County judge gets his comeuppance

Am I the only person in Amarillo who wonders whether Potter County Judge Arthur Ware’s behavior of late has angered his colleagues on the Commissioners Court?

The judge asked his colleagues this week for a pay raise during the next budget year, but the commission — all four members — told him in effect “no dice.” Commissioner H.R. Kelly told Ware he needed a decrease in pay rather than a $2,700 annual increase. Why? Well, Ware isn’t doing his job.

To be fair, Ware’s inability to do his job isn’t his fault. He suffered a grievous stroke in 2010 that has left him significantly impaired. He cannot speak effectively. Ware’s paralysis along his right side remains a tremendous handicap as well. He has had to spend lengthy periods of time “off the clock” undergoing intensive rehabilitation. The result of all this has been that many of his duties have been farmed out to other county officials.

I am among those with great respect for the service Ware has given to the county, and indeed to the nation by virtue of his service during the Persian Gulf War as a Marine.

I’m scratching my head, though, over his request for a raise when he hasn’t done the job to which he’s been elected.

That’s not the end of this drama. He recently fired longtime and loyal administrative assistant Nancy Tanner. He still hasn’t explained why he fired the person upon whom he has depended for 20 years. State employment law doesn’t require Ware to explain, given that Texas is an “at will” state that allows employers to fire anyone for any reason, or for no reason. That’s no reason for him to stonewall the public.

Commissioner Alphonso Vaughn said the county would be “negligent” if it gave Ware a pay raise, given that he has been unable to do much of the work required of him.

The county judge, who once enjoyed the unqualified support of many officials and staffers at the courthouse, is facing a serious decision about his public service career. Does he seek re-election next year? If he does, how in this world is he going to explain how he is capable of doing a job he hasn’t done since that crippling and tragic stroke?

As for the raise, Ware’s colleagues took the only action available to them.