After Dallas County elected officials filed a grievance for not getting a raise in the proposed budget, a committee made up of citizens and county officials was asked to consider the issue. Votes for two different options of pay increases were combined to meet the threshold for the commissioners court to consider the hike.

Nine Democrat county officials protested not getting a pay raise in the proposed upcoming budget by filing grievances. The officials were Dallas County Commissioners John Wiley Price and Theresa Daniel; Constables Billy Gipson, Tracey Gulley, and Edward Wright; and Justices of the Peace Thomas Jones, Michael Jones Jr., Valencia Nash, and Katina Whitfield.

Their filing triggered Friday afternoon’s roughly three hour meeting of the Salary Grievance Committee. The Dallas Civil District Attorney’s Office explained the SGC is made up of certain county officials and members of the public, unless the commissioners court decides to make it only public members. District Attorney John Creuzot (D) was on the SGC on Friday. County Judge Clay Jenkins (D) presided but couldn’t vote.

The SGC was asked to vote either for or against a pay raise; if the committee voted yes, then they were to indicate if their vote was for a 2 percent or 4 percent increase. Dr. Ronica Watkins, Dallas County’s budget director, said 4 percent would equal $113,000, while 2 percent would be $48,000, out of the proposed $1.5 billion budget.

If six to eight SGC committee members recommended an increase, the Dallas County Commissioners Court would consider it further on September 21. If nine voted for an increase, commissioners would be forced to include the increase in the budget.

After the vote, prompted by a question from a committee member, Jenkins said votes for 4 percent and 2 percent were combined in order to get six votes recommending a 2 percent increase. “If you voted for [4 percent], but there weren’t enough votes for four, we counted you as a [2 percent vote] so they got something,” Jenkins told the SGC.

“It really shouldn’t be like that,” Commissioner J.J. Koch (R) told Texas Scorecard after the vote. “But the bottom line is since it was not unanimous, we don’t have to do any of it.”

Jenkins gave SGC members an opportunity to change their vote to a 0 percent increase if they didn’t want 2 percent. None did. Jenkins then asked them to sign a document stating, “On a 6-3 vote, you voted for 2 percent.”

With the ongoing recovery from government economic mandates and restrictions in response to the Chinese coronavirus, citizens opposed the pay raise.

“On a principled level, this pay increase should be opposed,” Collin Huffines, son of Republican gubernatorial candidate Don Huffines, told the SGC.

“I think that right now, making 4 percent, even 2 percent, in principle and fact is not a good thing for this committee to decide,” Bruce Denay said. “In my 45-year corporate career, I can count on a couple of fingers the number of times I’ve had a 4 percent [pay raise] or even more, and it’s even in the best of economic times.” He asked the SGC to go no higher than 2 percent.

Koch squared numbers with the SGC. He said Dallas justices of the peace are “are paid at least 6 percent more than our sister counties”; Dallas constables are paid “11 percent more than the elected officials in Tarrant County”; and Commissioners Price and Daniel get $170,000 a year, “only 6 percent less than Tarrant County.” He asked the SGC to support either 2 percent or 0 percent. “Right now, leaders need to eat last.”

Many of the electeds who filed the grievances gave some or all of their allotted speaking time to Commissioner Price, who operated like a lawyer in a jury trial, calling forth witnesses from different departments in the county, building a case around how hard elected officials work. “We work seven days a week,” he told the SGC. He also asked Watkins if the pay increase would hike taxes; Watkins said it would not.

Price claimed he was not doing this for himself, but for the others who filed their grievances. “If I retire today, I would make two and a half times my salary per month for the next 15 years,” he said. “I fought for these people because I see them working.”

Commissioners will vote on the 2 percent pay hike at the September 21 meeting at 9 a.m.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.


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