|San Jacinto News Times - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
Court to take further action Jan. 15 to confi rm candidate for tax collector
COLDSPRING – A vacancy was confirmed in the county tax collector's office by San Jacinto County Commissioners' Court last Thursday declaring that Kelly Selmer failed to purchase a bond and present it to court by Jan. 10 and again on Jan. 11. Selmer was elected on the Republican ballot as San Jacinto County Tax Assessor-Collector on Nov. 6, 2012. According to the Local Government Code, Sec. 601.003, "A person elected to a regular term of office shall qualify and assume the duties of the office on, or as soon as possible after, Jan. 1 of the year following the person's election." Elected officials required by law to have a bond generally have them on the day they are sworn in to office so that they can immediately take over the duties of the office. In order for Selmer to qualify for office she has to provide bonds to the county's two school districts, to the State of Texas and one to San Jacinto County. The bond for San Jacinto County had to be in the amount of $100,000 and payable to the county. The other three bonds, of a much lessor value, are payable to the two school districts and to the state. Sec. 87.014 of the Local Government Code states: "A county officer who is required by law to give an official bond may be removed under this subchapter if the officer (1) fails to execute the bond within the time prescribed by law." On Jan. 8, 2013, San Jacinto County Commissioners' Court extended the time and gave Selmer until noon on Jan. 10 to obtain a bond, qualifying her for office. She failed to present a bond for the county by the deadline; however, she appeared in commissioners' court on Friday, Jan. 11, with her attorney George Gordon, of Conroe, with a bond wrongly made out to the state instead of San Jacinto County. The bond was not accepted by the court because, according to San Jacinto County Judge Fritz Faulkner, it was an invalid bond made payable to the governor of Texas and not payable to San Jacinto County. "It's kind of like writing a check. It has to be payable to commissioners' court. I'm not the governor of Texas," Faulkner said last Friday. According to Faulkner, Selmer has been trying to obtain a bond for the county since the election in November 2012 and has not been able to obtain one. Commissioners' court has the authority to give Selmer a "reasonable" amount of time to obtain a bond. "Reasonable" is defined by the court. Without a county bond for Selmer and with the extended time allowed her to obtain a county bond gone, commissioners passed a motion by a 4-1 vote last Friday announcing a vacancy for tax assessor-collector. Following the motion confirming the vacancy on Friday, Jan. 11, commissioners voted to appoint a tax collector for the county on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and an agenda was posted. During last Friday's meeting and before the court declared the position vacant, Selmer's attorney, George Gordon, told the court that Selmer had a $100,000 bond for $3,800 but the bond company issued it to the state instead of the county. Gordon asked for more time time to have the bond company reissue the bond with the county listed on it, saying he could have it done by Monday or Tuesday of this week. "It's not her mistake, it's the bond company," Gordon told the court. "You can't ask me to approve a bond that is payable to someone else, I don't care whose mistake it is," Faulkner said, adding that the county was supposed to have the bond to the state comptroller's office by Jan. 10. While continuing to ask for more time to have the wording on the bond corrected, commissioners' court went into executive session at 3:16 p.m. to discuss the issue with San Jacinto County Criminal District Attorney Richard Countiss. Reconvening at 3:50 p.m. Countiss, referring to Tax Code 6.28 said, "As it stands, there is a vacancy because there is no bond." Texas Tax Code 6.28 states: (a) Before beginning to perform the duties of office, a person elected or appointed as county assessor-collector must give bonds to the state and to the county, conditioned on the faithful performance of the person's duties as assessor-collector. (b) The bond for state taxes must be payable to the governor and his successors in office in an amount equal to five percent of the net state collections from motor vehicle sales and use taxes and motor vehicle registration fees in the county during the year ending August 31 preceding the date bond is given, except that the amount of bond may not be less than $2,500 or more than $100,000. To be effective, the bond must be approved by the commissioners' court and the state comptroller of public accounts. (c) The bond for county taxes must be payable to the commissioners' court in an amount equal to 10 percent of the total amount of county taxes imposed in the preceding tax year, except that the amount of the bond may not be more than $100,000. To be effective, the bond must be approved by the commissioners' court. San Jacinto County Auditor Carole Martin told the court she had contacted seven or eight bonding companies in order to obtain a bond for Selmer. As Gordon was still asking for more time to have the wording on the bond corrected, Pct. 3 Commissioner Thomas Bonds made a motion to declare the office of tax assessorcollector vacant. The motion passed four to one with Pct. 1 Commissioner Ray McCoppin voting against. Following the dismissal of court, Selmer was seen in the hallway of the courthouse in tears. Although she had no comments to make about the court's decision, she said her attorney might. Commenting, Gordon said the court did not have the authority to declare the office vacant under the tax code. He said only a district judge has that authority. Concerning a possible suit forthcoming against the county, Gordon said he will be conferring with his client about that. "I will have to see what she wants to do," he said. Also included on the Tuesday, Jan. 15 court agenda is the appointment of a sheriff for San Jacinto County.