9 Investigates: Constables cashing in - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

9 Investigates: Constables cashing in

Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) -

They are sometimes the forgotten side of the law, but they may be costing you and your neighbors thousands of dollars. They're the constables of Deep East Texas. Some work hard for you and some don't do much work at all.

Numbers show that depending on where you live as a taxpayer, you get more bang for your buck when it comes to constables and their salaries, or they may be doing a minimal job for thousands of dollars in pay.

On any given day, Angelina County Pct. 1 Constable Tom Selman will spend six to seven hours in his patrol car.  The majority of it is serving eviction notices and other court papers.  Selman is one of approximately 780 elected constables across the Lone Star State.

"That involves serving warrants, serving papers, civil papers, extending the reach of the courtroom out in the community,” Selman said.

The former state trooper admits he does more than the minimum.

"We do a lot on the civil side of the job but when I am not doing my civil duty in between going from one place to the next, I'm in the patrol mode,” Selman said. “I am looking violations, I'm looking for criminal activity."

And so does his counterpart David Stone in Nacogdoches County. Stone oversees a three-man department.

"Nobody wants to see their taxpayer dollars wasted and I'm not going to be the one that wastes it," Stone said.

Traffic stops and other felony arrests are not required, but these two constables say it's in their blood. And the law allows them to enforce all laws across their respected county.  

After looking at records obtained from Constables across 11 counties the numbers show a wide range of results.

Selman makes $54,000 a year. On the other side of the scale is Constable Robert Brazeal in San Augustine County. He makes just over $8,000 a year. But using our formula, we found Selman's much larger salary totals to just $47 a case. Brazeal balloons to nearly $1,600 a case, which is 32 times the amount Selman is making.

"I feel like everyone’s reputation is on the line,” Selman said. “If you are going to have a good name then you are going to work hard and serve the people well. If you don't work hard and serve the people like you are supposed to, then that's going to be reflective of your reputation.”

In Deep Southeast Texas you will find Evadale, a community so small you may have driven past it and not noticed it.  Constable Joe Sterling calls it home. He does not make traffic stops.

Jasper taxpayers pay Sterling $609 for every case he works. Sterling argues against the number.

"We don’t have a whole lot of civil papers here in the precinct so I have time to help the sheriff's office with calls, with their investigations,” Sterling said. "I also do patrol for our school here. I do that on my own time and don't charge the school."

Jasper County Judge Mark Allen, who is also a certified peace officer said he supports the pay of his constables.

"For what they are doing and for the extra presence that we have and the extra investigative responsibility that we have to provide this security to our citizens,” Allen said. “They are worth that. They are paid less than our deputy sheriff's, they make less but their job is just as dangerous.”

If you think Sterling's number are high, we found higher. In Shelby County, three of the four constables clear triple digits based on the limited information they returned to us. Bryan Gray cost taxpayers almost $2,000 a case.

We showed the disparity in numbers to Stone, who comes in as average on his cost per case.

"Honestly, I have never heard of that... a county that small with that type of pay,” he said.

Just south of Shelby County sits San Augustine County, considered one of the most rural places in East Texas. Brazeal made about $1,600 dollars a case over the last two years. Brazeal said his pay is one of the lowest in the state for his position.

"We make just over 8,000 a year,” he said. "That's about $550 a month."

He doesn't even get his own vehicle. All four constables in the county share one car, given to them from the sheriff's department.

He even works a second job as security for a hospital.

"You can only serve the papers we have,” Brazeal said. “I don't drag people in here wanting them to file civil cases against people. We have the papers and we serve them.”

Comparing the salaries to other small counties in Texas, San Augustine County constables are paid considerably less. So is there a way to save counties money when so many constables are given such a small work load?

"I really don't know the answer to that question,” Brazeal said. “That is up to the commissioners.”

State Rep. James White (R-Woodville) once served on the legislative committee that evaluates county officials. He does believe that taxpayers should be concerned about wasted money.

