County liability insurance to be terminated
Trinity Standard , April 2007
GROVETON – With the trial of Trinity County Sheriff Jimmy Smith now set for April 23, county law enforcement is now facing a more ominous deadline.
The Texas Association of Counties (TAC), which provides insurance coverage for Trinity County, has notified local officials it will cancel the local law enforcement liability insurance policy effective March 31 due to the sheriff’s status.
Commissioners were notified last week that because Sheriff Jimmy Smith has not yet obtained his state mandated certification as a peace officer, TAC would no longer provide the policy.
The county’s current law enforcement liability policy provides $1 million in protection to the sheriff, deputy sheriffs, constables and deputy constables in the event they cause damage to property or injury to a person.
With the loss of the insurance coverage, should such injury or damage occur, Trinity County taxpayers would be liable for the entire cost.
According to County Treasurer Jo Bitner-Bartee, TAC notified the county in a March 9 letter that due to Smith’s lack of certification, they were terminating the policy effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 31.
The civil lawsuit seeking to remove Smith as sheriff is now set for jury trial on April 23 in Groveton, according to County Attorney Joe Bell.
Under the Texas Occupations Act, Smith was required to obtain state certification as a law enforcement officer within two years of taking office. That deadline passed on Jan. 1.
A check with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards-Education (TCLEOSE) shows that Smith has taken the required certification test twice since taking office but has not yet passed.
He was scheduled to take the test a third time on or before April 8 and under TCLEOSE rules, should he fail to pass on that try Smith would be required to complete a police academy training program before he would be allowed to test a fourth time.
A petition seeking Smith’s removal from the county sheriff’s position was filed with the district court’s Administrative Judge Olen Underwood in January citing the lack of certification.
The petition, filed by Groveton Police Chief Ralph Jester, charged that by failing to obtain the required certification, Smith was derelict in his duty and should be removed.
Initially, retired 259 th District Judge Quay Parker of Anson was appointed to hear the case but after Smith’s attorney objected to the selection, Underwood selected Judge Kenneth Wise of Houston to preside at the trial.