Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Craig Watkins learns the Golden Rule of politics

I've been ignoring the tit for tat feud between the Dallas County Commissioners Court and District Attorney Craig Watkins because it has become personal, petty, boring, and I hoped it'd go away after the county budget passed. But apparently the hard feelings engendered during that and other recent spats have continued to escalate and yesterday the Commissioners Court decided to show Watkins who's boss, hiring private counsel to advise them on an investigation of two constables over Watkins' bitter opposition. Reported the Dallas News:
Over the strenuous objections of District Attorney Craig Watkins, Dallas County commissioners voted Tuesday to hire an outside lawyer to advise them about an investigation they ordered into the activities of two constables.

By a 3-1 vote, commissioners selected Dallas lawyer Sidney H. Davis Jr. A contract was expected to be signed by the end of the day Tuesday, officials said.

Watkins, who clashed with commissioners for months over budget cuts, said they acted outside their authority Tuesday and that his office will file an injunction against them before Friday in an attempt to block the move.

"They're usurping the power of this office," he said. "It's never been done before."

The contract will pay Davis $300 an hour and $200 an hour for his associates.
While Watkins deserves credit for his office's continuing work on innocence cases, his ham-handed catfight with the Commissioners Court has devolved into dysfunctional disaster. He seems not to understand which decisions in the local political system are his to make and which are theirs. So a majority on the court decided to teach the rookie DA the political version of the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

This is not worth fighting over. Let them hire whoever they want, Mr. Watkins, that's their business - yours should be running the District Attorney's office, and you can't focus on that while you're spending your days in a media pissing match with the Commissioners Court. You've got an important election next year and you won't help your cause being shrill and reactive every time your critics bait you.



Anonymous said...

That's pretty good advice Grits. Daddy always said don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Voters and the news media can be informed of the sometimes mismanagement of county funds by commissioners by utilizing sources not connected to other elected offices who are able to get the word to the appropriate sources without implicating the other elected officials.

That's politics and how it works.

The one thing I question about the hiring of the private investigator and now an outside attorney "was the money appropriated and budgeted in the current budget (assuming the Dallas County fiscal year is Oct-Sept) and if not how the commissioners were able to amend the budget for these positions?"

The way I read the Texas Local Government Code makes me think these positions could not be added once the budget is adopted. Dallas County probably has a "catch all" line item for these positions.

Anonymous said...

Wow ! Perry is making lots of news. Raw Story reports that "Texas governor stops review of possible wrongful execution".

yep, same story as today's Forsenic Commission headline here on this blog, which makes me wonder why Grits didn't frame the headlines around the larger issue of wrongful executions (which relates to the Innocence Project, in a way), but rather chose to frame the headlines in terms of a pissing contest, bureaucratic squabble...???

10/01/2009 06:12:00 AM

Anonymous said...

I doubt the county is actully creating new positions. It's simply getting the services of an outside lawyer through a contract.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I didn't say they were creating a new position, 12:26, but they still made the decision to "hire" an outside attorney. You're right that it's a contract arrangement.

Anonymous said...

So the commissioners agree to pay an outside attorney $300/hr and pay his associates $200/hr, but criminal defense attorneys appointed to represent indigent defendants now get a paltry $90/hour due to the budget crisis? Funny how that works.