The management of county office space will no longer be a decision left to the county judge.
On Tuesday, Dec. 18, Precinct One County Commissioner Randy Stinson made the motion to move power of office space management from the county judge to the commissioners' court. The commissioners unanimously approved the motion 4-0.
“Right now, the county judge has the power to make those decisions,” Stinson said at the commissioners' court meeting. “I’d rather it be a decision by all of us.”
The issue first came to the attention of the commissioners' court after now-former county judge Carol Bush posted a notice on Dec. 1 that the Ellis County Bar Room in the county courthouse would be repurposed for other county operations. According to the notice, the Ellis County Bar Association was notified to vacate the space by Dec. 14, stating that the multi-purpose room at the courthouse would be available for alternate spacing.
However, association president Theresa Peel stated that Bush previously denied the multi-purpose room as a meeting space if attorneys had food.
“She didn’t send it to anybody, she didn’t tell anybody,” Peel explained. “She just put it on the door. That room gets used a lot for a lot of things – not just local attorneys, but out-of-town attorneys.”
Peel claimed that the association reached out to Bush several times, but did not receive a response. Peel said she asked Precinct Three County Commissioner Paul Perry to put it on as an agenda item so it could be discussed during the next commissioners' court meeting.
Attorneys Connie McGuire and Dan Gus spoke in defense of the bar room during the public comment portion of the commissioners' court meeting. Gus said the meeting room is a valuable resource not just for the attorneys, but also for Ellis County.
“It’s county property, and the commissioners' court can do with it as they see fit,” Gus said. “For me, it’s not a big deal – I have my office right next to the courthouse. It’s more for the attorneys who are out of town who need some kind of war room or workspace when they’re in the middle of a trial.”
As it stands, Peel said the association had not been required to vacate the meeting room since the original notice, and the association has not received any new notice since. She did, however, question what the power move means for the association when newly elected officials take office this week.
“A lot of us have talked to the commissioners about the uses for that room,” Peel remarked. “They may re-look at some of those decisions that the judge made.”
Newly elected officials were sworn in Tuesday, Jan. 1.