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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.


Texas law hits two elected officials, locally

Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert and County Clerk Dianne Wilson say they are shocked and not in agreement with a relatively new Texas law that makes it a misdemeanor to claim to have a degree from a distance learning college that is not specifically accredited in the state of Texas. The law was passed by legislators in 2005.

Hebert received a PHD in 2004 after nearly 6 years of working toward that goal, while Wilson earned her PHD in 2003. Neither official knew of the law until recently. Hebert earned a Ph.D. from California Coast University, while Wilson earned her PhD from Warren National University.

In 2005 Texas Legislators passed a law which made it a Class B misdemeanor to use “substandard degrees” to apply for jobs in Texas. Sadly, both officials had attended universities on the list of “no-no” colleges that are not recognized in Texas.

Wilson said she is a public official who swore to uphold the laws of the state of Texas and that includes those she doesn’t agree with. Needless to say, after two years of hard work, sleepless nights and admittedly even a few crying spells over the stress of earning the degree while working full time and honoring commitments to the many organizations and boards she is on, as well as the impact the rigorous study program had on her personal and family life, Wilson doesn’t agree with the law.

“I did this for my own edification, not to get a job or to get more pay,” she said this week after learning of the law. Hebert said he still has his degrees from colleges here in Texas and his 6 year quest to earn a PhD was to “keep my mind sharp. I am the County Judge; I won’t be out looking for a position and using that degree to get a job. However, I did learn if I had an opponent and claimed to have the PhD, I might then be in violation of the law, so I took down the diploma and it is now history,” he said.

Both say they feel they earned the PhD and neither feels those universities fall in the category of “diploma mills” that the legislators were apparently aiming to stop. Some internet and mail order universities hand out diplomas, for a price, with very little study and even less testing. Both officials know that was not the case with the two they attended.

The issue was brought to light by a Channel 11 television reporter last week when he called to talk to Wilson. “I thought it was some kind of joke—I had not heard of the law and I wasn’t familiar with this particular reporter. I really didn’t have a clue,” Wilson said.

The odd thing about this whole situation is the media itself. Channel 11 found this law and brought it to the attention of officials. Then one local media outlet, known for not being particularly fond of Wilson, focused primarily on her and another one, known for not being particularly fond of Hebert, focused totally on him. Go figure!! The truth of the matter is that neither of these folks did anything wrong because they didn’t apply for a job using the diploma to enhance their chances. So, no big deal. Neither one is a criminal and neither one knowingly committed a violation of a state law.

Now legislators will most likely have to take some kind of action in the future to remedy a situation that could be detrimental to many. A diploma mill degree should not be tolerated but one that takes up to six years to finish does not fall in that category. As usual, it will most likely be back to the drawing board for our representatives in Austin.

I wish just once they would do a little common sense thinking before signing on the dotted line.

Sustenance could be on the way

For those hungry courthouse employees and jurors who have been doing without a courthouse snack bar in recent months, there may be a light at the end of the rainbow. County Judge Bob Hebert says the commissioners have authorized negotiations with Bob’s Taco of Rosenberg to open the snack bar.

The snack bar is needed but the last two proprietors have found it less than a money maker. Hebert says it is “very difficult to run a professional, high quality, business behind a metal detector in the courthouse.” A lack of adequate space also presents a problem, he says.

Hebert for one is hoping Bob’s Taco is successful and opens up in the courthouse. He says the small taco stand in Rosenberg is a popular place and anyone who asks him where to learn about Fort Bend County, he tells to go to Bob’s Taco once a week for several weeks and you will see almost everyone in Fort Bend County there at one time or another.

When the motion was made in court to authorize the negotiations, Hebert said he just might have to vote against the measure “or get my stomach stapled.”

Elevator work at  courthouse to begin

For the next 6-10 months one elevator at the Travis Building will be shut down for full replacement. While that will further lengthen the lines that wait for elevator service, it will greatly reduce the apprehension of those folks who know the history of the elevators.

County Judge Bob Hebert says for the longest time everyone anticipated at least one of the elevators would go down (usually during a ride up or down) and at least now “we will know which elevator is down.”


Contact skinnerc1@tconline.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:  October 18, 2007