When Somervell County Commissioners Court Spent YOUR Tax Dollar Money to Pay State of Texas ex rel Best v Harper -July 11 2016
10 December 2019 at 10:11:19 AM
Somervell County might like to pretend that the taxpayer money that they have been outlaying to pay for Andy Lucas, as the State of Texas, outside attorney bills, have nothing to do with them. Or that, because they never held an agenda item meeting until November of this year (2019) that they can somehow absolve themselves of responsiblity, despite the State Attorney General's office saying that the county is responsible to pay for the State of Texas, since the action that Andy Lucas, Somervell County Attorney acting as the representative of the State of Texas, took.
So, I went back to look at the first time I knew that Somervell County Commissioners Court, which then included Larry Hulsey, Danny Chambers, Kenneth Wood, John Curtis and Don Kranz, voted to pay for Andy's legal bills in the State of Texas ex rel Best v Harper. I wrote about it on July 15, 2016 and also did a clip from the court that I recorded. BUT what I didn't do on that clip was show them VOTING to approve it and what, if any discussion there was about the issue.
What happened here? Brian Watts brought up that the budget transfers included outside attorney bills for Andrew Lucas. What's interesting about this exchange is that the Commissioners voted on the budget transfers without any discussion. I was listening and watching at the time and thought, well, what ARE these outside legal expenses that only got brought up in this meeting? But no commissioners did before voting 5-0 to approve it. Had, they, like me, actually looked into what this was, they might have asked "Why, if Andy Lucas is representing the State of Texas, are WE paying for this instead of, say, the State of Texas comptroller's office?" IF somehow they thought that this was a private case between Darrell Best and Paul Harper, wouldn't they have asked WHY Somervell County taxpayers were paying for these bills? Or did they really already know because of possibly violating TOMA (Texas Open Meetings Act) and talking about this out of the public eye.
There's an argument to be made about how Somervell County Commissioners Court was ready and willing, without any discussion each time, to pay for Andy Lucas attorney bills while he was representing the State of Texas in State of Texas ex rel Best v Harper, almost $25,000 in money. So why then, if Harper cares about taxpayer money being spent on Andy Lucas's frivolous case THAT LUCAS BROUGHT (the case would NOT have gone forward except for him) , why isn't Harper equally concerned about the taxpayers having to pay a very large judgment? Let's consider. This was a completely frivolous, vindictive case started NOT BY HARPER but by Ron Hankins writing up a petition to remove him from office, and then Darrell Best walking that petition over to Andy Lucas and both Lucas and Best going to file at the clerk's office. At that point, HAD NOT ANDY LUCAS DECIDED TO TAKE ON THE CASE AS THE STATE OF TEXAS, the petition would have gone nowhere. That is to say, any citizen can file a petition to remove an elected official but that doesn't mean that the responsible party, the State of Texas, has to pursue it. It was entirely discretionary on Lucas part as the State of Texas to do that. He admitted that when asked about it during appeals in the 10th court of appeals when directly asked by one of the 3 justices. .
No one wants, as a responsible citizen, to rack up even more costs for the county to pay. BUT when a lawsuit is lodged BY the State of Texas that Somervell County is liable for if the State of Texas loses (and the State LOST-this last judgment went against BOTH the State of Texas AND Darrell Best, jointly and severally), and an elected official decides rather than just up and quit but fight against the bullies, he should be paid back for having, over the course or 5 years, to fight against a case that the State of Texas continually brought, lost, and then appealed. Lucas did NOT have to appeal the 10th court of appeals decision. He could have just said, okay, that's it, and stopped there, thus having only about $70,000 in fees to pay. For whatever reason I don't understand, Lucas decided to keep on appealing, onece more for a motion to rehear in the 10th court of appeals, and then on to the Texas Supreme Court. Danny Chambers KNEW that Lucas was appealing to the Texas Supreme Court, could he not really have stopped it at that point and said, Look, you are going to COST SOMERVELL COUNTY TAXPAYERS MORE MONEY if you appeal this and lose. So it seems to me that Chambers nor any of the Commissioners at this point can come back and whine about the amount they potentially have to pay because Chambers could have formally held a meeting with the commissioners and let them know the seriousness of paying for the judgment should Lucas continue to lose OR applied some pressure on Lucas, given that the county is responsible. And that includes ALL commissioners that are fairly new because they are in the same boat of voting to approve money for this case THIS YEAR. IT is not Harper's fault that Lucas CHOSE to sue him and not Harper's fault that Lucas continued to LOSE nor Harper's fault that Lucas CHOSE not to appeal the judgment if he didn't like the amounts owed to Harper for fees. Don't forget that this case also involves sanctions. Why? Because it was so egregiously frivolous, as a SLAPP suit, that the judge wanted to make sure that ANDY LUCAS AS THE STATE OF TEXAS never did this type of thing again.
NO ONE should have to fight against bullchit like this brought by what seems to me to be a rogue county attorney that was not reined in by county commissioners. Since Harper won and Lucas, as the State of Texax, lost, Harper got a judgement and deserves not to have what appears to be retaliatory and unjust actions continue.