JPs’ work ethics questionedHomebuilder says officials have been unavailable since spring

The owner of an Odessa multi-family home construction company told Ector County commissioners Thursday that the county’s four justices of the peace have been unavailable since the pandemic started in March and that he has urgent business that he has been prevented from transacting. 
Keith Antilley of Keith Antilley Homes said after the meeting that a number of people living in his homes had not paid rent for several months. “They’re just squatting,” he said.
Antilley had told the commissioners at the 10 a.m. session that the JPs’ “doors have been closed and their phones don’t answer.
“They have not been to work,” he said, adding that he has had business in all four precincts. “They’re just staying home and drawing their checks.”
Judge Debi Hays said County Human Resources Director Donna James would be directed to contact JPs Terry Lange in Precinct 1, Missi Walden in Precinct 2, Sherwood Kupper in Precinct 3 and Eddy Spivey in Precinct 4 and ask them to submit a plan to the court “about how they’re going to reopen their offices” after Jan. 1.
Hays had told Antilley that as elected officials, the JPs are not supervised by the commissioners, but their funding and the pay of their staff members are in the county’s purview. “The community has needs, so they need to be available for those needs,” she said.
A clerk answered Lange’s office phone and said Lange was unavailable while a call to Spivey’s office yielded only a recorded message, an email address and the chance to leave a phone message.
Walden told the Odessa American that Antilley’s assertions “are not totally true because my clerk, Nicki Palmer, has talked to him a couple of times when he needed to file something in one of the other precincts.
“Right now our doors are shut to the public, but if somebody needs to file something they can email us or leave it in a box outside,” Walden said. “Nicki had been coming outside if they needed to see us in person, but she is working remotely now because her child is quarantined.
“The Texas Office of Court Administration got Zoom accounts for all the JPs, but I can’t speak for any of the other courts. I’ve been doing all my evictions and default injunctions through Zoom and we are doing our best to make sure and take care of everyone.”
In a brief response that ended when he hung up, Kupper said he had “talked with Keith and he told me that he had not had a problem with Precinct 3.
“So I have no comment other than to say Precinct 3 is not involved,” Kupper said.
In other business in the court’s last regular meeting of the year, Sheriff Mike Griffis gained approval of specifications for the expected delivery in mid-2021 of 27 new Chevrolet Tahoes for his deputies.
“They will be exactly like the Tahoes we have now,” the sheriff said just before the meeting. “They’ll come with the police package and we will try to get an outfitter in the locality of the dealership to put in the console and lights.
“We’ll buy the radios and get our IT man, Stephen White, to install them.”
With the judge and four commissioners wearing lighthearted Santa Claus and Christmas hats, they OK’d budget amendments totaling $49,462 to buy furniture and complete the booking area in the recently completed $25-million jail expansion.
The court accepted Griffis’ recommendation of an intergovernmental agreement with Lynn County, south of Lubbock, for Lynn County inmates to be housed in the county detention center.
It was the last meeting for Precincts 1 and 3 Commissioners Eddy Shelton and Dale Childers, who are leaving office Jan. 1, and Hays and Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Simmons expressed the county’s appreciation for the men’s service,
Other business included:
>> Tabled Public Works Director Evans Kessey’s 2020 operational report and his project proposals for the New Year.
>> The renewal and ratification of guidelines governing tax abatements in reinvestment and enterprise zones.
>> The approval of Health Department Director Brandy Garcia’s request to hire a disease intervention specialist for $17 per hour.
>> The approval of Kessey’s plan for the handling of dead animals.
>> The approval of an $8,950 expenditure for work on the historic White-Pool House’s roof.