Gonzales County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday, Aug. 13 to eliminate the chief clerk position. In place of the disputed chief clerk position will be a three-tiered clerkship system with salary increases at each level.
The chief clerk position was a point of contention between Gonzales County Judge Pat Davis and members of the court. In June, Davis accused Commissioners Donnie Brzozowski and Kevin La Fleur of attempting to circumvent the court by discussing the then-chief clerk position with an Austin-based law firm the county had used on retainer without the consent of the whole court. The two commissioners were cleared of any illegality by the Austin attorneys and the court voted to eliminate qualifications on the chief clerk position at a July meeting. The qualifications were stripped due to a question of legality.
The tiered system is scaled so that elected officials can pay their clerks up to a set amount depending on classification. Clerk ones can make up to $20.11 per hour, clerk twos are up to $21 per hour and clerk threes are listed as up to $22.57 per hour. Clerk three is meant to be analogous to the chief clerk position in terms of duties. However, the clerk three position in its current incarnation does offer a lower salary. The chief clerk position is paid $23 per hour, while clerk threes are capped at a 43 cents lower rate per hour.
The court was in agreement they did not want to cut any individual’s salary and that the four chief clerks currently employed by the county should be grandfathered into the new pay scale at their current rate. However, the court was split when it comes to details on how to accomplish that.
At one point, Brzozowski motioned that a current chief clerk would retain their pay as long as they stay in their respective office, but if they were to transfer to another county office, they would be subjected to a pay cut. The motion was later rescinded.
Davis had previously accused Brzozowski and La Fleur of attempting to prevent him from hiring who he wanted to hire as chief clerk by establishing qualifications for the position before he took office. Commissioners can set how many clerks can work in a given county office and what they are paid, but they cannot influence or block an elected official’s appointment.
La Fleur denied this allegation and maintains the initial, now revoked, qualifications on the defunct chief clerk position were placed with the intention of keeping any perceived unqualified candidates—not just one person—out of important county positions.
Toward the end of the meeting, Brzozowski asked Gonzales County Attorney Paul Watkins if the new tiered clerkship system works for him. Watkins had also previously expressed issue with the qualifications set on the former-chief clerk position. Watkins said the new structure works, but there is still a problem with the difference in pay between the chief clerk and clerk three positions.
Following the exchange, Davis said the new system, more specifically the pay difference between chief clerks and clerk threes, does not work for him.
“Did you give the judge what the judge requested?” Davis said.
“Do you even know what you want?” Brzozowski said.
“Yes, I do know exactly what I want,” Davis said.
“Well you’re not going to get that,” Brzozowski said. “That ought to answer your damn question. You’re not going to get it.”
Davis then made a motion to allow his initial pick for chief clerk, who works as the chief clerk in the Department of Public Safety office, not to take a pay cut to transfer to his office. The motion was not seconded. Commissioner K.O. ‘Dell’ Whiddon then made a motion to adjourn, urging the court to cool down and revisit the issues at a later date and the court obliged.
Other news from the workshop: