San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 13th, 2009
Barton to propose ethics reform

Hays County Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) stands on the right, next to Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos).


Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) will introduce a new ethics policy at Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting aimed at priohibiting the county from contracting with businesses that have defrauded the United States military, or engaged in unethical or fraudulent behavior at the federal, state or local level.

“We ought to put our money where our morals are – at least where our laws are,” Barton said. “It’s rare for local governments to require that professional contractors meet this kind of ethical standard. I don’t think it should be. If you’re a big corporate cheater then you may deserve a chance at redemption, but you don’t deserve more of our tax dollars, not until you’ve paid a price and mended your ways.”

Barton calls his policy “Ethics Begins at Home.” If approved, it would take effect immediately.

Barton introduced the proposal after Houston-based KBR was declined a contract with the county. Local veterans of the Iraq War veterans protested a possible county contract with KBR on the FM 110 project for $600,000 worth of engineering work. KBR is under investigation by the U.S. Army for negligence that led to at least one death of a U.S. serviceman in Iraq. A KBR executive was also found guilty of bribery in a separate incident.

Barton’s proposal would prohibit firms that have recently been convicted of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, such as fraud, from doing business with Hays County for a period of five years. The same holds for subsidiaries, or for companies in which a key executive is convicted and remains employed with the company.

The proposal also would require companies under active investigation by the federal, state or local governments to disclose that as part of their submittal of qualifications when seeking work in the county. Firms also will be required to make formal disclosures if key employees are found guilty of crimes in the commission of their jobs during the bast five years, and when company or key executives have been found guilty of violating sexual or racial harassment laws within the past two years.

“There are plenty of good, honest companies hungry for work,” Barton said. “Growing as fast as we are, and given where we’re located between Austin and San Antonio, we have no shortage of professional firms wanting to do business with us.”

Barton continued, “Our incentives and contracts should be structured to discourage destructive behavior, and to hold executives and companies responsible for their actions. If you want to make a business decision to maximize profits by playing loose with the rules, jeopardizing people’s lives, cutting corners – fine. But, then as a society, we’re going to seek to punish that behavior under the law. And we’re going to follow-up where it hurts some of these companies the most – in the bottom line.”

Barton said he considered the policy before the KBR contract became widely known, but the testimony the veterans gave against KBR, “… caused him to think in broader terms, and to hurry up his work,” according to a statement released through Barton’s office.

“It’s time we made ethical conduct and performance an explicit part of our definition of what it means to have acceptable qualification,” Barton said.

To be adopted, Barton’s ethics proposal only needs a simple majority of the five person court. If approved, the next step would be for commissioners to instruct county staff and attorneys to develop a final policy.

The court meets on Tuesdays at 9 a.m., in the Hays County Courthouse.

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0 thoughts on “Barton to propose ethics reform

  1. Perhaps Barton can propose changes that will keep Commissioners from taking employment with firms that could have business before a future Court. It just doesn’t pass the smell test when somebody leaves office, that they immediately are pitching something to the Court. I’m sure it does make good business sense for Doucet to hire Barton. Should we put up with it? Barton is not alone in this arena. I see former Commissioner Burnet pushing projects too. Talk about golden parachutes.

    I first met Jeff Barton in 1992 when he was Commissioner for Hays County Precinct 2. I was so impressed with Jeff that I asked him to join our firm, Doucet & Associates in 1999. In January 2007 he will have been our Manager of Land Use and Planning for seven years and in that time he has grown the department to a team of ten professionals. His team consists of about five certified planners and several other planners and technicians that routinely manage and successfully complete planning and land use related projects for our firm. In 2005, Jeff became a partner in the firm and has been a huge asset to our company. Jeff is brilliant and is a fantastic communicator. But he is a triple threat in that he is also a very hard worker. He is the first one to roll up his sleeves when a problem needs solving. I am confident he will make an excellent Commissioner (he already has). I hope Jeff gets elected because I know that is what he wants, but if the voters say no to him in November, that’s ok too; because we sure could use him back here at the company!
    John Doucet
    President and founder, Doucet & Associates, Consulting Engineers

  2. Big Dog – I don’t know who the hell you are, but you sure as hell aren’t John Doucet. If you have something to say, then have the courage to say it under your own name. That’s what I do. Oh, and by the way, not only is your banal attempt at sarcasm not amusing, it is factually inaccurate as well. This kind of post sickens me… and it threatens our ability to keep this website open and free of moderation. Thanks a lot !

  3. That’s something that concerns me too; the posiblity that someone could impersonate a public official or a firm working with the city, or a regular poster. There’s no way to know is someone is really who they say they are so we don’t know if Bigdog is really John Doucet or who he is, and people like Charles O’Dell will try to hunt people down if he thinks they might be Nick Ramus.

