Though the county of Gonzales is home to just over 20,000 Texans, it packs enough political corruption to rival the capital city of Austin.
One of the most blatant examples occurred at the office of Gonzales County Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin La Fleur, who was recently investigated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for illegal dumping. La Fleur was found to have dug pits in the yard outside his office using county equipment and dumped county municipal solid waste in them.
Indeed, in July, the TCEQ sent Gonzales County a summary of their investigation detailing the commissioner’s substantial violation of public law, which “included but was not limited to, construction and demolition material, mattresses, light bulbs, furniture, and empty and full paint cans.” Commissioner La Fleur’s office is within half a mile of the Guadalupe River.
Ironically, La Fleur is listed on Constable John Moreno’s website as one of the local officials unified and committed to combating illegal dumping, an effort that even promises to “issue civil and criminal citations” and “prepare criminal cases for prosecution” for those found to be partaking in the illegal practice.
One local taxpayer, when asked about this issue, weighed in on the La Fleur dumping scandal and said Gonzales County taxpayers will be the ones paying to clean up the commissioner’s mess.
“The evidence is clear that illegal dumping has occurred at the hands of the Precinct 3 Commissioner’s Office, and the County has no option other than to address the issue,” the taxpayer said. “Due to the negligence of public officials, taxpayers will now have to bear the burden of paying the costs to clean up the dumpsite.”
Even after Commissioner La Fleur made an illegal mess, he seemingly went outside the law again when trying to clean it up.
La Fleur entered into a contract in September on behalf of the county with NRC Gulf Environmental Services, Inc. to provide the required remediation work, as well as the transport and proper disposal of the dumped items.
However, La Fleur acted on his own to hire the waste management company to perform an environmental cleanup of the dumpsite, without involving any other official or the public in the decision to spend taxpayer money—a violation of state law.
According to an opinion by then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, “a county can act only through its commissioners court, and the individual commissioners have no authority to bind the county by their separate action. Thus, a county commissioner, acting alone, may not enter into an agreement with a private entity.”
Upon a review of the Gonzales County Commissioners Court public agendas, the dumping and the cleanup matters were never brought before the commissioners court as a whole, nor was proper legal notice given to the public. As a result, La Fleur had no legal authorization to make the deal on his own using citizens’ cash.
Did La Fleur realize he was breaking the law? According to the Texas Legislature, all county commissioners are required to attend training and continuing education regarding all legal aspects of their elected role—meaning the commissioner had already been given an adequate understanding of the legal aspects surrounding his duties.
Unfortunately, La Fleur’s actions are just another example of concerning behavior by public officials in Gonzales County, including a husband-and-wife EMS director duo indictment, the county’s questionable use of budget amendments, and a city park secretary’s embezzlement scandal. Gonzales citizens have long seen their city and county officials immersed in a swamp of unethical activity.
Now, maybe the only thing needing to be dumped out of office are some of the officials.