During Monday’s scheduled Ellis County Commissioners Court meeting, the court will receive a recommendation from a special committee regarding the two bids received for jail management services should the court and sheriff decide to privatize the county jail.
For the past three weeks the committee has spent hours evaluating the bids, interviewing the two companies, touring facilities and discussing the proposals. The committee’s charge was to evaluate the two bids and grade each in a series of categories. They were NOT charged to make a recommendation on either company, nor to advise the court on whether or not the county should consider moving forward with jail privatization.
On Monday, the committee’s findings will be presented to the commissioners, and according to the agenda, the commissioners will have the option to vote on whether or not to move forward with private jail management by entering into negotiations with one of the two companies — or to choose to continue managing the jail through the sheriff’s office.
We are strongly urging the commissioners court to table this agenda item for two reasons.
First and foremost, this is a decision that requires the input and insight — as well as permission — from the sheriff. Next week both Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown and Chief Deputy Dennis Brearley will be attending the annual Texas Sheriff’s Convention, a commitment both had made months in advance. For the court to proceed on this issue without the sheriff would be hubris.
Secondly, we strongly recommend the court schedule a workshop with the commissioners, the sheriff and the county auditor to discuss all options available, allowing ample time for commissioners to ask questions and carefully weigh all of the information on this extremely important issue before making a decision.
While the committee’s task has been to aid the commissioners in assisting in the due diligence process of evaluating the two bids that have been submitted for total jail management, the commissioners need additional information (and an opportunity to discuss) in order to make an informed decision. During Monday’s meeting, the commissioners have an extremely lengthy agenda of business items to take care of.
There is far more information — and questions — that need to be processed and asked that goes well beyond the cover pages of each bid proposal and the committee’s grade for each firm that will be announced during Monday’s meeting.
We strongly urge the commissioners to table the agenda item on jail management and call for a special workshop meeting with the sheriff and county auditor.