Precinct-8 Constable Bill Bailey appeared before the court and explained the painful process of having to lay off 11 of his employees. He told Commissioners when he learned that budget requirements dictated one more position needed to be eliminated, he decided to retire to prevent the additional layoff. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says Bailey's plight reflects what every department is having to endure.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett
"It does and it gets back the while question of 'do you do across the board cuts, or do you go in and figure out where you should?' I mean, let's face it, we're sitting here arguing over a 25 or 50 dollar cellphone allowance and yet people are being laid off."
Emmett says he'll bring to the next court meeting a package where a number of positions in his office will be eliminated.
"Constable Bailey, though, had a different circumstance. He doesn't have any contract patrols, so his has been a very lean operation. And if you do an across the board cut, the lean operations get punished. That's the frustration if you run a lean operation like Constable Bailey did for years and then it comes cut, and you get cut the same as everybody else — that's not the way to do business."
Emmett says county-wide elected officials should have the authority to manage their budgets. There are some things in county operations that need to change, like 32-million dollars allotted for allowances.
"There should be very very few car allowances, only for people that are gonna be called out and will have to use their car to respond to emergencies or special situations. County cars are the same way. But right now, all those cars are not handled in one place, and all that needs to be looked at. Now's the time to tighten the belts."
Emmett adds he expects more stories like Bill Bailey's to surface as the county learns to live with less. Precinct-2 Commissioner Jack Morman says he met with Bailey before court began:
"I had a chance to sit down with him before the meeting and so, I got a little bit of a heads up. Tried my best to talk him out of it. He's a great asset to the community and talk about heroes, he's a living day community hero in my backyard so, he'll definitely sorely be missed."
For almost 29 years, Bailey has been the longest serving constable. He's also a board member and lifetime vice president of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. His retirement is effective May 31st.