Smith Co. Judge has contentious discussion with constable over budget request

County judge to constable: “Learn the law”
Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 7:02 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2021 at 7:31 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - During Tuesday morning’s budget workshop at a regular meeting of the Smith County Commissioners Court, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran and Pct. 1 Constable Curtis Traylor Harris had a contentious back-and-forth over a budget request.

Their discussion came after Traylor Harris made a FY 2021 budget request for an additional full-time deputy and two new vehicles, in addition to the one vehicle his office is already getting.

“Our office is being asked to do more with less help,” Traylor Harris said in court.

But Moran said the constable’s request will not be fulfilled, citing concerns with the constable’s office.

“It’s concerning to me that you’re asking me to give you more vehicles and personnel, when in fact, if you would just utilize your vehicles in the manner you’re supposed to, for your statutory duties, you probably wouldn’t have to,” Moran said.

In open court, Moran quoted Traylor Harris from a meeting the two had on Monday about the budget request.

“You started talking about how busy your officers were because you had so many funeral escorts to do, so many community events to attend, and so much traffic control to do in the city,” Moran said. “When I asked you if you weren’t doing those things, what would your office look like? Your quote was, ‘we would be 8 to 5 Monday through Friday if we didn’t have to do those things.’ My quote to you was, ‘well, you don’t have to do those things.”

Moran pointed out Traylor Harris’ shortcomings in his first seven months in office, including an attempt to put a part-time staffer on leave, something Moran said the law doesn’t allow. Moran also mentioned that Traylor Harris consistently worked part-time officers more than 30 hours a week, and had been told by the county that this wasn’t allowed.

When Moran stated that Traylor Harris refused to bailiff the precinct’s justice of the peace office, Traylor Harris interrupted Moran saying, “that’s not true. No, that is not true. And I will not let you say that. That is not true.”

In the end, Moran told Traylor Harris to focus on the assets he’s been given.

“Learn the law, learn how to run that office, and then we can talk about increasing that in the future if we need to,” Moran said.

“We’re being left in the dark,” Traylor Harris said. “We’re being pushed aside at precinct 1. All of these things were made clear when I took office. I told (her) ‘hey, these vehicles are in really bad condition,’ and every email that I have says these things can be remedied during budget, and none of these things are being remedied.”

Following the meeting, Moran told KLTV 7 that tough conversations like the one had Tuesday need to happen. He said it ensures transparency about the budget process.

In a matter not directly related to Tuesday’s discussion, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement is investigating the Smith County Constable’s Office, Pct. 1, according to Gretchen Grigsby, Director of Government Relations for TCOLE.

“We do have an ongoing investigation into Smith County Constable’s Office, Precinct 1, which was opened on March 23, 2021,” she said. “It is related to allegations of an improper appointment. As it is an open case, no other information is available at this time.”

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