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County Court judge resigns - Odessa American: Ector County

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County Court judge resigns

Layh returns to private practice, commissioners to mull appointment

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Posted: Thursday, December 21, 2017 4:22 pm

County Court at Law Judge Scott Layh formally resigned during the Ector County Commissioners Court meeting today with plans to return to his private law practice, creating the likelihood that county would fill the vacancy in the coming months by appointing a justice of the peace who is seeking the post.

Layh, a county employee for more than 11 years, was appointed to the County Court at Law Judge No. 2 position after his predecessor Mark Owens died of cancer in 2014. Previously, Layh served as county attorney, after winning the position prosecuting misdemeanors in 2012.

“I’m stepping out of my comfort zone in this but I truly feel that I’m being led to go where I am going,” Layh said, adding he plans to “serve the county in other capacities, and I may be back some day.”

Commissioners unanimously voted to accept the judge’s resignation, which is effective Dec. 30. Layh announced he would not seek re-election earlier this month.

“We’re going to miss Judge Layh, and I know he’s been an invaluable resource and a great stability factor up there at the county court,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Simmons said.

The only candidate running to replace him is Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Christopher Clark. Clark had filed to run for the other County Court at Law seat, held by Judge Jim Bobo, who plans to retire after his term, in what would have been a contested race.

But Clark withdrew and re-filed to run for Layh’s seat after the judge’s announcement.

Ector County Judge Ron Eckert said commissioners would consider appointing Clark to the seat, since he faces no challenger ahead of the March Republican primary.

“I think that makes sense to avoid a backlog in county court,” Eckert said, adding it would ultimately be up to a majority of commissioners.

Seven Republican candidates are running to fill the justice of the peace position Clark will vacate: Matthew Stringer, Marvin Jennings, Gary Dunda, Jet Brown, Missi Walden, Sheryl Jones and Steven Westfall.

No Democrats filed to run for the seat.

That many candidates in the March primary suggest the likelihood of a runoff. And if commissioners elevated Clark to the County Court at Law judgeship, the elected officials would then have to decide whether to fill the justice of the peace vacancy. Simmons said the latter decision would require a “much different discussion.”

IN OTHER BUSINESS, COMMISSIONERS

  • Approved a request from Adriana Prieto from Odessa Roller Rink, 818 East Eighth St., to utilize the west side parking lot of the Ector County Administration Building on Dec. 30 to park food trucks for a company event.
  • Approved the appointments of Sunshine Thompson as Veterans Service Officer and Anna Marie Torres as interim director of the Ector County Cemetery.
  • Reviewed a presentation from Building Maintenance regarding the new work order system, covering the period of October 2017 through November 2017.
  • Approved the 2018 Indigent Defense Formula Grant, which County Auditor David Austin said helps to cover indigent defense costs, which costs the county around $2 million a year. The grant would provide the County around $60,000 to $70,000 from the state.
  • Approved accepting a grant from the Ector County Library in the amount of $23,100 for the support of the library programming.
  • Approved a proposal to set starting pay for TVFC/Immunization program specialist and outreach coordinator at $16.07 per hour.
  • Approved a request to hire a welder at a Step 5 due to previous experience.
  • Approved seeking outside counsel to represent the county in a pending lawsuit: Christopher Lynn Douglas v. Ector County, C.O. Gonzalez, Sgt. FNU Martinez, Civil Action No. MO: 17-CV-208-RAJ-DC, in the United States District Court Western District of Texas Midland-Odessa Division.
  • Approved a proposed budget amendment to General Fund, Donated Revenues to General Fund, Sheriff, Uniform Supplies for $11,200.
  • Approved a proposed budget amendment to Capital Projects Fund, Special Department Equipment from Unreserved Fund Balance in the amount of $400,000 for the purchase of an emulsion storage tank that was approved during the last Commissioners’ Court.
  • Reviewed the accounts payable fund requirements report for Dec. 21, 2017.

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