"It is always prudent for elected officials to review the performance, the efficiencies of government to be respectful to our taxpayers,” White said.

But he is not ready to eliminate positions yet.

"The question I would have if that bill came to me is we are cutting down on the number of constitutionally elected peace officers,” White said. “Is that a prudent move in containing safe communities?”

So if you feel the arm of the law isn't long enough where you live, White says the best way to fix that is by making your voice heard at the ballot box.

Through Texas Public Information laws, we have requested the amounts of civil papers served, arrests made and tickets and warnings issued from every constable in 11 Deep East Texas counties from 2014 and 2015. Some constables were very cooperative. Others could only provide partial information. A couple others ignored our requests. Below are the results. As a formula to determine how much each constable is doing for you based on their pay, we took their combined salary from the two years and divided it by how many cases they worked to determine a "price per case." It should be noted that the "cases" we report are for only the records we requested and that some constables have clarified they work other cases, like answering service calls, which are records we did not request because most offices do not keep those kinds of records.

Angelina County:

Pct. 1 Tom Selman: 2,289 cases (1,165 papers served, 165 arrests, 428 tickets, 531 warnings). Two-year salary: $108,060. Price per case: $47. East Texas rank: 1 of 34.

Pct. 2 Trae Trevathan: 431 cases (428 papers served, three arrests). Two-year salary: $88,770. Price per case: $206. East Texas rank: 17 of 34.

Pct. 3 Chad Wilson: 670 cases (407 papers served, 65 arrests, 80 tickets, 118 warnings). Two-year salary: $80,288. Price per case: $120. East Texas rank: 8 of 34.

Pct. 4 Ray Anthony: 658 cases (365 papers served, 49 arrests, 129 tickets, 115 warnings). Two-year salary: $87,232. Price per case: $133. East Texas rank: 9 of 34.

Nacogdoches County:

Pct. 1 William Sowell (three-man department): 1,035 cases (296 papers served, 352 arrests, 387 tickets). Combined two-year salary: $250,688. Price per case: $242. East Texas rank: 20 of 34.

Pct. 2 David Adams: 398 cases (393 papers served, five arrests). Two-year salary: $81,562. Price per case: $205. East Texas rank: 16 of 34.

Pct. 3 Roger Dudley: 700 cases (700 papers served). Two-year salary: $81,562. Price per case: $117. East Texas rank: 6 of 34.

Pct. 4 David Stone (three-man department): 1,271 cases (245 papers served, 820 arrests, 206 tickets). Combined two-year salary: $248,532. Price per case: $196. East Texas rank: 14 of 34.

Cherokee County:

Pct. 1 Lynn Kelley: 150 cases (146 papers served, four arrests). Two-year salary: $71,782. East Texas rank: 26 of 34.

Pct. 2 Jack White: 319 cases (223 papers served, 29 arrests, 57 tickets). Two-year salary: $71,182. Price per case: $223. East Texas rank: 19 of 34.

Pct. 3 Eddie Lee: 805 cases (526 papers served, 16 arrests, 263 tickets). Two-year salary: $69,173. Price per case: $86. East Texas rank: 5 of 34.

Pct. 4 Jamie Beene: 244 cases (149 papers served, four arrests, 19 tickets, 72 warnings). Two-year salary: $71,182. Price per case: $292. East Texas rank: 21 of 34.

Houston County:

Pct. 1 Morris Luker: 1,291 cases (241 papers served, 16 arrests, 54 tickets). Two-year salary: $38,010. Price per case: $29. East Texas rank: 4 of 34.

Pct. 2 Red Smith: 162 cases (162 papers served). Two-year salary: $35,563. Price per case: $220. East Texas rank: 18 of 34.

Jasper County:

Pct. 1 Derrick Woods: Claims he has no records. Two-year salary: $60,285.

Pct. 2 Niles Nichols: 1,210 cases (1,200 papers served, 10 arrests). Two-year salary: $58,773. Price per case: $49. East Texas rank: 2 of 35.

