Resumés sought for sheriff’s post
Trinity Standard , April 2007
GROVETON – Do you live in Trinity County? Are you a certified peace officer?
Then you too can toss your hat into the ring for the appointment to be the next Trinity County sheriff.
During the April 9 meeting of the Trinity County Commissioners Court, the resignation of Sheriff Jimmy Smith was formally accepted and the post was officially declared to be vacant.
That action cleared the way for commissioners to begin the process of appointing someone to fill the position until the November 2008 general election.
After discussing various options, the court decided to solicit resumés from those interested in receiving the appointment. A deadline of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17, was set.
Resumés should be submitted to Trinity County Judge Mark Evans, P.O. Box 457, Groveton, Texas 75845. They also may be delivered to the judge’s office located on the first floor of the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton.
Under the procedures approved Monday, after the April 17 deadline has passed, the commissioners will call a special meeting to review the resumés. At that time they will decide whether or not to call the top contenders in to meet with the commissioners.
During Monday’s meeting, commissioners were told that under Texas law, they must select someone who has resided in Trinity County for at least six months.
County Attorney Joe Bell explained that the residency requirement for an appointment is the same as the one for a person seeking the office in an election.
The only other requirement set forth by commissioners Monday is that the person they will appoint would have to be certified as a peace officer through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards-Education (TCLEOSE).
Evans told commissioners Monday he had already received a number of calls from people about the job and was particularly amused with one anxious applicant.
“Not only did he not live in Trinity County, but he wasn’t even a certified peace officer,” Evans said. “I told him I thought residing in the county and being a certified officer would be the first two requirements on our list.”
It was the lack of the TCLEOSE certification which forced Smith to step down effective on March 31.
Under Texas law, Smith had two years from the time he took office to obtain the certification – a deadline which passed on Jan. 1 of this year.
A civil lawsuit challenging his right to hold the office was then filed in mid-January and a trial on the matter was set for April 23.
However, Smith elected to resign effective March 31, two days after he failed the TCLEOSE certification test for the third time.
Because of his lack of certification, the county’s insurance provider – the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) – had notified local officials they were going to cancel Trinity County’s law enforcement liability insurance effective on March 31.
After Smith submitted his resignation, TAC officials agreed to continue the policy without interruption.
“We don’t want to go down that road again,” Pct. 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham said when the possibility of appointing a non-certified sheriff was raised.
All commissioners quickly agreed any applicant would have to have at least a basic certification and while it would not be required, they indicated they would give serious consideration to candidates with advanced certificates.
Since Smith’s resignation on March 31, the duties of sheriff have been passed to Chief Deputy Sheriff Jim Gratz, who asked commissioners Monday to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible.
In reporting on the status of the sheriff’s department, Gratz said it was “still open for business and functioning.”
“Right now we have a full staff, with the exception of the sheriff,” he said, adding that he had just hired a new jailor to fill the only other vacancy in the department.
Gratz, a retired Houston Police Department veteran, said because he is now wearing “two hats,” he is putting in 160 hours in a two-week pay cycle. Anything over 84 hours in a pay cycle is considered to be overtime.
“The longer (the appointment process) drags out, the more of an overtime burden it will be to the county,” Gratz said.
Because Gratz is now the “acting sheriff,” Evans said he was not sure if he still was still entitled to draw overtime but Bell indicated that under federal law, he probably was eligible.
“The deciding factor is whether or not he is still working patrol and answering calls,” Bell said.
Gratz explained he is still considered to be the department’s chief investigator and is continue to respond to all major criminal cases.
“In that since, then yes, I am still working patrol,” he said.
While commissioners agreed to clear up the overtime question, they also agreed it was in the county’s best interest to select a new sheriff as quickly as possible.
“We definitely don’t need to wait five weeks,” said Worsham, referring to the next regular meeting of the commissioners on May 14.
To expedite the process, Evans suggested that a short questionnaire be prepared containing four or five questions for each applicant. Those interested in the job could fill it out and submit it for commissioners to review.
“I’d like to know things like where they’ve worked and the reason for leaving,” Evans said.
Pct. 2 Commissioner Jannette Hortman added she would like to know what each candidate’s goals would be for the department as well as when they were certified and how much experience they had, not only as a law enforcement officer but as an administrator.
It was noted that who ever is selected would not only have to oversee the activities of the patrol deputies and jail, but would have to administer a combined sheriff’s department/jail budget of $1 million.
Hortman suggested that instead of a questionnaire, they ask each candidate to submit a resumé.
“Most of the information we will need should be in the resumé,” she said. “If we want to know something else, we can ask them.”
Evans and the commissioners also agreed they will contact TCLEOSE to verify certifications and would run criminal history checks on each candidate.