During Tuesday’s budget meetings, the Ector County Commissioners heard from the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, Ector County District Clerk’s Office and Ector County Health Department.
Commissioners approved Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis to hire two additional dispatchers and a secretary position that would allow ECSO to streamline the background check process.
Griffis spoke with the Odessa American and he said it’s crucial to streamline the background check process. He explained at the moment it can take three to four weeks to hire a candidate and he said within that period of time that person has another job.
“I have faith that will help speed up the process,” Griffis said. “Some of the individuals that are helping with the process right now will probably still help in some respects, but with one person dedicated to that task, we are hoping that it will speed the process up and get those individuals hired in a shorter amount of time.”
Griffis spoke about some of the obstacles the sheriff’s office currently goes through during their hiring process.
“By the time we get the background check done and then we start the testing — drug test, stress test, physical exam and psychological exam — you are talking weeks out from the time they actually put in the application and by that time many times they are already employed somewhere else,” Griffis said. “It puts us a disadvantage when it takes that much time to get all those tasks done.”
During budget talks, commissioners asked if the background process was done in person or over phone.
Ector County Sheriff’s Office Captain Tony Bass told commissioners that some of the background check can be done over the phone, but he said it’s important to speak in person with a candidate’s references as ECSO wants to make sure they are hiring the right person.
Griffis reiterated that point after the budget meeting.
“It’s advantageous to go talk face-to-face a lot of times to people to find out the background of an individual that wants to go out there to carry a badge and a gun or be in control of inmates in the jail or be on the radio dispatching officers to scenes,” Griffis said. “We want the best people possible.”
Griffis also spoke with commissioners about allowing inmates to vape.
During the meeting, Griffis said he has been told by a vape vendor that the Ector County Jail can make a million dollars from selling vapes to inmates. He said the inmate would have to return their used vape to get another vape.
Griffis said after the meeting the sheriff’s office is still in the infancy stages of allowing inmates to vape and there isn’t a timetable on when this would be implemented.
“We are seeing it as a behavioral tool and a monetary tool to help us offset some of the budgetary items that the taxpayers have to pay in their sales tax and property tax,” Griffis said. “Hopefully, we will make enough money through that endeavor to help offset some of those budgetary items and help lower the actual jail budget, so we can take a little burden off the taxpayers.”
Ector County District Clerk Clarissa Webster asked the commissioners for a budget that would allow her to hire four full time employees and two part-time employees. Commissioners granted her three full-time employees and one part-time employee.
Webster told the Odessa American after the meeting this is a step in the right direction for her department. Webster said she currently has 25 full-time employees and three part-time employees.
“It will improve a little bit,” Webster said. “Based on the work volume, what essentially has been done, they have staffed me to where people only took vacations and never got sick we would have adequate coverage. There will always people that get sick.”
A looming concern for Webster and her staff will be visiting judges coming to Ector County to help decrease the number of cases across Texas. Webster said she doesn’t know when that will take place or if they will be asked to have jury trials for visiting judges that would take place during off weeks for Ector County judges.
Webster told commissioners that she doesn’t know what the work load is going to be once visiting judges begin to see cases in Ector County.
“There’s always been visiting judges here and there that come in and sit anyway,” Webster said. “This is something brand new that they are doing to help courts across the state of Texas catch up with their backlog. It’s intended to move more cases than usual.”
The commissioners will continue budget meetings at 9 a.m. Wednesday. County Attorney, Environement Enforcement, Medical Examiner and Library are scheduled to speak.