During Monday’s Commissioners Court meeting, Justice of the Peace, Pct. 3, Orlando Carrasco’s request to move up part-time employee, Klarissa Robles, to full-time was denied for a second time due to the current county hiring freeze.
“I’m down to two fulltimers. I’m asking to bring her up; she’s a part-timer moving to a full-time position. It is in my budget and she’ll just be taking over that salary that the previous full-timer was receiving,” said Carrasco.
Commissioner Mark Gillespie, Pct. 1, brought up an email that was sent out discussing the possibility of sharing office personnel amongst the other precincts.
Judge Carrasco said it had not been brought to his attention until now.
Commissioner Eliseo Perez, Pct. 3, confirmed with Carrasco that he was sure he had it in his budget to move her up. Perez then moved to approve the request with Commissioner Kennard Riley, Pct. 4, seconding.
Commissioner Stuart Knowlton, Pct. 2, stated that after meeting with the Justices of the Peace in a budget workshop, Commissioners explained they would not be approving the replacement of employees. “We asked of you to leave a position open for a period of time, probably until the middle of next year.”
Commissioner Perez asked Carrasco if he had two full-time openings to which Carrasco replied yes. One was an opening he agreed to let go and keep open due to the budget cuts, and the other was due to a current employee out on leave.
“I’m hearing that you are so dependent on this weigh station that’s bringing in citations, but without the staff, it’s not going to be easy,” said Carrasco.
County Judge Bob Hurley clarified that Carrasco really only had one opening rather than two. After this clarification, Commissioner Riley withdrew his second of Perez’s motion. The motion died due to a lack of a second.
Coming into the COVID 19 pandemic, Judge Carrasco had three fulltimers and three parttimers. Since then, he has had to stop paying his part-timers and let one full-timer go voluntarily.
“After discussion in our workshops, and within an agreement of all, if one person left, they wouldn’t be replaced. I’m just making sure that we’re clear going in our procedures. And this is how we were able to cut back on our budget with the tax rate to be able to be effective even as good as we are able to bring to the table,” said Commissioner Gillespie. “If we put this into motion and accept, then we have to do it for all departments. I get it if it’s needed, Judge Carrasco. As Commissioner Knowlton said last week, bring it to us. Show us where it’s really necessary to bring in that position. And I’m not opposed to saying you don’t need it.”
Judge Carrasco stated he did need it and that Commissioners know the workload is there. “But then at the same time, I don’t see why we have people getting hired and people getting raises. I don’t understand it because there is a hiring freeze,” said Carrasco. “If you could explain that to me, that’d be great.”
Commissioner Knowlton emphasized that any department needed to present statistics as to why they needed that indispensable personnel.
County Hiring Freeze, Magistrate
On Aug. 11, 2020, Judge Hurley sent out a memo to all county department heads announcing the implementation of a hiring freeze, apart from indispensable county personnel, effective immediately through December 2021.
The memo explained:
“This means that any vacant position an elected official or department head currently has or any position that becomes vacant cannot be filled without Commissioners Court prior approval to determine if the position is an indispensable position. If an elected official or department head wishes to fill a vacant position, he or she must submit the hiring request to go before Commissioners Court as normal, but Commissioners Court will require an in-person explanation by the department head or elected official to illustrate why the hiring is necessary and presents an indispensable need to be filled for the department operation.”
Each Justice of the Peace is budgeted for three full-time clerks; a Chief Clerk and two other clerks. According to Judge Hurley, Carrasco was given a $30,000 budget for parttime help at the JP3 weigh station. He explained to Commissioners that Carrasco has about $4,000 left over in that budget that can be used to pay Robles for about two more months.
“I would like to see Commissioners Court open to moving maybe a little money so that he can have that person continue with him through this time. And this is already an existing employee, so it’s not a new hire,” said Hurley. The item would be placed on the next Commissioners Court agenda.
Carrasco informed Judge Hurley that he would no longer magistrate every other week due to the lack of staff at his office.
“Last week will have been my last week because I am getting myself out of that,” said Carrasco. “I am not bringing in anymore work to my staff. Those are within the district court and county court, and without the personnel [in my office], the work is just stacking up and it’s just going to pile up until we can get to it.”
Judge Hurley agreed to take action on that at the next meeting.
Carrasco explained Robles’ job is made up of doing the magistrate paperwork. At her current pay rate, she cannot keep up with the workload coming in due to her short hours. Moving her up to full-time would help alleviate the workload on his office.
“I’ll figure out an adjustment on that part-time pay so that you can continue to have [her] working for you until we can get her on full-time,” said Judge Hurley.