City council voted 7-1 Tuesday in support of the abolition of the county treasurer’s office, a largely symbolic gesture that will have little consequence in a long-festering controversy about dispensing with the custodian of the county’s money.
“Citizens of League City and Galveston County desire efficient and effective government, and consolidating duties into other full-time offices to allow the abolition of the elected treasurer office will save taxpayers approximately $500,000 annually and reduce the risk of misappropriated funds,” was the resolution the city council approved.
Pat Hallisey, in his last meeting as mayor of League City, voted against the resolution, saying it wasn’t the council’s place to wade into what’s essentially an internal county government fight.
“We were elected to take care of local government,” Hallisey said. “I think we have just lost track of what we are here to do.”
Councilman Hank Dugie on March 1 won the Republican nomination for county treasurer against incumbent Kevin Walsh.
Dugie, whose last council meeting also was Tuesday, put the resolution of support on the agenda.
Running on a campaign to abolish the office, Dugie intends to be the last standing treasurer in the county.
With no democratic challenger, Dugie will take office and begin as county treasurer in January.
Dugie on Wednesday didn’t respond to requests for comment.
County Treasurer Kevin Walsh has objected to abolishing the position.
The county treasurer office is an important and integral part of county government, Walsh told The Daily News a year ago.
“Once the resolution passes, nothing will change,” Hallisey said Monday when asked about the pending vote.
“It is a meaningless resolution that we are taking,” Hallisey said.
Larry Millican, who didn’t seek reelection and attended his last meeting Tuesday, said he voted in favor of the abolition to cut down on costs.
“I don’t believe that abolishing the office will save taxpayers $500,000,” Millican said Wednesday. “It might be closer to about $100,000. Costs aside, I think smaller government is always a good thing in the long run.”
The county treasurer’s office was created under state law, and abolishing the office would require the Texas Legislature to call a statewide referendum, allowing voters to decide.
The treasurer’s office came under fire in 2018 after scammers stole $500,000 from county taxpayers meant to pay a construction company for road repairs was sent to the wrong person.
It happened when the treasurer’s office received an email from what appeared to be Lucas Construction, the intended receiver, instructing the county to pay the money to a new account, which officials did. Those emails and the account belonged to a scammer, Walsh said.
County Judge Mark Henry and county commissioners said the departments that oversee the payments to contractors should take some responsibility for the theft. An independent report commissioned by the county stated no department or individual could be held accountable for not following safeguard procedures that didn’t exist.
But Henry had longed blamed Walsh for the costly embarrassment. But even before the scam, Henry had lobbied for abolishing the treasurer position.
County commissioners on Aug. 22 rescinded Walsh’s investment duties in an unanimous decision, saying they were seeking better returns, and began exploring whether the elected head of that office could be removed.
And on Aug. 1, commissioners approved pay raises to encourage employees to stay on at the treasurer’s office amid discussions of eliminating the office.
The salary changes raised the assistant county treasurer’s salary from about $105,421 to $120,000 and that of the payroll administrator from $67,112 to $73,000, according to county documents.
“When you start reducing services, it’s a matter of time before the public turns on you,” Hallisey said Monday.