GALVESTON

Galveston County Commissioners Court on Monday declined County Judge Mark Henry’s request to demand Judge Lonnie Cox pay more than $1.2 million in Henry’s attorney fees stemming from a lawsuit Cox filed against Henry.

In a 2-3 vote, the court rejected a resolution demanding Cox “reimburse the citizens of Galveston County for attorney fees.” County taxpayers have spent more than $1.2 million to pay Houston attorneys representing Henry against a lawsuit originating from the challenge of the court’s firing of a former justice administrator.

Commissioners Ken Clark and Henry voted for the resolution. Commissioners Joe Giusti, Darrell Apffel and Stephen Holmes voted against the resolution.

Cox sued Henry in 2014, arguing he had overstepped his authority and was undermining the independence of the county’s judicial branch by firing Justice Administrator Bonnie Quiroga because many of her duties served the trial judges. Henry had argued he had the right to fire her because the position is a county employee position.

Over the course of the legal battle, the county’s attorney fees reached more than $1.2 million, according to earlier reports from the county auditor’s office. Cox paid his own legal fees, and estimated in May the total to be about $30,000.

Henry and Cox are now political opponents in the race for the county judge seat.

Apffel pulled the item from the consent agenda to vote against it. Henry shot back that Apffel had supported an agenda item in January calling for the county to reimburse Cox’s legal fees.

“You placed an item on the agenda for Jan. 31 to negotiate a settlement of this case and in that settlement you wanted the county to reimburse his attorney fees,” Henry said to Apffel.

“Interestingly, his attorney fees were like $23,000 and yours were like $1.3 million, but I wasn’t going to go there,” Apffel said.

“The theory is that if we’re paying his attorney fees, he can pay our attorney fees, right?” Henry said.

As of January, the court of appeals had sided with Cox, then the county appealed the decision to the supreme court, Apffel said.

“I wasn’t going to go there, I’m just not sure what a resolution does other than political gain,” Apffel said.

“It asks the citizens to be reimbursed for the money he wasted, that’s what it does,” Henry said.

Cox, judge for the 56th District Court, said Henry was using the commissioners court for politics.

“It’s political pandering at the highest level,” Cox said. “He’s using county taxpayers’ money and time to play politics.

“Everybody knows that this is beating a dead horse. There’s no legal substance to me paying his fees, there’s no practical substance for me paying his fees.”

Marissa Barnett: 409-683-5257; marissa.barnett@galvnews.com

(11) comments

Bill Lowe

How in the world can someone spend $1,200,000.00 for attorneys. I would hope that someone managing the county's money (our money) could do a better job of it. Is that how he always manages our money? Makes me question his skills.

Ron Binkley

I smell $1.2M in deception!

Ron Shelby

My personal opinion: Hopefully, if you are a good manager of county funds, (especially in a dispute that can impact the finances of every county in the State of Texas), you will hire the best in this particular field of law to get it resolved. You wouldn't waste county funds on cheap counsel with little experience. Lawyers are one of those expenses in life that you "don't" go out and search for the cheapest. The same goes for heart surgeons. Time to move on.

Carol Dean

Ron, you have never answered my question about whether or not you moved back to Galveston! If not, I guess your opinion really doesn't matter.

M. FARRIS

And question his skills you must!! No skills!!

Carol Dean

So, Ron Shelby, who doesn't even live in the state concludes that the County Attorneys who we tax-payers are paying for are not worth their salaries??? Maybe Henry and Clark could REALLY save us some money by eliminating their positions? The "Resolution" was not worth the paper it was written on. Thank goodness Apfell, Giusti and Holmes knew the difference! Nothing but Campaign Trash for re-election. Shame on Henry and Clark!

M. FARRIS

Agree!!!

Ron Shelby

Anyone worth their "salt" can look up the property tax bills we pay to Galveston county, and have for years. As I finish a PhD at one of the top schools in the country in Public Finance and Budgeting, I continue to be interested in the government and politics that impact the properties we own,...and I'm perfectly happy to voice that opinion freely. I've dearly paid for it. Sadly, you continue to bully others simply because you fail in presenting a solid argument to stand on. People see through that. ..and they laugh.

Ron Shelby

And yes Carol,....the Fat Lady has sung in this case...not matter how much you protested it when the decision first came down. Anyone wanting to google it can find those previous posts. Let's move on.

Carol Dean

So, Ron, you can't find a new life in your new state? Refresh my memory, I don't remember protesting the decision...I remember saying the entire situation was not yet over. "Let's move on"? How about you follow your own advice in your own new world???

Ron Binkley

So what if Ron Shelby doesn't live in Texas any longer. He obviously still loves Texas enough to stay involved and offer his opinions.

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