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Court clears hire of Assistant County Attorney
Wednesday, August 12, 2009 • Posted August 12, 2009

Judge Wayne Brascom laid down the law at the county commissioners court Monday morning, and the court voted 4-1 to approve a resolution to allow the new part-time assistant county attorney to maintain a private practice (also part-time) from her courthouse office. The vote, which followed an angry exchange in the courtroom, cleared the way for County Attorney Cheryll Mabray to hire Linda Bayless, an attorney with 21 years experience, to serve as her assistant three days a week. The Texas state legislature has passed a bill which specifically allows such an arrangement to encourage qualified attorneys to work in rural counties, where income prospects are lower.

The meeting had already featured more emotion than the quite sedate meetings of recent months, as three controversial requests for floodplain ordinance variances had been debated and removed from the agenda pending separate actions outside the courtroom. One request was brought by the owners of a home at 422 Bridgepoint Drive in Kingsland, who had purchased the home without being told that it was in violation of the floodplain ordinance. That case and another, in the Crestwood subdivision will be brought back to the court after further consultation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The third case, involving the addition of a porch to a historic home on 419 Watkins Point which lies about eight inches below the 100-year floodplain line, was removed from the agenda in the hopes that engineer Brad Shaw and Flood Plain Administrator Ron Moore could find a way to bring the project into compliance with the FEMA rules.

Quite a few business items were handled routinely before tempers flared. The court approved a new resolution asking LCRA and PUC to choose an alternate route for planned transmission lines that would avoid Llano County altogether. If that best-case scenario proves impossible, the county is asking that extra care be taken to minimize the impact and fully reimburse affected residents and property owners.

Sheriff Bill Blackburn reported an increase in calls for July, including a rise in the number of burglaries. The court approved a budget change to allow the purchase of another police car. The court took additional steps toward the purchase of property for a Justice of the Peace office in Precinct 2, and approved matching funds from the hotel/motel tax for participants who wish to advertise on the Llano County map produced by Texas Trails Maps (up to $280 per participant).

But the most striking episode from the three-and-a-half hour meeting came after “private practice” item was opened up for discussion. After Commissioner Johnny Heck seemed to sidetrack the discussion by asking for a new agreement with the county attorney, Justice of the Peace Richard Owen (Precinct 1) began accusing County Attorney Mabray of a conflict of interest. Commissioner Jerry Don Moss, members of the audience and eventually Judge Brascom responded angrily to the accusation, with Judge Brascom telling the court that it had taken long enough to get the assistant county attorney that the county needs, and that the discussion was over. The court voted 4-1 to approve the resolution, with Commissioner Heck opposed.

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