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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.


Shame on Commissioner Patterson

Shame on Precinct 4 Commissioner James Patterson. He was totally out of character last week during the workshop presented by J.R. Perez, Fort Bend County Election Administrator. In my opinion, Patterson made somewhat of a spectacle of himself during the meeting. Instead of focusing on the presentation by Perez, Patterson, a former high school principal and coach regressed into a “talking to the principal” mode.

Patterson’s voice became threatening and oft times condescending. You couldn’t help but feel that Perez was in Patterson’s office, behind closed doors, for doing something terribly naughty. So, what was this dastardly deed? Perez had appeared on a Houston television newscast (and week after week in this paper) saying Fort Bend County was unprepared for the primary and general election. He also said he had received no cooperation from commissioners.

Patterson repeatedly grilled J.R. on comments he had made on television prior to last week’s workshop. Finally, he point blank asked Perez why the TV station reported the election problems. Here is a short transcript of this line of questioning:

Patterson: “How did they know?

Perez: “They called me.” Apparently not satisfied, Patterson repeated: “How did the TV station know?”

Perez: “They read it in the newspaper.”

Patterson: “How did the newspaper know?”

Perez: “They called me.”

Patterson: “Did you call us and let us know there was a problem.”

The last question I can answer. I called Perez after seeing nationally that the Hart Intercivic voting machines were being criticized. Fort Bend County purchased those very machines in 1995. And, I also questioned whether the unprecedented voter turnout was going to impact Fort Bend County because Perez has repeatedly, over the last two years he has served as the administrator in the elections division, said Fort Bend County did not have enough voting machines. I can’t speak for the other reporters, but as a general rule we all monitor national events that could impact local politics, so I’m not surprised Perez got TV and newspaper time a week before the early voting began.

Some insiders believe Perez dislikes the Hart voting machines so much that he won’t accept using them and is doing all he can to eliminate them. Others think the county refuses to admit purchasing the equipment was costly and wrong.

The point here is that by focusing on why a county employee, which Perez is, talked to the media and issued criticism of his supervisors (the commissioners) should not have been the focal point of Patterson’s interest. Using threatening terms and tones certainly does not exhibit the professionalism that we expect of our elected representatives.

Some administrators and elected officials seem to think everything is OK as long as the dike is plugged and once there is a leak, these officials spend a great deal of time trying to plug the leak rather than fix the dike. We’ve come to expect this reaction from certain officials in the county but James Patterson was not, until last week, one of them.

Instead of participating in the meeting in a constructive manner and asking questions pertaining to the workshop, Patterson tried to find out why the dike was leaking and ultimately paddled Perez for taking his finger out of the dike.

From the Milton Hilton to what?

It appears at least some of Fort Bend County’s jail inmates will be taking a very looooong drive to the Dickens County Correctional Facility in Spur, Texas. And, from all the published accounts of this facility it really isn’t the Hilton—not even the Milton Hilton.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think criminals who are convicted of violating the law should be sent to Arizona where the Sheriff puts them in pink underwear, makes them eat bologna sandwiches and makes them live in open-air tents.

I just wonder why this particular facility was chosen after all the horrible publicity it got last year when Idaho officials claimed it was dank, dark, dirty and a host of other nasty things.

It appears Dickens County is working on upgrading the facility and might have new management, so maybe things won’t be so ugly. The facility is owned by the county but is managed by a for-profit detention company. When an Idaho inmate wrote reams of letters describing the squalid conditions and alleged abuse right before committing suicide it opened the Texas detention facility up to nationwide scrutiny. It also resulted in a lawsuit by members of the deceased inmates’ family members. It is my understanding they sued the facility and the county as well.

We don’t need that. Hopefully, all of this was taken into consideration before the contract with Dickens County was signed last week.


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:  March 12, 2008