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Fort Bend County, At Large
By Cheryl Skinner

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.


 

Condolences extended

My deepest condolences to Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers whose sister lost a valiant battle against cancer last week.

Going out in a blaze of “Glory”

I honestly don’t know what District Clerk Glory Hopkins was thinking when she penned a 12 page (single-spaced) letter to Fort Bend County Commissioners renouncing the new judicial software that was recommended by a panel of county officials after extensive review and discussion. The only thing I can figure out is she plans to go out in a blaze of Glory, just like the country music song title.

Glory admits that she has not attended any of the many meetings that revolve around the purchase of the judicial software system this year. A new system will, supporters say, finally link all of the county’s judicial branches together. For those who moved to Fort Bend County and don’t know the history of this long-standing feud between Glory and the district and county court at law judges, as well as the county clerk, the district attorney, the auditor, the constables, the sheriff and the justices of the peace (at least those brave enough to admit it)—here is kind of an informal synopsis of what has been going on.

Back a number of years ago (1999), Glory chose ACS software to implement in her office. Now ACS is used primarily by schools and is not, according to everyone who had to work with the system, “user friendly.” While Glory has insinuated all of the people who objected to the ACS software are basically just stupid, the number of hours of overtime that have accumulated in any department trying to implement the software speaks in favor of the negative opinion.

I really doubt very seriously if all of the aforementioned public officials are stupid — as in dumber than dirt — as suggested in previous penned letters by Glory. She even eludes to the same hypothesis in the most recent letter. Anyhow, the judges made a plea to the commissioners some time back that ACS be replaced because the system was antiquated and did not allow for access and input in criminal and civil records that would streamline the work of the courts, the sheriff and everyone else involved in a criminal or a civil case. In response, the commissioners allowed a panel of public officials ranging from the judges, to the county clerk, sheriff, auditor, etc., to study what the market had to offer and to implement a business plan that would show the benefits and the costs of a system that would adequately serve those seeking to integrate the files and records in their care and custody. So they did.

Now mind you Glory was supposed to be on that panel. She was supposed to attend the meetings. She was supposed to provide input and ask questions. By her own admission, she refused to “play a part” in the entire procedure. In her letter to the court, she questioned many aspects of the new proposed software, made disparaging remarks about the provider, surmised that it would be a dismal failure and interspersed the whole mess with negative comments about a lot of things and people involved in the selection process.

Glory has a long history of not particularly caring for County Clerk Dianne Wilson. In fact, if you listen real carefully to comments made by Glory and her handful of supporters, Dianne is conspiring with terrorists and criminals to provide personal information on every citizen in Fort Bend County via the internet. And while it is true that Wilson’s office does post court files on the Internet, she has also worked with state officials trying to get a law that limits the personal information contained in the files before they are submitted to her office. You see, when a court file or any other document is officially submitted to the clerk’s office, it becomes an official PUBLIC document and it cannot be altered. In other words, it is there for the world to see, whether by going in and looking at the file or viewing it on the Internet.

Some people think Wilson should make it as difficult as possible for people to access PUBLIC records (sort of like Glory’s office does). Others believe what she is doing is a convenience to the public, attorneys, judges, and the media. Speaking from personal experience, making public information available to the public on the Internet has probably saved the county a ton of money by eliminating the need to have a real live clerk digging through files to pull up a requested document. I know I used to drive them crazy.

Glory was reportedly (this has never been substantiated, but coffee shop reports are genuinely respected in weekly columns) behind a negative media blitz that focused on Wilson just about the time (coincidentally?) that Wilson was about to seek re-election (she won) in the Republican primary. In fact, if Glory was the instigator of this negative series on Dianne and if she really did prompt a candidate to run against Dianne, it was kind of ironic that Glory failed to get her required paperwork in by the state mandated deadline and then lost a couple uphill battles in court to get on the ballot. Perhaps if she had been a little bit more concerned with her own political future rather than Wilson’s, things would have turned out differently.

Anyhow, back to the letter. So, Glory not only condemns the proposed software and those who support it, she spends a great deal of time and a whole lot of ink talking about the dangers of doing direct imaging of court documents (you know, the dastardly terrorist related copying of PUBLIC information). And she refers back to a column I wrote that quoted a commissioner saying he spent several hours looking at the records posted on the county clerk’s Web site and couldn’t find this or that about himself.

So, sometime in December, according to Glory’s letter—(remember December, the month before her paperwork was due at the Republican headquarters?) she apparently spent a great deal of time looking at all the information on the County Clerk’s Web site, including this commissioner. In the letter, Glory says she found his social security number (she gives the last 4 digits) and his wife’s social security number (again, the last 4 digits are contained in the letter); his home address (printed in its entirety) and his home phone number (again—the whole thing is printed in a letter that once submitted will be a permanent PUBLIC document). Me thinks she speaks out of both sides of her mouth on this one. If she had the time to cruise the Internet (and, I am sure it took her a lot of time, since we have been repeatedly told she has employees open her e-mail because she does not really have a lot of computer savy) in the month of December, why didn’t she take the time to fill out her candidate paperwork and deliver it to the proper official?

It is a sad state of affairs that Glory chose to once again downgrade her fellow elected public officials and chose not to participate in the extensive work done by the Judicial Steering Committee. But in the overall scheme of things it really doesn’t make a hill of beans and her opinions are probably not too terribly important at this stage of the game. After all, the new software won’t even be implemented in the District Clerk’s Office until after the first of the year and guess what—by then there will be new blood in the office and hopefully a new attitude with a spirit of cooperation. At least we hope so.

In the meantime, it appears from Glory’s letter that she is spending a great deal of time promoting a rumor that indicates, or so she said, that most of her employees will be seeking a new job when the new elected official takes the helm. I haven’t taken a management course lately, but I can just bet that employee morale is plummeting if this is being crammed down their throats.

If the District Clerk is trying to go out in a “blaze of Glory” by penning a 12-page letter full of innuendos, allegations, complaints, admitted lack of cooperation, and pure spitefulness and spending time “warning” her employees of the doom ahead, then it is likely that Glory’s blaze may simply be from all the bridges she is burning in Fort Bend County, not to mention all the trees she is wasting by continuing to pen such garbage.

 

Contact skinnerc1@ev1.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:  September 07, 2006