County Judge Glenn Hughes thinks Wise County should no longer accept a state stipend for the county judge’s salary.
He told commissioners in a special meeting Thursday that it would be best for the entire salary to come from county coffers.
The state of Texas pays county judges $15,000 per year if they spend 40 percent of their time on judicial duties. Wise County has accepted this stipend for several years, but Hughes thinks it’s in the best interest of the office to no longer go that route.
“I’ve done some research on this since being in this position, and on other counties and what they’re doing, because I was wondering how you could spend 40 percent of your time taking care of judicial duties and take care of your county financial duties,” he said. “It puts the judge in a bad place to require him to do 40 percent of his time on judicial duties when we have two court-at-laws now taking care of a lot of that.”
Ellis County Judge Carol Bush is currently under investigation for filing the affidavit with the state to receive the money but not hearing any cases. According to the state comptroller’s office, Bush and Ellis County have repaid the money but a special prosecutor had been assigned to the case earlier this month to determine if a crime had been committed.
Hughes did not reference this case Thursday, but he indicated he wasn’t comfortable committing 40 percent of his time to those endeavors. He suggested on his behalf and that of future county judges that “rather than having a judge jeopardize his position, I would suggest putting that money on his salary and would have the judge and all four commissioners at the same salary level.”
The county will only have to pitch in $9,750 – not the full $15,000 – and the judge’s and commissioners’ proposed salaries will be the same at $77,250. This would be a slight pay cut for the county judge post. In fiscal year 2014, the county judge salary was $82,500, which included the county’s portion ($67,500), plus the $15,000 stipend.
The late County Judge Bill McElhaney received the stipend, but he often filled in for County Court-at-Law Judge Melton Cude, especially before the second county court was created. He also handled a significant number of mental commitments for the county court.
This issue, along with other budget concerns, will be discussed further at workshops Aug. 19-20. They are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. at the Wise County Sheriff’s Office training room, 200 Rook Ramsey Dr., in Decatur. The meetings are open to the public.