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Several requests for additional personnel and pay increases were considered by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court during their regular weekly meeting Tuesday. These requests were presented by various county departments long after the budget was approved.

The question of whether Constable J.E. Guerra of Pct. 4 could appoint non-paid/full time deputy constables created questions in the Tuesday, Jan. 8 meeting. Guerra submitted a list of 18 deputy constables to be approved, including five names he said would not be paid constables. Of those, two are already paid county employees but three were not.

In addition to the assistant deputy positions, Guerra also asked for 12 Reserve Deputy Constable positions. Of those listed, Guerra said four of them were safety officers who investigated accidents involving county employees and vehicles. They investigate but do not wear guns or badges.

While under discussion, the county auditor questioned using deputy officers who were not county employees, asking if they needed bonds or insurance to serve.

Judge Ramon Garcia questioned whether they should be authorized to carry a gun while doing work for the county. Then he questioned, who would be liable if one of the people got hurt or shot while doing the job.

After discussion, the items were approved, but the three men Guerra recommended for deputy constable positions that were not county employees were moved to the reserve deputy list instead.

Seventeen deputy constables and seven reserve constables were approved for Precinct #3 and three were approved for Precinct #2.

The Progress Times requested a clarification on the differences between the two positions. According to Pct. 3 Constable Larry Gallardo, all deputy constables are full time peace officers; they are paid employees by the county.

Reserve constables are peace officers that are called upon when needed. They can be but are not necessarily employees of the county. Some volunteer their work for the county. Many must volunteer a certain number of hours in a month in order to keep their license. They may be former or retired police officers or deputies from the sheriff or constable’s office.

Under payroll consideration, the commissioners questioned a position change requested under Urban County to delete a Compliance Monitor at a salary of $49,834 and replace it with a Monitor III position at $52,002. Diana Serna said there was a federal requirement for someone to oversee new requirements, which meant extra work that should be rewarded at a higher salary.

Judge Garcia questioned whether it might not be a ploy to get a raise for someone and asked for the request to be tabled one week pending further investigation.

Commissioners also raised their eyes when the District Attorney’s Office asked to create an Assistant District Attorney II position at $56,000 with an auto allowance of $900. Budget Director Sergio Cruz said the position was on the record but was vacant at the time of budget preparation and did not get funded. A Deputy Clerk position at $29,200 was also approved.

Commissioners approved car allowances for three people in the district attorney’s office at $900 a year.

In Precinct #2, two positions with salaries totaling $111,063 were eliminated and one position for Director of Field Operations at $79,750 was created.

Under the County Clerk’s Office two Deputy County Clerk I positions were authorized at $26,014 for the new Count Court at Law #8.

A Deputy District Clerk position at $25,256 was approved for the District Clerk’s office after Judge Garcia ascertained there was only one clerk for each two courts.

Under budget management, a request for a classification and compensation plan to be extended for an employee who took a Criminal Investigator II position with a starting salary less than what he previously made as a Criminal Investigator I. With the 3 percent Cost of Living Adjustment and the step increase, the salary would rise of $52,002, an increase of $1820. Cruz said he had been getting the raise after being hired under the old budget but an amendment had to be made to continue the increase in salary under the new budget.

The number of questionable salary change requests under discussion prompted OWL (Objective Watchers of the Legal System) Virginia Townsend to ask the Commission what happened to the pay scale study that was supposed to be presented to the county prior to the adoption of the budget.

Judge Ramon stated he agreed with Townsend that the pay scale study should be given another look.

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