County Hears Proposal for Workers Comp Insurance; Alters Bill Payment Policy

September 7, 2017 - Allison Scull, with Bounds Insurance Agency, presented a quote to the county for worker's compensation insurance during the August 28 meeting of the Shelby County Commissioners' Court. According to Scull, a company Bounds Insurance works with called Deep East Texas Self Insurance Fund is responsible for insuring a lot of cities, counties and schools. The quote presented to the county by the company for three years was $61,999.

Scull explained for the commissioners the quoted rate is a fixed one that will not change, simplifying budgeting.

Jheri-Lynn McSwain, AgriLife County Extension Agent, started off by thanking the commissioners and county judge for the new facility provided by the county for she and her colleagues to use.

"I used to love coming to work and now I can't really stay away. It's just been outstanding," said McSwain. "Y'all did a lot for us and we truly appreciate it."

Mcswain explained the promising results of the new location have been apparent. She presented the commissioners with pictures of the 4H kick-off program which was held on the weekend preceding the meeting.

The National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences will be holding a conference in Omaha, Nebraska and McSwain requested permission to use some of her allotted county funds to attend the conference in October.

McSwain reported she recently was awarded 11 of 18 by the State Association for Family Consumer Sciences in August. McSwain was also named the recipient of the Greenwood Frysinger National Award in recognition of the Shelby County Community Garden project as well as garden projects that have been installed in three of the local school districts.

Of the 22 awards to be given on the national level at the conference, McSwain is to receive three.

For the knowledge of the commissioners Clint Porterfield, Shelby County Auditor, informed them the operating supply fund for the Extension office is over budget. He said as long as the commissioners haven't any issue with a line item transfer at the end of the year to put funds into the department

A motion carried to approve the use of county funds for the trip to Nebraska.

The Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, has issued an opinion whether a commissioners court may enter an order authorizing the treasurer to pay certain types of claims and bills prior to presenting the actual claims or bills to the commissioners court.

Ann Blackwell, Shelby County Treasurer, addressed the court about what the opinion means for Shelby County. According to Blackwell several items which the commissioners court approved through a resolution or some other action of the court for pre-approved payments in between commissioner meeting dates by the treasurer can no longer be handled in that manner.

She listed such items as credit card bills for Staples, Exxon or Shell. Utilities, court approved contract payments such as for Pitney-Bowes postage machine, copiers and printers, elevator expenses, Juvenile Probation and Adult Probation, indigent medical bills, reimbursements to county employees, janitorial services bill at the end of the month, donations to Hope Clinic, Shelby County Outreach Ministries, rent to Margie Anderson, and attorney fee vouchers.

"There's nothing that I write a check for that Clint [Porterfield, County Auditor,] doesn't see first. So, he knows anything that we pay outside of court, but what this is saying is that we can't do that, that y'all are supposed to approve including payroll every claim against the county before we write a check for it," said Blackwell.

She explained some items, if they have to wait until the next court date could be past due.

"I didn't have a problem with this until I read the line that said 'ultimately the treasurer would be the one responsible,'' said Blackwell.

She described a scenario where she theoretically could pay a bill and the commissioners disagree with that payment, leaving her liable for whatever the cost of that payment was.

If the commissioners were to meet each week for the payment of bills, it would have to be an open meeting just like the traditional regular and special meetings have been.

Blackwell's hope is the legislature will resolve the issue, because counties with over 190,000 population can appoint the treasurer to make the payments.

Porterfield addressed the court and provided some history on past decisions of the court.

"Back in December of 2011 when we made our first, basically, resolution of the items to be pre-paid. We then came back May of 2012 to add to that list and in that particular meeting we discussed putting items which commissioners purchased on a pre-approval list having to do with equipment, vehicles and road materials," said Porterfield.

He continued to state this provided the commissioners to, if a deal presented itself, take advantage of it on behalf of the county without waiting on the next commissioners court meeting.

According to Porterfield there are many counties that have utilized the same process as Shelby County, and they are not alone in this issue. He believes the process has worked for the county.

"The problem with this opinion is that it's basically telling us what the law already says, and the law says in a county of our size we cannot defer the review process after the check has already been cut, or actually been processed. So it's basically putting it back on commissioners court to review that listing before we make one check," said Porterfied.

He explained there really would be no way around the issue in following the statute and law without meeting almost every week.

A motion was carried and approved to meet every Wednesday at 1pm as needed.

Blackwell followed up with a final statement for county officials and offices.

"With this, all the county officials and county offices need to understand they can't just run in and get the check anymore," said Blackwell.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:18am.

Agenda items approved during the meeting include:
1. Pay monthly expenses.
2. Use of county funds for Jheri-Lynn McSwain, County Extension Agent-FCS, to attend National Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences conference in Omaha, Nebraska.
3. Meet every Wednesday at 1pm as needed.

Agenda items tabled during the meeting include:
1. Janitorial Services bids for further consideration.