Pct. 3 Ronnie Hutchison: 400 cases (all papers served). Two-year salary: $59,700. Price per case: $149. East Texas rank: 10 of 35.

Pct. 4 Gene Hawthorne: 369 cases (all papers served). Two-year salary: $59,781. Price per case: $162. East Texas rank: 11 of 35.

Pct. 5 James Poindexter: 130 cases (all papers served). Two-year salary: $58,089. Price per case: $447. East Texas rank: 25 of 35.

Pct. 6 Joe Sterling: 98 cases (89 papers served, nine arrests). Two-year salary: $59,655. Price per case: $609. East Texas rank: 29 of 35.

Polk County:

Pct. 1 Scott Hughes: 141 cases (all papers served). Two-year salary: $51,665. Price per case: $366. East Texas rank: 23 of 35.

Pct. 2 Bill Cunningham: 293 cases (240 papers served, 53 arrests). Price per case: $177. East Texas rank: 12 of 35.

Pct. 3 Ray Myers: 106 cases (all papers served). Price per case: $510. East Texas rank: 27 of 35.

Pct. 4 Bubba Piper: Did not respond to open records request. Two-year salary: $52,325.

Sabine County:

Pct. 1 Chad Murray: 33 cases (all papers served). Two-year salary: $45,512. Price per case: $1,379. East Texas rank: 31 of 35.

Pct. 2 Jerry Dan Webb: Claims he has no records. Two-year salary: $49,304.

San Augustine County:

Pct. 1 Robert Brazeal: 10 cases (Nine papers served, one arrest). Two-year salary: $15,798. Price per case: $1,580. East Texas rank: 32 of 35.

Pct. 2 Ardis J. Mosby: Nine cases (all papers served). Two-year salary: $15,798. Price per case: $1,755. East Texas rank: 34 of 35.

Pct. 3 Joseph Watson: 14 cases (all papers served). Two-year salary: $15,798. Price per case: $1,128. East Texas rank: 30 of 35.

Pct. 4 Kevin Gratehouse: 10 cases (all papers served). Two-year salary: $15,798. Price per case: $1,580. East Texas rank: 33 of 35.

Shelby County:

Pct. 1 Zack Warr: Did not respond to open records request. Two-year salary: $81,504.

Pct. 2 Jamie Hagler: Did not respond to open records request. Two-year salary: $81,504.

Pct. 3 Billy Hearnsberger: Claims records not available. Two-year salary: $81,504.

Pct. 4 Bryan Gray: 41 cases (13 papers served, two arrests, 26 tickets). Two-year salary: $76,578. Price per case: $1,868. East Texas rank: 35 of 35.

Trinity County:

Pct. 1 Rusty Barrett: Did not respond to open records request. Two-year salary: $28,032.

Pct. 2 Mark Cole (2015 records only): 315 cases (237 papers served, 54 arrests, 24 tickets). One-year salary: $16,116. Price per case: $51. East Texas rank: 3 of 35.

Pct. 3 Carl Casey: 175 cases (150 papers served, 25 arrests). Two-year salary: $32,832. Price per case: $188. East Texas rank: 16 of 35.

Pct. 4 Reggie Olive (2015 records only): 118 cases (65 papers served, two arrests, 51 tickets). One-year salary: $14,016. Price per case: $119. East Texas rank: 8 of 35.

Tyler County:

Pct. 1 Dale Freeman: 241 cases (240 papers served, one arrest). Two-year salary: $43,322. Price per case: $180. East Texas rank: 14 of 35.

Pct. 2 John Allen Fuller: 202 cases (177 papers served, 10 arrests, 15 tickets). Two-year salary: $63,722. Price per case: $315. East Texas rank: 22 of 35.

Pct. 4 Jim Zachary (2015 records only): 83 cases. (all papers served). One-year salary: $33,511. Price per case: $404. East Texas rank: 24 of 35.

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