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Restructuring Commissioners Court?

By Urban Reform Staff | May 29, 2019

In Harris County Commissioners Court’s most recent meeting, a conversation about restructuring the court’s meetings resurfaced.

Commissioner Steve Radack first brought up the idea to begin taking engineers, and likely other county employees out of order, and hearing their testimony at the start of court back in January, but it wasn’t brought up again until now.

Since County Judge Lina Hidalgo has taken the helm, the court has run much longer than courts of the past, but for good reason. Hidalgo has put an emphasis on allowing thorough and complete citizen testimony as well as robust, public discussions of issues. But, the downside of these extended meetings is that county employees who attend court to speak on an issue, give an update, or issue a report, sometimes wait hours to do so and it’s on the taxpayers’ dime.

“The amount of time these engineers have sat in here listening to things that don’t even pertain to them, when they could’ve been taken out of order, at the first of the meetings, so they can go to work. So, I hope you restructure this, to understand there are priorities that need to take place and they need to be at work, not sitting in here,” a frustrated Radack said.

Radack’s point is certainly worth considering.

Many of the county employees waiting to testify are executive-level, department directors, and others in senior positions, so, naturally, they are some of the higher paid employees. Waiting two to three hours, while unrelated conversation and testimony takes places, is certainly a waste of employee time.

Radack continued, saying, “It is sickening, to see the amount of time that is being wasted by professionals that need to get their job done.”

A similar conversation took place in Montgomery County’s Commissioners Court months ago after Judge Mark Keough and Commissioner James Noack commented that county employees shouldn’t event attend court unless they had immediate business in front of it.

While Hidalgo didn’t signal that is was an issue she was immediately going to consider, it should be. Any time that public employees spend, while on the clock, doing anything but their job, is wasted time. Having them sit there for hours watching, waiting, and likely on their phones, is not the best use of their time or our dollars.

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