by Jim Parks
Question: Who spends taxpayer money like a drunken sailor?
Answer: Parnell McNamara
Now, I know you thought I was going to say Congress, and under normal circumstances that would be true. But not while Parnell McNamara is Sheriff of McLennan County. This man has them beat, hands down. Between lawsuits, toys, and maintenance costs (for said toys), our present Sheriff could write a book. Can’t you just see it? “Bankrupting a County for Dummies” first edition. It would be an overnight best-seller because every politician in the State would be after it.
But first, let’s look at “Parnell, Texas Ranger’s” credentials for writing this tome. After all, an author of a “self-help” book has to have some experience to back him up. Don’t worry though, Parnell has a wealth of recent experience. It would seem otherwise, since he came into office 3 years ago not having one hour of “on-the-ground” experience as a Texas Peace Officer. Didn’t know that? Yeppers, the sum total of Parnell’s experience up to that point was working as an “intermittent U.S. Marshall”, mostly for the purpose of prisoner transport. I say mostly, because I’m sure he also spent some time getting coffee and sandwiches for him and his brother.
Oh, and don’t let his whiney brat story about how he and his brother took positions as “intermittent” or “part-time” Marshals just so they could stay in Waco. Former Democrat Congressman Chet Edwards sponsored a bill in the 103rd Congress to upgrade the McNamaras to full U.S. Marshalls, but couldn’t even get it passed. So, if the Congress of the United States knows better, then who is Parnell fooling? Therefore, his credentials and experience for bankrupting a County has been crammed into 3 power-packed years. And boy, has he been busy!
First step, right out of the box, he came into office dragging a lawsuit for prejudicial treatment of his employees that would eventually cost the County a cool $2 million (that’s Million, with an “M”). And again, don’t fall for the cover story that the County only paid out $600,000 (as if that isn’t enough), the rest being paid by the State insurance pool. Who do you think pays into that pool? That’s right! The Counties! And where do the Counties get the money to pay into the pool? Right again! The taxpayers! So, back to the original point … Parnell cost the County $2 million dollars going in, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So, let’s look a little deeper into the water, specifically at all the “big boy toys” Parnell has procured for the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department. First, there’s our very own “Ghostbusters” vehicle … the converted ambulance with the trailer on the back that belongs to McLennan County’s very own bomb squad. Never mind that there has never in the history of the County been a bomb go off or lives lost due to a bomb. Now, I’m not talking about situations like the West Fertilizer Plant explosion. I’m talking about a bomb built and designed to go off and take life and property. Even so, Parnell believes McLennan County needs a bomb squad. Never mind that the largest military installation in the world, Fort Hood, is a 5 minute chopper flight away and they have highly trained bomb disposal personnel. Parnell believes McLennan County needs to spend money on its own personal bomb squad.
If the “clowns in the middle ring” we have now aren’t enough, Parnell intends to spend another $235,000 for a SECOND bomb squad unit. That way we have the availability to rush to TWO bomb threats we don’t have. Now, on Parnell’s behalf, let me give you his argument. He’ll tell you the $235,000 came as a grant and won’t cost the taxpayer a dime. But I have a question, Parnell. Who, then, has to pay for the upkeep and operating costs for these two bomb detection and disposal units we don’t need? Yeppers, the taxpayer. And who has to up the bucks for the salaries for the Deputies that man these units, much less for their training (I assume … and hope … that the folks will actually be trained to handle bombs). Again, the taxpayer. Won’t this money go to a better use if spent for patrols in the County areas where there are no other police responsibility? By the way, isn’t this what the Sheriff’s Departments prime purpose is supposed to be?
But, Parnell will tell you the bomb squad has already been called out. Never mind that it was to Fredericksburg, and not anywhere in McLennan County. By the way Parnell, who paid for that trip? Did we recover the cost from Fredericksburg, or did we bite the bullet for that one while you showed off for the folks back home? And what if we actually had a bomb threat while our bomb squad was across the State somewhere? Shouldn’t they stay at home waiting for the call since we so desperately need our own bomb squad. Note: Fort Hood is closer to Fredericksburg than Waco. Need I say more?
Oh, there is one call on record where the bomb squad rushed to the scene of a volatile incident. They closed down Highway 6 both directions for several hours tearing apart some Bubba’s pick-up because a patrol officer saw a meth pipe in the floorboard. Sure thought that meth pipe labeled him as a terrorist. Needed that bomb squad desperately then, for sure. So, that’s another way to bankrupt a County, spend a million, or so, on a bomb squad that isn’t really needed.
And what about the AR-15’s and the para-military vehicle that McNamara had to have for the County. Never mind that Waco already has a highly trained and equipped SWAT Team. Parnell had to have one of his own. OK, so some big Republican donor put up the dollars to buy the rifles and the vehicle was donated by the U.S. Military. Again, someone has to pay for the training, up-keep, ammunition (you don’t really think they got new bang-bangs and didn’t head straight to the range to pop off a few thousand rounds, do you?), and maintenance on the vehicle. And, that someone is the taxpayer. And again, never mind that McLennan County is so close to Fort Hood that windows rattle when the tanks fire their guns. And never mind that the National Guard is already equipped with more “stuff” than Parnell can afford. Also, never mind that Waco already has a SWAT Team, equipped and ready to roll at a moment’s notice. Parnell has to have his own, and we have to pay for it.
So, when you want a crash course in bankrupting a County, just pick up Parnell’s Bankrupting a County for Dummies and following the instructions. You can’t miss. Question is, can we afford another four years of this? Wait around and sooner or later the property taxes will start to rise….