December 18, 2008
Bettencourt deadline looms

Hair Balls brings the news.

Harris County Commissioners Court has to appoint a replacement. The trouble, County Judge Ed Emmett tells Hair Balls, is that there's a deadline fast approaching that has to be met or the entire office may be thrown into chaos.

County tax-assessors and collectors have to be bonded, and Bettencourt's bond expires December 31. Whoever the court appoints has to be approved in time to get himself or herself bonded before January 1.

"It's a monumental pain," Emmett says.

"The box we're in is we have to get it filled by the 31st," he says. "We have to have someone with a bond, or the tax office shuts down."

Thanks for all you've done for the taxpayers of Harris County, Paulie! We really freaking appreciate it! Go enjoy that lucrative private sector job now!

Anyway. I recall from earlier coverage that Commissioners Court wanted to get this done by the 23rd, which is to say next Tuesday. I hope they've at least informed the folks on the short list about their status, so that the bonding process can get started as soon as possible.

Still, I wonder. Do we really have to be in this position?

There's no vice-assessor-collector with a bond? "No, although we're still researching all that."

Well, a little research told me the following. From a Chron story dated July 29, 1998, which announced the death of longtime Tax Assessor Carl Smith:

[Commissioners] Court appointed Loretta Wimp, Smith's chief clerk, as temporary tax assessor-collector. Later it will appoint an acting assessor-collector to serve until a replacement is elected in November.

So, um, did Bettencourt not have a chief clerk who can keep the office running in the meantime and in the event that the political appointee to replace Bettencourt runs into an issue with his or her bonding? Just asking.

By the way, this story from two weeks later, in which Commissioners Court did its official appointment of a successor, was amusing to me:

Rejecting pleas from some of Harris County's top Republican leaders, Commissioners Court voted 4-0 Tuesday afternoon to appoint former Houston Oiler and businessman Willie Alexander as the county's tax assessor-collector.

County Judge Robert Eckels, who opposed appointing a replacement to Carl S. Smith until the Republican Party could nominate a candidate, abstained by voting "present."


Alexander's appointment ensures that he will serve at least until January.

But it sets up a difficult and controversial contest between Alexander and businessman Paul Bettencourt, the vice chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, for the GOP nomination in November. Bettencourt appears to be the leading choice among party precinct chairmen, but Alexander now has the advantage of incumbency.

In addition, several observers noted that it could be politically awkward for the party to replace Alexander, a black Republican, when it is trying to reach out to black and other minority voters.

Boy, some things never change, huh? Obviously, Bettencourt ultimately got the nomination, and the rest you know. As for the current mess, I assume the speculation machine will crank up again on Monday, and we'll have a good idea of who will draw the golden ticket.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 18, 2008 to Local politics

The Court Agenda for Tuesday will be posted at 9 am Friday, so you may find out then or possibly it could just mention the topic of appointing a successor.

Carl Smith dying in office is different than Bettencourt resigning. No deputy can take over in this case without an appointment by CC and a bond.

Posted by: Anonomous on December 18, 2008 10:30 PM
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