by BRAD ROLLINS
The Hays County Democratic Party had nothing to do with a widely circulated e-mail purporting to be from the party that criticized county judge candidate Jeff Barton for declining a pay raise and then accepting it, party chair Katie Bell Moore said this week.
Moore accused Republican nominee Bert Cobb’s supporters of being behind the letter, the gist of which is that Barton has lied on the campaign trail about declining to accept a pay raise as a county commissioner in 2008. The e-mail is headlined “Important Announcement from Hays County Democrats” and signs off with a statement crafted to look like a small-print disclaimer, “Political announcement by Hays County Democrats.”
“That e-mail is a fraud, filled with lies, and sending it out was a crime. It did not come from the Hays County Democratic Party and we are outraged at this cheap, dirty political trick. The party is committed to using all its legal options to make sure the perpetrators are held responsible,” Moore said.
Moore’s statement goes on to ask Cobb to “disavow this kind of classless campaign conduct and keep this election season focused on the issues that matter to the people of Hays County.”
Cobb denied involvement in sending the e-mail and suggested Barton shouldn’t blame him for discord in his own party. Cobb said, “Neither I nor my campaign had anything to do with the recent email by unnamed Hays County Democrats that called attention to Jeff Barton’s selfish pay raises. Any accusation by Mr. Barton and his party leaders to the contrary is categorically false.”
The pay raise criticism, coincidentally or not, dovetails with Cobb’s criticism of Barton on fiscal issues, particularly his own pay.
In 2008, Barton and fellow commissioners Will Conley and Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe initially declined to accept an increase in their salary from $56,757 to $65,048. But a few months later – after a blindly selected committee of citizens unanimously said that commissioners should make even more – the three accepted the pay raise.
The citizen committee, working with consultant Ray Associates, found that Hays County elected officials make on average 20.6 percent less than people doing the same job in 11 comparable counties.
Commissioners in particular are underpaid compared to their counterparts, making 25.9 percent less than commissioners in the benchmark counties, which include Comal, Bastrop, Williamson, Ellis, McLennan, Guadalupe, Denton, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Travis and Montgomery counties, the study stated.
The committee ultimately recommended commissioners earn $87,869.
Moore said she has consulted with attorneys about the use of the party name in distributing the e-mail but that it’s too early to say if civil or criminal action could reasonably be brought against the e-mail’s author.
“What’s important to me is to get the information out there that this is not coming from the party. It’s definitely trying to confuse people and I just want to make sure everybody who received it – and it sounds like a lot of people – know that its false,” Moore said.
San Marcos Mercury Editor and Publisher Brad Rollins is also editor of the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the Mercury.Email | Print