By SEAN BATURA
County officials newly elected in November usually take office in January. But Hays County Sheriff-elect Gary Cutler (R-Driftwood) wants to take office this month.
A provision of state law governing unexpired terms would allow Cutler the option to take office after the votes have been canvassed and a certificate of election has been issued. Hays County Elections Administrator Joyce Cowan said canvassing will occur no later than Nov. 15.
“The law seems fairly clear on it to me,” said Hays County civil division attorney Mark Kennedy. “It’s still, by my reading, an option for the elected.”
Cutler said he plans to take office as soon as the certificate of election is issued and barring any legal proceedings.
Kennedy said there is no precedent for the situation in Hays County and no previous judicial rulings on the matter.
“There’s just the code,” Kennedy said. “So it’s a matter of interpreting the law as it reads.”
Kennedy said the law does not require a legal authority to issue a ruling before Cutler can take office before January.
The Hays County Commissioners Court appointed Tommy Ratliff (D-Kyle) as sheriff in December 2008 after Allen Bridges died from a heart attack a month after being re-elected. Ratliff said as he accepted the position that he would run for the remainder of the term in 2010.
Cutler defeated Ratliff for sheriff in Tuesday’s election, claiming 55.73 percent of 38,706 votes cast.
Cutler said he has not yet contacted Ratliff regarding the transition of power. Ratliff said he assumed he would serve until January, but added that he would step down if the law requires him to do so.
“If that’s what (the law) is, and that’s what he wants to do, absolutely,” Ratliff said. “That’s what my whole life’s been about — the law. I think if they want to do that, they have to make a request. There hasn’t been a request made. All they have to do is call me and we’ll do whatever we need to get done.”