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Tuesday marked a win for grassroots activists in East Texas, when the Smith County Commissioner’s Court decided not to expend county funds on a duplicative study. In a press release dated June 22, Grassroots America We the People’s Executive Director JoAnn Fleming called on Smith County officials not to engage in further controversy by unnecessarily hiring an outside consultant. In their meeting on Tuesday with media present, the commissioners took heed.

Smith County Commissioners were considering a plan to spend additional county tax dollars on hiring a consultant to perform a study regarding an ongoing problem with staffing for the local county jails. In the previously mentioned press release, GAWTP Executive Director JoAnn Fleming states, “we are strongly opposed because it is completely unnecessary and a waste of tax dollars.”

She goes on to explain that the function is already provided, at no expense to Smith County residents, by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

“The Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) conducts staffing plan analyses for county jails at no charge. Helping county sheriffs and commissioners courts determine proper staffing levels for detention facilities is part of the Jail Commission’s job as authorized by the state legislature.  Since the Jail Commission has the FINAL say on whether or not a county jail is in compliance with the state standards for staffing, it makes no sense to hire any outside consultants,” Fleming stated.

This issue is not the first time grassroots activists have had to battle their officials in Smith County in regards to dubious contracts with private entities.  Back in May, GAWTP filed a formal complaint with the Smith County district attorney’s office and the Texas attorney general’s office requesting an investigation into a contract and its attendant processes with American Traffic Solutions to install and operate between 10 and 20 speeding cameras throughout the county. Among other things, those complaints alleged against the constitutionality of using traffic cameras, violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA), and inordinate cost amounting to abuse of taxpayer stewardship.

At this current juncture, the complaints are currently under investigation by the Attorney General.  “I have every reason to believe this will be resolved positively,” Fleming said of that matter.

Padded contracts and good ole’ boy relationships with local elected officials are a raw deal for taxpayers that often go unnoticed. The “soft-corruption” of officials doling out such favors to the well-connected is an issue that is sadly more commonplace than many citizens realize.

Such arrangements are representative of poor character and stewardship on behalf of those who hold the public trust, but the problems don’t end there. The practices also add up financially, and with Texas’ local debt becoming such a pressing issue, citizens should not continue to foot burgeoning tax bills without investigating each line item. It is reassuring to see citizens’ groups like Grassroots America We The People staying engaged and holding their officials accountable.  All Texans could stand to benefit by following their example.