Contentions around the Precinct 4 constable race bubbled up into the public eye at the beginning of the Denton County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday morning.
Tim Burch, the Republican incumbent, came to court with three of his supporters to address a letter that Commissioner Dianne Edmondson had sent throughout Precinct 4 supporting his opponent, Danny Fletcher.
“This is a very sad, sad day,” Burch said during his public comment. “She’s attacking a very well-loved and respected constable in the county, and I have established myself as a leader out here, and I think it’s not fair the way she has attacked me with this letter.”
Burch has come under fire in years past for his relationship with Barry Minoff, his former chief of staff. Minoff has been under investigation for allegedly using more than $300,000 from a North Texas nonprofit while gambling in Las Vegas. Minoff’s plea hearing is scheduled for Friday in Hood County. Despite criticism from county commissioners, Burch kept Minoff on paid administrative leave until commissioners defunded Minoff’s position.
This was outlined in Edmondson’s letter, but in his comments Tuesday Burch maintained that Minoff had not received due process and that it was unclear if he will plead guilty.
“Everyone needs to understand that former chief of staff of mine has never had due process because I had an open internal affairs investigation and nobody ever gave me any information; the Texas Rangers and no one in Hood County or their district attorney’s office provided me anything,” he said.
In addition to Burch’s supporters speaking during public comment, two other constables spoke at the meeting, seemingly against Burch. Both men and the three other constables have all endorsed Fletcher.
Johnny Hammons, constable for Precinct 1, thanked the commissioners for their decision to defund Minoff’s position.
“All six constables are elected independently, but when our offices make poor judgment calls, we all suffer,” he said. “I just want you to know that I appreciate what you do.”
After half an hour of public comment, Edmondson said she was happy to provide anyone documentation of her claims in the letter and stood by the document. She said the letter was intended to hold another public official accountable.
Also at the meeting, commissioners laid the groundwork to start the budget process, led by Jona Macsas, the budget officer for Denton County. Officials are working to survey other counties about what new pay scales should look like next fiscal year and want to increase employee raises and insurance.
Preliminarily, Macsas estimates the county needs to increases raises by a total of $5.5 million to get closer to market rates. There could also be increases to insurance plans, which didn’t get increases last year, that would cost the county $1.1 million.
Additionally, commissioners unanimously approved a move to combine public works and planning with emergency services. The new department will be the Department of Development and Emergency Services and will reorganize both offices to work together.