Click below to listen to an interview with Judge Sumter
Hays County Judge Elizabeth “Liz” Sumter requested Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe conduct an investigation on roads being worked on by Hays County crews. Sumter said the work being done on 2801 CR 621 and Little Ranches Rd, also known as, Old Bumpy, posed some legal concerns.The roads in question lie in the precincts of Commissioners Conley and Ingalsbe, both of whom will be on the ballot in the November 4 general election.
Conley said Sumter is playing the oldest trick in the book and trying to garner support for his opponent, Democrat Steve Klepfer. “It’s cheap politics.”
Sumter said she has a code of ethics she must follow. “One of those codes of ethics is, like if I were to know of anything that possibly could be criminal, it doesn’t have to be, or I see something or am aware of something that’s not particularly correct, then I have to report that.”
She said she spoke with Conley, Wimberley officials, the Hays Country road department, special counsel, and the Texas Association of Counties about Old Bumpy and she found that forgoing ahead in repairing the road may raise some problems. “One, it is within the city limits of the City of Wimberley and according to the Texas Transportation Code 251.012(a) the governing body of the municipality would have to approve any such repair. And that Commissioners Court would also have to approve the expenditure, again Texas Transportation Code 251.012(a)(4). Neither action by either governing body had taken place in regards to Old Bumpy”.
Old Bumpy is a county road that falls within Wimberley’s city limits. Conley said he, the mayor, and city manager “met to discuss Old Bumpy and the need for repairs. I also discussed the road conditions with area residents and emergency services.”
Wimberley Fire Chief Carroll Czichos and Wimberley EMS Director Ken Strange both wrote letters addressing their concern over Old Bumpy. Strange said Old Bumpy “is all but impassable by ambulance due to its poor condition.”
Conley said he took into account the advice of area residents and emergency services. “I worked with Wimberley city officials to quickly repair Old Bumpy and improve public safety for area residents. To Judge Sumter this must have been too responsive. Her bizarre complaint alleges that we did not turn a simple road repair into enough of a bureaucratic mess.”
Sumter said this matter could have been easily resolved at Commissioner’s Court.
“Commissioner Conley could have brought this issue to the Court. He chose not to. Citizens complained; I responded appropriately by sending it to the District Attorney, Sherri Tibbe.” Sumter would not release the names of the citizens who complained stating that “every citizen who complains here should feel that they have a safe place to go in this County. And so we’re gonna honor that.”
In a letter from Tibbe addressed to Sumter, she said “the investigation should address two basic questions: 1) has the work being performed been approved by the City of Wimberley, and 2) has the work being performed been authorized by the Hays County Commissioners Court.” Tibbe said she spoke with Wimberley Mayor Haley and he said he was aware of the work and did not object. To address the second inquiry, Tibbe said “Commissioner Conley relied on minutes from Commissioner’s Court dated August 31, 1984, in which Precinct 3 Commissioner Craig Payne asked the Court to approve 1400 feet of Little Ranches Road for county maintenance (which includes the portion of Little Ranches Rd known as Old Bumpy). As you know, once a road in the County is accepted for County maintenance, it becomes the responsibility of that Precinct’s Commissioner, who acts as ex-officio Road Commissioner.”
Tibbe said she investigated the legality of the issue and “I conclude that there is no evidence of any illegal activity. I am closing any further inquiry into this matter.”
Sumter said she agrees with the decision of the District Attorney. “I think (Tibbe) did wonderful work. I really appreciate her doing it really quickly. And what I really appreciate is that obviously Hays County is following all the proper procedures for doing roads.”
Conley maintains this ordeal was a political stunt. “If my opponents believe the citizens of Hays County are best served by cheap politics, obstruction, and bureaucracy, that is their prerogative. But as your County Commissioner, my priority will always be providing you with honest and responsive local government you deserve.”
Sumter said this issue was not brought about because of the upcoming election. “If this incident would have happened six months ago or six months from now, my actions would have been the same. They would have not been different. For me it is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of what’s right and what’s wrong. And the good news is that Sherri Tibbe did the right thing, this office or myself did the right thing, good people in good positions do the right thing. And so I think it came out the way it was supposed to.”
by ANDY SEVILLA
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