  4. I KNOW Big Dog is not John Doucet. I couldn’t figure out why John Doucet would write such a post. They were obviously questioning Jeff Barton’s ethics. The post really didn’t make much sense to me. So, I just picked up the phone and called Mr. Doucet. I was kind of shocked I got him on the phone. He was very nice. He didn’t even scream when I told him what had happened. But I think he must be very unhappy this morning. People, do your research…

  5. So Big Dog – who are you… Really ????? You got a name? I don’t think you are such a “big dog” after all.

    And why do you have such a problem with our County Commissioners Court passing an ethics policy for contractors? Surely you have to agree this is a good thing. Unless, of course… Are you a contractor? Do you compete with Doucet and Associates?

    Maybe you should take a closer look at your own ethical conduct before trying to comment on someone else’s.

  6. Excuse me guys the Doucet article was a cut and paste directly from Barton’s webpage. The first paragraph is mine. I didn’t mean for it to look like I was attributing it all to Doucet. My apologies. I forgot to mention Eddy Etheredge is doing it too! I like Barton’s proposal, I would advocate expanding it to close this loophole that seems to widely exploited by former and current Hays politicos. I am not a contractor and have no business before the Court.

  7. Oh for Pete’s Sake. Eddy Etheredge hasn’t been county judge for over 10 years! I assume that if you want to propose a limit on revolving doors, there would be some kind of limit after which people could make a living….

    And you leave out soooo much. Did you know that Doucet does NOT do business with the County because Jeff Barton once worked in the office – and they hope to get him back one day? I don’t know what you call that, but I call it ethical conduct. Certainly above and beyond what is required by law. They certainly are NOT profiting by having him as an elected official. He’s probably costing them money.

    I don’t know what your intent was in posting that terribly misleading post this morning. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it wasn’t. You didn’t use quotation marks. You didn’t introduce it as a quote from some other website (I won’t even get into the legalities or ethics of plagiarizing from another website). You posted the morning that Barton was introducing a new Ethics Policy for the County to consider. Were you trying to get people to make comments in public questioning Barton’s own ethics?

    Dude – it just looks bad. Like I said before, you need to examine your own ethics before you go commenting on anybody else’s.

    You ask us to “excuse” you? You do NOT get a pass on this one in my book. You owe John Doucet an apology. As well as Jeff Barton (you might want to throw E. Etheredge in there as well).

  8. Lila-
    I think you need to apologize to everyone on this board. You continually attribute motives to posters and adopt a holier than thou approach to every comment. I will not apologize to people who exploit their public positions and influence. These people deserve some light on their actions. This is web board not a college exam. I think I cleared up my mistake.

    BTW Do you that if Barton were turned out of office he would not seek Hays County business for Doucet?

  9. I, for one, am very appreciative to Ms. Knight for her intellegence, information and candor. I certainly can’t say that for everyone listing comments on this “board.”

  10. You screwed up Big Dog. What you did was potentially libelous. You crossed a line and went after a private citizen rather than the public official. And it threatens our ability to post comments in real time without a moderator always looking over our shoulder. I do take issue with that. It only takes one bad apple to spoil everything for the rest of us. Bad dog! Bad dog!

    And look who is attributing motives… Your so-called attempt to shed light on public official’s actions is done so without any background research or real understanding of what is going on. It makes you look as though you are a graduate of the O’Dellian School of Truth Does Not Matter – Only How You Can Twist It.

    I apologize to all of those who are offended by my posts. There. Happy? My advise to them is to skip mine and keep reading. I’m not changing. And thank you for your comment Rick. Funny how it’s the people who actually use their real names who appreciate honesty.

    I do NOT apologize to Big Dog for his lack of ethics. He makes it very clear from his last post that he does indeed have a beef with Barton. I tried to correct his assumption that something wrong was going on. But like a pit bull that just won’t let go, now he is questioning what Barton will do in the future? Geez. Talk about contributing motives…

  11. As an uninvolved bystander I have to say I knew by about the second sentence that I was reading a quote. The tone changed 180 degrees so I knew something was up. Yes it would have been more clear with quotation marks but it’s a stretch to say there was malice. That said, Barton’s position seems like typical political grandstanding to me.

  12. And other people would call it responding to the concerns of their constituents – in this case, people who were demanding KBR’s contract be cancelled. This is a way of dealing proactively with this type of issue on a long term basis rather than just reactively each time it comes up. It’s called – establishing public policy. (I would call the tea parties today – political grandstanding….).

    Barton is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. You know, I never see any of you guys picking on Comm. Ford. Why does she get a walk?

    The real malice perpetrated by Big Dog was in his threat to a fully open forum like this one is – and I hope will continue to be. It may have been nothing more than a mistake on his part, but at the very least – it was carelessness in which he involved an innocent bystander.

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