Lubbock County settles nearly decade long election dispute - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Lubbock County settles nearly decade long election dispute

Lubbock County resolves $382,000 election dispute Lubbock County resolves $382,000 election dispute
LUBBOCK COUNTY, TX (KCBD) -

We have an update for you on an investigation we have followed for more than a year.

Lubbock County commissioners and the board that oversees Buffalo Springs Lake have resolved a 382,000 dollar disagreement over election costs.

It is not the resolution Lubbock County commissioner were hoping for. 

Last year, the KCBD investigative team discovered more than eight years worth of invoices yet to be paid.

In the 1950s, Buffalo Springs Lake was formed as a separate political subdivision. 

It is governed by a board of directors known as the Lubbock County Water Conservation and Improvement District Number One.

Since it is a separate political subdivision, commissioners said the board needed to pay the county for conducting their elections, however the board disagreed. 

Last year, we asked Lubbock County commissioner Mark Heinrich about the mounting invoices.

"Some years they would pay the full amount and then one year they decided not to. So, when you have a 160,000 dollar bill and you decide to pay a very small percentage of that, it can easily get to 382,000 dollars in a short period of time," Heinrich said.

We went to a board meeting in June of 2015 where former board member Paul Hodges told members they should not have to pay election fees since they are a county entity.

"State law sets us up and says we'll have to have an election every two years and we signed a contract because they said you're not going to have an election unless you sign this contract. Okay, so this gives us an option, do we want to break a state law or do we want to contest what they are charging? We told them at the time, we don't owe that," Hodges said.

Last year, Heinrich assured us the county would be aggressive in the collection of the debt.

"We are very aggressive. Taxpayer concern is number one, and we want to make sure that because there's other entities involved, that we conduct election services with, and it's not fair for them," Heinrich said.

Now, a year later, the parties have reached a settlement.

On July 11th, an attorney representing Lubbock County addressed commissioner's court with a proposed agreement. 

The attorney said Lubbock County Water Conservation and Improvement District Number One would pay to settle the past due election expenses at just over 141,000 dollars.

That is more than 240,000 dollars less than originally billed to be paid out over 10 years. 

It is something county commissioners Mark Heinrich and Bubba Sedeno voted against.

The settlement passed three to two.

County Commissioner Patti Jones asked Heinrich why he voted against the settlement. 

He said ten years is a long time to pay that off. 

Jones said, "Well, it was either that or we don't get any money."

That got our attention. 

"They don't have to pay us anything," Jones said in the meeting.

Heinrich responded by saying, "It's complicated. It's a very difficult decision to make."

More than a dozen entities pay Lubbock County to conduct election services.

If the board that oversees Buffalo Springs Lake does not have to pay, does anyone?

We reached out to commissioners for clarification.

We do know the board agreed to pay the county roughly 3,000 dollars for elections moving forward.

So, what about all of those contracts between the board and the county?

This settlement effectively dissolves the agreements, letting the board off the hook for about one-third of the cost of those past elections.

Copyright 2016 KCBD. All rights reserved.

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