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Poaching in Grimes County

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ANDERSON — A Grimes County employee was poached from one department to fill an internal need in another. The Grimes County district attorney’s office is having to replace a longtime employee who is transferring to fill a need in Grimes County Court at Law Judge Tuck McLain’s office.

“We’re unexpectedly here today because our good judge Tuck McLain has poached one of our finest from our office,” said Grimes County Investigator John Wren. Wren was representing the district attorney’s office at a special meeting of Grimes County Commissioners Court Monday, Aug. 5, as district attorney Andria Bender prepared for a murder trial.

The district attorney’s office is looking to replace Laura Zaragoza, a paraprofessional within the office who has been with the county for 25 years. Zaragoza is making a lateral move to cover a position for McLain’s office.

“We are happy for Laura,” said Wren. “I’ve jokingly called her a unicorn throughout the week because trying to replace her will be like attempting to find a unicorn.”

Wren said although everyone in the department is happy for Zaragoza, they are left with the challenge of having to reorganize, restructure and redistribute job duties. “She has been here so long that not everyone realizes everything that Laura did for our department and all the job duties she covered,” said Wren.

Instead of finding a new paraprofessional to fill Zaragoza’s vacant spot, Wren said the district attorney’s office would like to reclassify the position from a paraprofessional to a clerk 5 position. The new position is at a lower pay scale.

Since money was already budgeted for the paraprofessional position, Wren stated the department would like to redistribute those funds between the two current clerk 5 positions in the office and the third position that would be reclassified to a clerk 5. He said they have enough funds to cover the cost of the raise for August and September but request an additional 48-cent provision to get the raises where they would like them.

The district attorney’s office has an employee from another department in mind to potentially assume the vacated position. That employee has a master certification to operate the TLETS terminal which runs criminal history and can also handle system audits. According to Wren if that employee is appointed to the position, they would take a slight decrease in pay.

Grimes County Judge Joe Fauth III expressed his concerns saying he isn’t opposed to redistributing the funds for raises but said just because money was budgeted for doesn’t mean they have to be used completely. He said the county could redistribute those funds in other areas if they weren’t used.

Fauth also said he doesn’t agree with employees taking a pay cut if they offer special skills. “I think if someone is moving from one department to another and provides a special skill set, they should not take a deduction in pay,” said Fauth.

Wren assured Fauth that the employee knows of the slight decrease in pay and is okay with it if she accepts the job. The reasoning for not bringing her in at a slightly lower salary is to try to have a relatively equal pay scale within the department.

Commissioners Barbara Walker, Phillip Cox and David Dobyanski all agreed that if that employee is aware of the pay difference that is their decision.

Wren elected to remove the additional 48-cents per hour requested and adjust one of the salaries in question.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the district attorney’s request. The changes will take effect Aug. 15 which is Zaragoza’s final day with the district attorney.

Temporary employee

Commissioners approved $755.54 to cover 50 hours for McLain to hire a temporary employee to cover his department as he attends training for mandatory continued education.