The Grayson County Commissioners Court voted to add Commissioner Phyllis James to the board of the Texoma Council of Governments ahead of what County Judge Bill Magers calls an “important meeting” of the TCOG governing body.
The addition of James gives the county two representatives on the board, as Commissioner Jeff Whitmire also currently serves on that body as the court’s representative. James will fill the county’s community representative seat, which is also appointed by the commissioners. She also previously represented the county before Whitmire’s tenure on the TCOG board began.
“There is an important meeting (coming up),” Magers said of the TCOG board meeting Thursday. “We need to have our voices heard, and we also felt like it was important that the community rep, in this situation, be knowledgeable of the COG. Commissioner James was our most recent appointee, so we just thought Commissioner James would be a logical choice for this.”
When asked what made Thursday’s TCOG meeting important, Magers listed the organization’s upcoming budget talks and the planned executive session update on the lawsuits filed by former Finance Director Stacee Sloan Caskey against former board President Keith Cleff and current Executive Director Susan Thomas and TCOG itself.
The suit filed by Sloan Caskey against Thomas, in both Thomas’ individual and professional capacities, and against TCOG itself, lays out allegations that Sloan Caskey was fired from her job as finance director because she asked to place a note of reprimand in the file of an employee with whom Thomas had previously had a romantic relationship. It also states Sloan Caskey would not stop investigating alleged fraud committed by someone who was supposed to have been supervised by that same employee.
The federal suit says that Sloan Caskey thought it was her job to uncover all of the potential fraud or waste at TCOG because state and federal laws charge the agency and all of its employees with safeguarding the money that is entrusted to their care.
Paperwork recently filed in that federal lawsuit seems to indicate the case may be nearing settlement. The Order on Closing documents filed on April 4 say that a mediator has advised the court that all claims in that suit were settled during mediation. Federal Judge Judge Amos Mazzant gave both sides of the case until May 19 to submit all the needed paperwork to close the case.
The agenda for Thursday’s meeting also states the TCOG board will consider taking action on the Executive Committee’s recommendations on Thomas’ employment contract as executive director. That contract, which is posted on the TCOG website, is for three years ending Aug. 31. However, it lists Thomas’ compensation periods as running from Sept. 1, 2014 to April 30, 2015; May 1, 2015 to April 30, 2016; and May 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017. Her compensation for that final period is listed as $129,652.
The county’s community representative seat has been vacant since Grayson County Emergency Management Coordinator Sarah Somers resigned from the TCOG board in May 2016. TCOG bylaws state is the board is to be made up of 15 representatives, but the organization’s website currently lists just 12 members, meaning James will be the 13th.
“On behalf of the board of TCOG, I welcome Phyllis James,” Sherman City Council member Kevin Couch, who serves as the TCOG board’s vice president, said following James’ appointment. “We’re excited and I’m glad the Commissioners Court has appointed our community rep. It allows Grayson County citizens more representation on the COG board to continue to grow that organization. We’re excited to be working with you and Commissioner Whitmire.”
Magers said he anticipates James will continue to serve on the board as the county’s community representative until commissioners “find a suitable replacement.”