order for the hiring of 11 jailers to comply with the Jail Commission or else face the potential shutdown of the Parker County Jail. Five of those 11 positions had been defunded from the Sheriff’s Budget by Commissioner Dobbs and his majority by the end of 1999, which largely contributed to the staffing short age and riots that occurred prior to the Judge’s action in March of that year.
Commissioner Dobbs paid $8500 of taxpayer money to a private jail contractor to assess the staffing needs of the jail. The jail contractor told the commissioners that the jail could not be operated with fewer than 52 staff members. At that time, the Jail had only 34 on staff before the Judge issued the Emergency Order to hire 11 additional staff members. The same private jail contractor told Commissioners Court that if they requested additional staff because of inmate population in creases and were denied, they would toss the keys to the County Commissioners and walk away. The Contractor also stated that they do not reduce staffing in the Jail regardless of inmate population trends.
In a recent interview with the local newspaper, Mr. Dobbs maintained that there was no emergency in the Jail at that time and that the Sheriff had other personnel that he could use in the jail for “what was needed.” What Mr. Dobbs failed to say was that the only other staff that the Sheriff legally could use would be deputies, who were responsible for public safety, answering emergency calls and investigating crimes.
The Sheriff’s Office was already staffed at an abysmal 8/10 of 1 Officer per 1000 citizens compared to the national averages of 2.4 per 1000 citizens.
What Commissioner Dobbs had done was an improper act to compel or influence how another elected official deploys their resources (see Atty. Gen JC-214).
During a presentation in Commissioner’s Court later that year regarding Patrol Deputy staffing, it was pointed out that inherent dangers existed by having too few Deputies to patrol the entire County and the lack of timely backup, citing an increased number of calls involving armed suspects. Commissioner Dobbs famously responded, “…[If] someone shoots one deputy, he’ll just shoot three or four or how many you send out there.”
At Mid-Year in 2001, the Sheriff’s Office managed to get a long overdue, substantial pay increase, which was approved after it became known that a Deputy Sheriff with child was eligible for Food Stamps. The County Judge and two other Commissioners voted 3-2 for those raises. The funding for those raises was included in the next year’s budget obviously, which was to be set prior to Oct. 1, 2001with an effective tax rate.
During that budget session Commissioners Dobbs and Gary Plugge refused to attend Commissioners Court to establish a Quorum in Commissioners Court to settle the tax rate, thus they violated their statutory and constitutional duties.
As a result they had to be compelled by Writ of Mandamus is sued by the District Judge which was filed in Cause number #49474. On Nov. 26, 2001, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals denied the appeal of Commissioners Dobbs and Plugge and they were told they had to appear to set the tax rate or they would face jail time. Had the tax rate reverted back to the previous year, the funding for those raises would have vaporized.
In January of 2000 the Texas Attorney General issued a ruling that Commissioners Dobbs and the majority on the Court that voted with him, had acted improperly by making an unlawful appointment of a Purchasing Agent/Procurement Officer despite being advised by the County Attorney in open Court that such action and appointment was unlawful. (Atty. General Opinion No.JC-0167.)
In September of 2000, Commissioner Dobbs and two other Commissioners were found to have abused their Official Discretion in the 43rd Judicial Court of Parker County (CauseNo.48014) for illegally removing salary money from the Sheriff’s Budget and attempting to interfere with his appointment of a new Chief Deputy. Commissioner Dobbs refused to be sworn-in and truthfully give testimony in that case in front of a visiting District Judge, lacking the personal character and the moral conviction of his own conduct. In short, Mr. Dobbs’ legacy is etched in history by his actions over the years.
Captain M.W. Morgan
PCSO Retired ID352